Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 11:1-4 – What We Should Think About When We Pray

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  I preach through books of the Bible in our worship services, typically going through a New Testament book in the morning and an Old Testament book in the evening.  I believe it is the best way to teach the whole counsel of God.  Preaching verse-by-verse allows God to determine each week’s sermon subject rather than man.  No preacher knows the hearts and minds of each listener.  Only God knows what we need and so we just read through it, verse-by-verse, and God hits us where each of us needs hitting.

When we were last in Luke’s Gospel, we concluded chapter 10 and so of course we pick up in chapter 11.  We read last time at the end of chapter 10 about Mary who “sat at the Lord’s feet,” listening to His Word, listening to His teaching.  We spoke of the importance of our sitting at the Lord’s feet, reading His Word, listening to Him speak as we read the Bible.  But we also sit at the Lord’s feet in prayer.  That is the subject of our passage this morning: prayer.

Few of us will find it difficult to identify with the request of this nameless disciple in verse 1: “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Of all the Christian disciplines, including reading the Bible, attending worship, giving, and serving the local church, having an active, vibrant prayer life is one of the most difficult things for the Christian to maintain. 

The disciples had seen Jesus pray on numerous occasions.  Luke, the writer of this Gospel, draws attention to the prayers of Jesus as a theme in his book.  Already we have read of our Lord Jesus praying in the Gospel of Luke. 

  • In Luke 3:21-22, Jesus prays at His baptism.
  • In Luke 5:12-16, He prays after he heals a man of leprosy. 
  • In Luke 6:12, He prays before choosing the 12 disciples, spending all night in prayer.
  • In Luke 9:18, He prays during His transfiguration. 
  • In Luke 10:17-19, He prays after hearing the report of the 70 disciples. 
  • In Luke 11:1, He prays before His teaching about prayer! 
  • In Luke 19:41-44, our Lord prays over Jerusalem.
  • In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus prayers for Peter,
  • In Luke 23:34, 46 Jesus prays at the cross.
  • In Luke 24:13-35 Jesus prays at Emmaus.
  • In Luke 24:50-53 Jesus prays at His Ascension.

Someone has said, “If you want to get to know someone intimately, eavesdrop on their prayers.”  The disciples had numerous opportunities to listen in on the prayers of Jesus.  No doubt they were eavesdropping here in verse 1.  The Bible says “as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’”  You get the sense that at least this one unnamed disciple is watching Jesus, patiently waiting for Him to finish, so that he can then ask Him to teach about prayer.  He says, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray and so here is a disciple of Jesus speaking for the rest of the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

This is the natural desire of a follower of Christ.

It is natural that we should want to pray to God.  It is hard to understand how one could be a Christian and have no desire to talk to the God who has saved him or her.  It is our heart’s desire to commune with the heavenly Father.  We feel a strong point of contact with this nameless disciple here.  We can relate.  

What follows in verses 2 and following is our Lord’s instruction on prayer.  Contextually, His teaching goes on through verse 13.  This morning’s passage, however, will stop at verse 4, covering what is traditionally called, “The Lord’s Prayer.”  But of course, it is not so much the Lord’s Prayer as it is the Disciples’ Prayer.  Our Lord did not need to ask for forgiveness of sin as He teaches His disciples to ask in verse 4.  It is the disciples’ prayer, our prayer, not to be used in vain repetition (Matthew 6:7) as though the saying of it over and over again were the means by which one expressed penance and was granted perfunctory forgiveness.  To be sure, the prayer stands on its own as a suitable prayer for corporate worship, but it is more than that. 

It is a prayer that guides us into

How to think when we speak to God.

Pondering this prayer in verses 2-4 helps us think of who God is and what He does. This goes a long way towards helping us pray.  Our Lord teaches us to pray by teaching us about God . . . specifically thinking about God in four broad categories.  Let’s look at . . . What to Think About When Praying:

1) The God Whom We Praise – Verses 1-2.

The prayer begins with “Father,” our Father in Heaven.  I wish it could just go without saying, but I feel it necessary to point out the obvious: God is Father; He is not Mother.  We never once read anyone in the entire Bible addressing God as Mother.  He is Father.  In our interest to change up the gender when referring to man or mankind as is sometimes appropriate, we must never change the way in which we refer to God.  He is Father.  We may speak of God metaphorically, as the Prophet Isaiah in one place, speaking of the God who comforts His people as a mother comforts her children (Isaiah 66:13), but He is Father.

I am not sure that Jesus’ referring to God as Father really grips us as it should.  The word “Father” is a word that denotes an intimate, personal relationship.  It used to be popular in commentaries and sermons to point out that the Aramaic word for Father – Abba – was used of children when speaking to their fathers and so some said Jesus was saying, “Daddy.”  But this is misleading and may lead to irreverence.  After all, not only did Hebrew children refer to their fathers by the name Abba, but so did adult Hebrew children refer to their fathers by the name Abba.  It is more important that we understand this term to be one of personal relationship.

The word “Father” is used in reference to God in the Old Testament only 14 times.  In the 39 books of the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father just 14 times, and then very impersonally, describing the Father of the corporate nation of Israel.  But our Lord Jesus refers to God as Father some 60 times, and only as Father.  That is quite a difference: 14 times in the Old Testament in an impersonal, corporate way, and 60 times in the New Testament in a much more personal, intimate way.  So striking is the difference that some scholars say this is what makes all the difference between the two Testaments, the nearness of God and our knowing Him intimately through Jesus Christ.

Of course, not all can call Him Father.  This is not a prayer for all people without exception.  It is a prayer for disciples, for Christians.   Not everyone is a child of God.  Only those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, only those who are born-again, can call God Father.   Paul is addressing Christians in Romans 8:15-17, “For … you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”

So not all can call God Father, only those who have been born-again can; only those who have been adopted into God’s family.  To be born-again is to be a Christian.  It is the term Jesus used when speaking to Nicodemus (John 3:7).  Jesus said, “You must be born-again.”  Being born-again does not describe one kind of Christian, it describes every true Christian.  You must be born-again.  If you are, you are a child of God and can address God as Father.

The next phrase is, “Hallowed be Your name.”  For Jewish people the name of a person stood for the character and attributes of that person.  This is a cry, then, for God’s name – His character, and His attributes and His perfections to be increasingly known, honored, and glorified.  It is as Jesus prays in John 12:28, “Father, glorify Your name.”   The idea is, “God, I want You to be known!  I want the world to see and know the awesomeness of Your ways!”  Do you pray with that in mind?

Then, Jesus says, “Your kingdom come.”  God has ordained a future kingdom; it will come, a time when God’s will is done on earth even as it is in heaven.  It is kingdom of perfection where Jesus Christ will rule and reign forever and ever.  The kingdom has already come in part with the first coming of Christ.  This is why Jesus can say later in verse 20 of this chapter, “Surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  The kingdom has come, in part, to those who are saved, those who are born-again.  But it will come, in full, when Christ returns.

This a very God-centered way to pray.  Does verse 2 reflect the way you usually pray?  Most of us want to grow beyond the rather immature prayers we often speak.  Here is a way to grow beyond it.  Begin your prayers thinking about the God whom we praise.  He is Father.  Reflect on what that means for you.  Here is the God of the universe who has made Himself known to you in Christ Jesus that you may refer to Him intimately.   Then, do you pray that God’s name may be known, may increase more and more, that the world may know His character and attributes?  Do you yearn for the consummation of His kingdom?  Do your prayers include verse 2?  If not, pray this week with verse 2 in mind.  Think about the God whom we praise. 

Secondly, when you pray, think about . . .

2) The God Who Provides – Verse 3.

Verse 3 says, “Give us day by day our daily bread.”  Here is a reminder that our heavenly Father delights to provide His children with all that is necessary to live.  This is more than bread itself, this everything we have.  All that we have comes from the Father. The Bible says in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” in other words, “You can depend upon Him.”

The Bible says in Acts 17:25 that God, “… gives to all life, breath, and all things.”  Think of it: All that we have comes from God, including the very air we breathe, so Daniel reminds Belshazzar in Daniel 5:23, “The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways.”  We depend upon God for everything.

In our prosperous country it is easy for us to forget that all that we have comes ultimately from God.  We get in our cars and drive to Price Chopper or Walmart and we grab a shopping cart, look at our list, and start piling stuff in.  Unless we are careful, however, we will somehow think with every item we place in our carts that somehow it is we who have gotten this stuff.  Man puts it on the shelf, man takes it off the shelf, man rings it up, man puts it in the car, man puts it in the pantry, man puts it on the dining room table, and man puts it in his mouth.  But God caused the sun to shine, the rain to fall, the seed to grow, and the grain to harvest so that you could eat that thing you got.   “Give us this day our daily bread” reminds us that all we have comes ultimately from God.

Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?”  Answer: Nothing.  The God who provides. 

Thirdly, when you pray, think about . . .

3) The God Who Pardons – Verse 4a.

Jesus says in verse 4, “And forgive us our sins.”  This is not a prayer for initial forgiveness of all sin, forgiveness that comes as a result of justification.  When we are born-again, at the moment of our repentance of sin and faith in Christ, at the moment of salvation, we are forgiven of all sin – past, present, and future – it is all forgiven.  That is justification.  We are declared “Not guilty” of all sin, forever.  We are born-again.  We are new creations in Christ.  What Jesus has in mind here is our regular prayer throughout the day for forgiveness.  This is our sanctification, our daily growth in Christ.  This is the essence of 1 John 1:9, written to Christians, where the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You see, while we are forgiven of all sin when we are adopted by God as His children, we still do things that hurt the joy and wonder of this fellowship with our heavenly Father.  While we are forever forgiven of the penalty of all sin, we still mess up from time to time and rightly find ourselves coming to our heavenly father and apologizing, asking for forgiveness for the way we have hurt Him.

True Christians also forgive those who have sinned against them.  The next part of verse 4 says, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”  The Christian is so motivated by God’s forgiving his own debts that He is quick to forgive those who are indebted to him, those who have sinned against him.  This is the idea behind Ephesians 4:32, where the Bible says, “Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted; forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you.”

In fact, if a professing Christian does not forgive those who have sinned against him or her, he or she can hardly claim to be a Christian.  We know this because of what Jesus says in the other place where this prayer is found, Matthew 6:8-15.  In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  This is why the puritan Thomas Watson said that “a man can as soon go to hell for not forgiving as he can for not believing.”  Or as Charles Spurgeon  says, “Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.”  If you have been forgiven by the God who pardons your sin, then you will be quick to forgive the brother or sister who has sinned against you.

You cannot ignore the second person plural used throughout this prayer, can you?  It is a prayer for disciples, followers of Christ, to be used primarily in a corporate sense, in the community of faith, in the church: “Our Father, Give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”  The prayer naturally calls for brothers and sisters in the church to get along, to forgive one another – not to run away and gossip about the brother or sister you feel hurt you, but to lovingly go to that person and lovingly forgive.

When you pray, think about the God whom you praise, the God who provides, the God who pardons, and . . .

4) The God Who Protects – Verse 4b.

The last part of verse 4 says, “And lead us not into temptation.”  God is not the author or primary cause of evil.  God does, however, permit evil to occur in a mysterious way that concurs with the counsel of His perfect will.  We see this in the Lord’s testing of Job and the testing of Jesus in the wilderness.  Going through these times of trial and temptation makes us strong.  This prayer means something like, “Spare us, Lord, from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin.”  It is the humble plea of the true Christian, one who knows he or she is dependent upon God for everything and knows his or her own heart far too well.  I know I am a sinner, do you?  I know what it means to be in certain circumstances where I am tempted to sin.  I cry out to our Father, “Do not lead me into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one.”

As we draw this study to a close, let me ask you, is God really your Father?  Do you think of God in these terms?  Do you yearn for the advancement of His name and His kingdom?  Do you pray depending upon Him for everything, including the air you breathe?  Do you pray daily for forgiveness and for strength during time of trial and temptation?  Is He really your Father – not just a Father in an abstract sense – but your heavenly Father?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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