Ask Your Father
Luke 11:1 – 13
Ask Your Father
Listening to people pray ...
I imagine that most of us probably pray, or have prayed, at some point in our lives.
We might call ourselves Christian,
Or we might not be a regular pray-er,
But maybe in some personal crisis,
Some moment of difficulty that we’re going through,
Maybe just out of desperation, we’ve asked God to do something for us.
You know what they say about people who go to war, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” When the artillery shells and the machine gun fire is raining down on you, that’s when people want to talk to God, even if they’ve never really bothered with God previously.
There was a book that maybe you read in school, “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret”, and maybe your prayers are a bit like that.
For others of us, though, prayer is a much more regular thing. We pray often, every day perhaps.
And so regardless of whether you’re an, infrequent pray-er, or an every day pray-er, If someone was to listen to your prayers, I wonder what they would learn.
What would they learn about you?
About your understanding of God?
About your priorities, what you think is important?
We had our first Prayer Gathering for 2018 this week, and I was going to come along this morning and pretend that I’d made recordings and taken notes on Wednesday night, so that we could analyse people’s prayers! But I didn’t want to scare anyone!
And I’m glad we had the Prayer Gathering before we looked at this passage, because if I asked this question, “what would someone learn about you from listening to your prayers”, then I said, “come and join us to pray on Wednesday night”, maybe we’d all be too nervous to turn up!
But isn’t it true, that the way we pray, reveals something about us, and particularly, what we think is important, and what we think of God.
When people are new to our church family we invite them to a group called God, Church and Me to help them find their place at Trinity. One of the questions we used to ask in that was, “What would your prayers be like, if God was, ”, and then we gave some different images of God that people have,
A strict school headmaster,
A grandfather-figure who gave you everything you asked for,
And so on.
Our prayers are shaped, by our understanding of God.
And one of the key ideas of this prayer in Luke 11, is the understanding of God that lies behind it,
And we’re taught it not just in the prayer itself,
But also in the 2 little stories that follow, which we’ll look at quickly at the end.
Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer as an example of what to pray.
You might know that Jesus also teaches a prayer like this, the one we call The Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew’s gospel account. There it’s sandwiched between a couple of sections about not being a hypocrite, and part of Jesus’ point seems to be, “this is how not to be a hypocrite when you pray.”
Here though, the context is slightly different. It comes about, because one of Jesus’ disciples asks him to teach them how to pray.
So Jesus himself is praying, verse 1, and one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Maybe the disciple who asks for the lesson wasn’t there that day when Jesus had taught this prayer,
Whatever the case, the fact that Jesus gives this example prayer, and it is a model or an example isn’t it?, When you pray, say:,
He clearly expects this to be incorporated into his disciples’ prayers,
But the fact that we get it twice, in 2 different contexts, and in 2 slightly different forms, highlights the fact that this is an important prayer,
Jesus thinks it’s important,
But what’s significant can’t be the exact words, because Jesus gives us different words,
What seems to be most important is the theme, the priorities, reflected in the prayer.
Prayer is the privilege of speaking to our Father (v 2)
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
In the whole of the Old Testament, the term “Father” is applied to God only 14 times.
Hardly ever is it spoken directly to God, as a form of address,
It’s mostly speaking about God, and it’s generally by way of analogy. So we find in Psalm 103:13, for example, As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
God was Father of the whole nation of Israel, but Jesus’ listeners weren’t used to calling God their Father.
And yet in this prayer, for the community of Jesus followers, he shows how our connection to him, means we can call God “Father.”
So if you’re Christian,
If you believe that you were once a rebel against God;, rejecting him, ignoring him, what the Bible calls sin,
If you know that was you, but that Jesus died so that your relationship with God could be restored,
Then you’re one of those to whom Jesus teaches this prayer,
Jesus teaches you, to pray to your Father.
If you’re a Christian you don’t pray, just out to the universe,
We don’t pray to “The Force”.
We don’t pray to “the big guy upstairs”
We don’t approach God as our best mate, our best friend, our BFF.
We pray to our Father.
The Jewish pattern of prayer in Jesus’ day, was to pile up titles for God,
All of which, are true, but this prayer teaches us the privilege of our relationship.
The word Jesus used there was almost certainly the Aramaic word “abba.”
And we don’t have a good word to translate “abba” into English. It’s more reverent than “daddy”, but it is the word a little child would use for their father.
It carries the sense of, “he’s my dad.”
It’s interesting that although the New Testament was written in Greek, there are a number of occasions where this word Aramaic word “abba” is preserved when the writers refer to God.
It seems this had become such a significant word, capturing something of the early Christians new understanding about God, that they decide not to translate it, “we’ll just include this foreign word.”
So precious was the conviction, “he’s my dad.”
Jesus is saying here that we should pray to God, like a child coming to their dad.
Is that how you pray?
Like a little kid, asking something of her dad, who she loves, and who she knows loves her?
When kids want something they don’t worry about using the right words, do they? They just open their mouth, pour out their heart, and eventually their dad figures out what they’re asking for.
Kids don’t worry about waiting for the right moment.
They don’t think something too big to ask their dad for,
And they don’t think anything is too small to ask Dad.
Kids don’t worry that their dad will think badly of them for asking.
“I asked daddy for a bed time story last night.
If I ask for a story again tonight, daddy’s going to think I’m weak and dependent.”
No, kids ask, because they know the relationship they have with their father.
Last week we were on youth camp, and one of the leaders was there with his family, including his 2 year old daughter. Now, on a camp filled with teenagers, there are plenty willing to play with this little girl, look after her,
Give her anything she wanted.
And yet when she actually wanted something, what did you do? She climbed out from amongst her adoring fans, and trotted off to her dad, to ask for what she wanted.
Now, there are some among us I’m sure, for whom father isn’t a positive word.
Some among us haven’t known their father,
Were treated badly by their father,
That’s a reality, I’m sure, and yet look at how your heavenly father longs for you to approach him.
If your prayer life gets tangled up in trying to find the right words,
Or opening lines,
If your prayers tend to be a series of false starts because you’re looking for the right relationship, or emotional standing, or clear headspace,
Come to God as your Father, because Jesus has enabled you to, and he teaches you to.
Ask for God’s priorities (v 2)
And when we come to God as our father, notice that Jesus’ example prayer starts with God’s priorities.
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Coming to God the way a child comes to their father to ask for things, doesn’t mean by any stretch that Christian prayer is just about getting what we want.
This model prayer begins with 2 petitions, 2 requests, that focus our attention on God and his priorities.
You’ve heard of the little boy who thinks that God’s name is Harold? And his mum asks why, and he says, “it says so in the Lord’s prayer, ‘Harold be your name.”
Well, not Harold by hallowed, sanctified,
Recognised as holy.
In the ancient world, someone’s name represented the whole person. It stood for who they are. So much so, that if you really, really, liked someone, you might legally change your name, to their name.
Which is amusing to stop and think for a minute what your name might have become, or who, if anyone, might have changed their name to yours!
The important thing is that the name is not about the letters, but the person.
A follower of Jesus will pray that God’s name will be hallowed,
That God will receive the praise and honour that he deserves,
That God will reveal and demonstrate who he is.
Again, our youth camp last week, our theme was “worship”, which we talked about as, “giving credit where credit is due.”
And so this prayer has a now focus; We want people to give praise and honour to God,
We want people to see him as he truly is,
We should be concerned that God is recognised for who he is, credit where credit is due. Everything else is idolatry,
But also there’s a degree of looking forward here. Our prayer anticipates the day when God’s kingdom comes in all its fullness,
When everyone will see God as he is.
On that day, God’s name will truly be hallowed,
God will receive the praise and honour he deserves.
And so it makes sense that in the same breath, Jesus moves on to teaching us to pray that God’s kingdom will come.
We ask that God’s reign will be established fully and finally,
That the rule of Jesus, God’s king, will be recognised everywhere.
Put it very simply, we’re asking God to bring his plans to their fulfilment.
I wonder how often this makes it into our prayers.
Do we long, for the plans that God has been driving forward for centuries, to reach their goal?
Are we convinced, that the final establishment of God’s kingdom, this thing we’ve been given tastes of, all through Luke’s gospel, are we convinced it really is good?
Do we long for it?
Do we pray for it?
You might know that the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, and even today, avoid referring directly to God. They won’t spell out the word “God”, and when they ask God to do something, they often use passive language that doesn’t refer directly to anyone.
So rather than saying, “please God, heal me”, they’d say “may I be healed”, passive, but no doubt in anyone’s mind, they’re asking God to work.
It’s sometimes called “the divine passive.”
How will God’s name be hallowed? Now, in people’s lives, and ultimately?
How will God’s kingdom come?
It’s the divine passive, only through God’s work, through God’s activity!
If we pray this prayer that Jesus teaches us, we’re asking for God to be at work in his world.
And sure, that will involve us. We saw a couple of weeks ago that praying that God will raise up workers for his harvest, will quite possibly mean we’re the ones he sends out. But this is God’s work, and we’re asking Got to be active.
But I’ve noticed that when we do pray for Jesus to return and for his kingdom to be established, often it’s the benefits that are ours in his kingdom, that we focus on;,
No more crying, sickness, or pain,
The end of, bodies that break down and relationships that hurt.
Now, the Bible encourages us with those promises,
But the honour of God,
The glory due to him,
Where does that fit?
Do we pray?, do we long for credit to be given, where credit is due?
In those 2 lines, the word translated “your” is stuck on the end of the sentence, deliberately drawing attention to God.
It’s like, hallowed be the name, that is yours.
The kingdom come, that is yours.
God’s priorities first.
It’s a good pattern for prayer, isn’t it?
I know my needs pretty easily rise to the top of my prayer list, which means that when time runs short, or when distractions kick in, God’s priorities, tend to get missed out.
That’s not to say that if you’re in a car and the brakes have failed, and you’re careening down the Freeway way out of control, that you need to pray through a list of God’s priorities for the world before you can ask him for the arrester bed on the Freeway to be empty.
No, remember where we started? Father.
You ask your father.
But here’s Jesus pattern, and it starts with praying for God’s priorities.
Ask God to provide what we need each day ( v 3)
Once he’s reminded us of that, Jesus tells us to pray for what we need, asking God to provide what we need each day; Give us each day our daily bread.
The same grammatical emphasis happens here as in the previous 2 lines. The word for each day is stuck right on the end, so that that’s the bit that’s left ringing in our ears.
Pray and ask God to give you what you need, each day.
Do you think our prayers, your prayers, express this kind of dependence on God?
For what we need.
There’s an unusual word here that’s not used in all the rest of ancient Greek literature. In fact, the only place where archaeologists have found this word, is written is on an old scrap of somebody’s shopping list.
When you write your shopping list, milk, bread, peanut butter, and toilet paper, the essentials, those are the things Jesus is telling you to ask God for, daily.
Notice it’s not “give us each day our daily lobster, and Penfolds Grange, and caviar”!
Bread is basic, and it’s essential for life
I’m doing whole school chapel here at Cornerstone each week in the lead up to Easter, and a couple of weeks ago I spoke on Jesus words “I am the bread of life.”
I had a bowl of potato chips,
A bowl of chocolate,
And a bowl of bread,
And I got the kids to tell me which they thought was essential for life.
Now it wasn’t a very scientific study, which is perhaps, good, as the outcome wasn’t especially encouraging about the diet of our highschoolers, but Jesus thinks it’s pretty obvious that bread is what’s basic and essential.
But what’s more significant here is that we’re told to ask for our daily provision.
We live at a moment in history, where, if we want bread, we go to the shop and we choose from 20 different types of bread, and hand over money that we’ve earnt, so we can eat.
We don’t think we have to ask for daily provision, because we think we’re so good at providing for ourselves.
Perhaps we’re like Bart Simpson. If you’re familiar with the Simpsons TV show, one night at the dinner table it’s Bart’s turn to say grace, he says “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.
But I heard of someone who visited a monastery, and he saw one of the monks serving bread for lunch, and he asked, “Did you make this bread, or were you given it?”
And the monk replied, “Yes.”
It’s easy to be aware of the steps that we take towards meeting our needs, and to forget that our efforts to provide, are only possible because God provides.
Back in the Old Testament, God had warned his people about this very issue;,
And ease of getting what you need, it can make you forget that actually you only have what you need, because God enables you to have it.
Have a listen to these words from Deuteronomy chapter 8 and consider if they say anything to us, who live in the land of plenty.
God said to Israel, When you are in the land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing;, Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when your herds and flocks grow large, and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God,
Sound like a situation that might apply to us?
I think so.
Did you make this, or where you given it?
Did you work hard to earn the money to go to the shop, or were you given it?
If we pray like this, I think we’ll learn to depend on God for his provision,
Praying like this will help us not look to our own strength.
And I wondered how to start building this into our prayers, and I thought that perhaps thanking God for his provision, might be a good way for us to start. If I constantly thank God for things, it reminds me that those things come from God.
Learning to be dependent on God for his provision, I reckon will probably change the way I think about lots of things;,
What my needs are, as in, what my real needs are,
How I think about my job if I have one,
How I think about my income.
Maybe the way God provides for me is through the ability I have to hold down a job and earn money to buy food, but if it’s all God’s provision, then it shapes the way I think about all of it, and also how I use it.
Pray for forgiveness, and a transforming understanding of forgiveness (v 4)
So we come to the next part of the prayer that’s about us,
But once again, it’s not shopping list time is it?
And I don’t just mean, “Dear God, please can I have a Ferrari”,
But all the things that are on our heart,
The needs we see around us,
The things we long for, for those closest to us,
Surely that’s what comes next.
Except it’s not, is it?
We’re in the bit that’s praying about our needs, but Jesus puts his finger on a need that we might not identify.
But let me ask you, in a prayer for Jesus’ disciples, for people who trust in his death for the forgiveness of sin and rebellion, why does he say we ought to be praying for forgiveness?
Aren’t we forgiven already?
Does our forgiveness wear off?
Is it like sunscreen? Do you have to re-apply every 2 hours?
Well, quite simply, Jesus knows that his disciples will keep on sinning, and people will keep on sinning against them.
This prayer, prepares us, so we’re not surprised or caught off guard at our own sin. Don’t think that sin in your life means you’re no longer a disciple, or that you’re a failure as a Christian.
Jesus knew you were going to sin, and he says ask for the forgiveness that can be yours.
And similarly, don’t be surprised when people sin against you. Again, Jesus knew it would happen, and so he tells us to offer forgiveness.
Time magazine published an article a few years ago saying that we ought to forgive people because it’s good for our health;, it will make you live longer, and be happier, and all sorts of things.
Well Jesus has got a better reason.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
In offering forgiveness to others, we show that we have understood what is to be forgiven,
And if we can forgive other people, even though we know how selfish and uptight we can be, then we can have great confidence that God will forgive us.
Gosh, if I can forgive you, and you can forgive me, we don’t need doubt God’s forgiveness at all, do we?
Even we can manage it! So God will certainly be able to.
If you ever doubt the reality of God’s forgiveness,
Or you wonder if God really can forgive,
Remember that even we can forgive each other,
So God certainly can.
The point is not to try and pin down the sequence of events;,
If I forgive someone today, then sometime later God will forgive me.
That’s not how it works.
Jesus is talking about an attitude, always being willing to forgive because we know that we’ve been forgiven.
Christians sometimes talk about “having an unforgiving spirit”, which is language that I don’t really like, mainly because it’s a term that is almost solely used to label other people, “she has an un-forgiving spirit.”
Which seems mostly to mean, “I’m not going to forgive her, because she’s unforgiving.” Which is ironic.
But an unforgiving spirit is a problem here.
Harbouring resentment and anger at other people’s sin,
Exaggerating other people’s sin.
And the problem is,
If I refuse to show people the same mercy that’s been shown to me,
If I have such an exaggerated view of their sin,
It probably means I haven’t realised the depths of my own sin.
I don’t want to suggest for a moment that forgiveness is easy,
Or that it always happens, just like that.
Or that it doesn’t have a cost, I know that it does, and more than anyone God knows forgiveness has a cost. But we should be concerned whenever we hear someone say things like “I will never forgive.”
To say that is to turn our backson God’s forgiveness, because we refuse to treat others the way we’ve been treated by God.
Pray to be guarded from sin (v 4)
The last request of the prayer, is that we might be guarded from sin.
lead us not into temptation
Last time I went on holidays I read a book called The Elements of Eloquence. It’s a book about English grammar, and it’s much more interesting than you might imagine!
Each chapter is about a different grammatical construction, and its history, and how we use it. And every chapter, you think, “that’s quite good, I’m going to use that!” But by the time you start the next chapter, there’s more words and more terms, and you’ve forgotten what you’ve just read!
So I don’t think it improved my grammar at all!
But I did remember one section, about the construction called a Litotes, which is to make your point, by saying the negative, of the opposite.
And you wonder who would we silly enough to talk like that?
And the answer is, us! Australians!
Think about it!
How are you going? Not bad!
What are you up to? Not much!
How are you feeling? Ooh, Not real good!
How far away are we? Not far!
How much were they? Aah, Not cheap!
What’s she like? Not unlike her mother!
Some people have been confused by this prayer, lead us not into temptation, because it sounds as if God will tempt us to sin, unless we ask him not to.
But this is Jesus being an Aussie.
lead us not into temptation
We’re praying, “Lead us away from situations where we’ll be tempted to sin, and into situations where we’ll grow in Christ-likeness.”
Remember the question in the back of our minds, what do our prayers reveal about our understanding of God?
If we pray this, as Jesus teaches us to, we’re acknowledging that our struggle against temptation and sin is not just a matter of our effort.
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that just as we depend on God for our daily needs, for forgiveness, so also we depend on him as we battle sin.
It doesn’t mean we don’t try,
It does mean that trying would be pointless, if God weren’t at work.
Does this make it into our prayers?
Do we ask God to guard us from temptation?
Do you acknowledge before God, “today I think I’m going to be tempted in this area, I can see it coming
Please show me clearly the way out”?
Or “show me how to avoid putting myself in that situation.”
See, I reckon, probably not much of the temptation we face is a surprise is it? Some might be, but I reckon mostly we know what areas of sin are likely to trip us up, and often we can see them coming.
Let’s pray this, when we see the temptation on the horizon.
See, God wants to help, he wants to answer these prayers!
He’s not going to say, “Clayton’s already asked to be guarded from temptation 3 times this week, he’s used up his quota.”
God wants to answer.
He wants us to ask,
He wants us to depend on him.
Is it worth praying? (v 5 – 13)
And that’s the point of the 2 little stories at the end.
It seems that Jesus includes them there, for the person who thinks, “Is it worth praying?
Will God answer?
Is it worth keeping on praying, when it seems like God hasn’t answered my prayer?
And can I really trust God to give me what ask for and what I need?
Is it worth asking God to provide for my daily needs?
Is it worth asking for forgiveness,
Is it worth asking to be kept from temptation?
Well, the funny little story about the annoying neighbour who knocks on the door at midnight says that we must persist in our praying, even if we don’t see answers,
Even if we don’t feel that we’re being heard, we must persevere.
Now, any illustration falls down somewhere.
The point here is not that you have to kind of wake God up, get him out of bed, just keep annoying him until he gives in.
Not at all!
But if you don’t care about what you’re praying for,
Enough to ask,
And ask again,
And again, like someone desperate to feed their friend in the middle of the night,
Well, can you really say that you want it?
I know people who check their email every few minutes when they want a particular message to arrive,
People who look in the letterbox multiple times a day when they want a delivery,
And yet we sometimes imagine that praying means asking once or twice, and then we give up, if we haven’t got an answer.
It’s not always the case. I was talking to someone last Sunday about something they’ve been praying for for nearly 50 years!
God’s saying, “Don’t give up.”
It is worth praying.
And the evidence is, just look around you!
You’re surrounded by people who Jesus call evil verse 11, that is, there’s not a single part of us that’s not stained and broken by sin, and yet all of us are capable of doing good to others.
If a child asks his father for a ball, will the dad give him a hand grenade? That’s the comparison Jesus makes.
No, of course not!
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
If a lazy tired neighbour can be convinced to get up in the middle of the night to hand over 3 bread rolls,
How much more is God going to give?
And if a Father, though stained and broken by sin, can give good gifts to his children, how much more will God be willing to give us good gifts.
The gift of the Holy Spirit here seems to be the very best gift imaginable. God’s own person dwelling within us. And if God’s not going to withhold that, then he’s not going to be stingy on anything else that’s for our good is he?
“I’ll come and dwell in you, with you, 24/7, but I’m not going to give you what you need.” That makes no sense at all.
Here’s our assurance that prayer is worthwhile,
That it makes a difference,
And that God will hear and answer.