Equipping Saints for the Work of the Ministry Part 2 of 7 – The Practice of Prayer
Figure 1: Using a label I can make it easy to get to the prayer section of my journal.
So I am supposed to spend time with God. What does that look like?
Figure 2: Prayer Journal for Roderick L. Barnes, Sr.
Figure 3: What We Do with When Alone with God (Postell, 3 January 2023)
Principles of Prayer (Luke 11:1–4)
1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
The Disciple’s Prayer (11:1) The Lord’s prayer is not for everyone; it is actually very exclusive (Stein, 1992, p. 324). That is, when we consider (1) the context in which the prayer is given — discipleship, (2) the question that preceded the answer — discipleship, and (3) the people involved in the discussion — The Discipler and a disciple, we should see that the prayer that follows is exclusively for the disciples of Jesus. The prayer anticipates and assumes the atoning work of Christ (John 20:17) and being born again into the family of God by virtue of accepting the gracious offer of God embodied in the gospel (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-7).
In principle, although anyone can say these words, only a disciple of Jesus is qualified to use them.
As a title for God, “Father” is found only fifteen times in the entire OT. Never, in any these instances, is God being addressed in prayer.
Requests for the Father (11:2) No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18). And the Son, who knows the will of the Father, has put before us in this prayer a plain teaching on what to ask for.
- In Attitude: Requesting Respect and Sanctification toward the Person of God. (Hallowed be Your name, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομα σου) Good praying begins with the heartfelt desire (1) to see the evil and foolishness of idolatry come to an end and, (2) most importantly, to see God glorified in spirit and in truth (John 4:22-24).
- In Action: Requesting the Reign and Sovereignty in all of life. (Your kingdom come, ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου) When the kingdom has fully come the rule of God is not being rejected but is being received and the righteous will of God is being carried out in all aspects of life.
An answer to this type of praying sees God’s name not being used in vain and people obeying Him with gladness. The answer is realized when His will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. Good praying, then, begins with God and His interests. That is teaching of Jesus to His disciple. Are you His disciple?
In principle, praying should have as its highest priority the promotion of the Person of God and His program (Matthew 6:33).
The Requests for Me (11:3-4) Among commentators “there is great confusion about what the word ‘daily’ (epiousion) means” (Stein, 1992, p. 325) in this passage. For the sake of brevity I will not venture to cover the various views. Suffice it to say that I stand alone in my view and assert that the meaning (1) should not be complex and (2) it should be Jewish. It is the genius of Jesus to make difficult ideas easy to understand and the pattern of Jesus to use parables to communicate spiritual truth.
What is bread? Not to you and I but to the person that the Lord is teaching. What is bread to the disciple being discipled? Bread, as it used here and in other places, is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole — a synecdoche. For the disciple, a Jew in ethnicity and race and culture, bread is a reference to food and thus to the essentials of life. Consider what the what bread means earlier in the same book (Luke 7:33), in the poetry of the Jews (Psalm 41:9), or in the epistles of Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:8). There are many other places in Scripture where the term bread is a reference to the whole meal or even the essentials of life (Matthew 4:3-4; 15:26; 16:11-12; 26:26). Jesus told the disciple to ask for the essentials. Further, he told him to ask for the essentials in rations. There should be an ongoing asking for the needs of the day. Consider the counsel of renowned Bible language expert A.T. Robertson:
“give” is διδου [didou] (present active imperative, both from διδωμι [didōmi]) and means, “keep on giving.” (Robertson, 1933, Luke 11:3).
Forgiveness, is also an ongoing ask. This is because sin is an ongoing issue in my life even after I have received Jesus. I am not now sinless I just sin less. Glory be to God that I am being changed, made perfect, and purified. But there are slip ups, failures, and even occasions of rebellion. Jesus says that we should keep asking forgiveness in light of our ongoing giving out of the grace that has been given to us and our ongoing meting out of the mercy that has been made available. We can even point to it as we come for more. It is not a license to live licentiously or permission to be perverted in some of our ways as long as we forgive others. Forgiveness is bigger than not messing with my foes; it is to take steps to bless them… from the heart (Matthew 18:35). Our take away from this is not difficult.
In principle my prayer should be to promote the Person of God and His program and my personal petitions should be for the basics — bread. Good praying is primarily about what God wants and then what is needed in my life to do… what God wants. Even my asking for forgiveness is based on the fact that I am using my pardoned life to uphold kingdom policies (Micah 6:8). I can say, “See, O Lord, what I did with your decision to forgive me. In that light, here I am again in need of more mercy. I am not asking for a pass but the provisions needed to keep pursuing holiness and helping others.”
After going over the fundamentals of what to ask for in praying Jesus then provides two teachings on what is needed to receive the request. Each teaching is packaged as a parable.
Parable 1 — Persistence in Prayer (Luke 11:5-10)
5 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Human Being Bothered (11:5-7) Jesus uses an easily understood example, if not familiar experience, to bring out a truth needed for working with the previously taught principles of prayer. It should be noted that “my children are with me in bed” does not mean they are in the same literally in the same bed.
In Jesus’ time, for the more fortunate poor, a multipurpose, one room house served as protection from the elements, and as a kitchen, work space, and sleeping quarters for all family members. (Freeman, 1998, p. 507)
What matters is the inconvenient time of the request and the basis for rejection: A human being in that situation will not want to be troubled to provide necessities for the unplanned visit of a neighbor’s friend.
Prevailing Through Persistence on a Poor Person (11:8) Here the gist and import of the parable is being pointed out. Jesus says, in effect, you know that between these two friends that persistence would eventually win out.
Yet because of his importunity (δια γε την ἀναιδιαν αὐτου [dia ge tēn anaidian autou]). From ἀναιδης [anaidēs], shameless, and that from α [a] privative and αἰδως [aidōs], shame, shamelessness, impudence. (Robertson, 1933, Luke 11:8)
if an unwilling person finally concedes because of persistence, how much more is it true of God, who is willing to give? (Fruchtenbaum, 2017, Kindle Locations 6052-6053)
But in order to receive the practical import of this parable for use with our teaching on prayer we must compare and contrast the person of the parable and the Person of God. God is not sleeping. God is not inconvenienced. God is not bringing out bread from limited reserves (Luke 11:3). God is not unwilling but is wanting to give to the need. The hurdles of being heard when making a request from a human being are not there with God. God is willing! But the policy of God, as revealed by the Son, says that persistence is required for some requests.
The Policy and Basis for Persistence (11:9-10) The basis for continuing to call is the character of God. “The believer is encouraged to pray because of the Father’s gracious character” (Stein, 1992, p. 323).
Persistence in prayer does not alter the mind of God (Martin, 1985, p. 235). It proves and produces depth in my desire for the requested. Regarding proof of depth, because I am not easily turned away, the persistence in prayer proves that I am serious about what I am seeking. It shows that I am not shallow in my desire. Concerning the production of depth, in the constant calling out I am altered — not God. But strange things happen to me in the struggle with God. In the wrestling I am wounded, worn down, and somehow made right for the gift (Genesis 32:22-32). In the pestering His Presence eventually has a prevailing effect on my person and makes me more fit to handle the blessing I am begging for (1 Samuel 1:8-20).
Parable 2 — Priorities in Prayer (Luke 11:11-13)
11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
The basis for beseeching God for better things has to be on the merit of His character. I, being evil, know how to give good gifts to my children (Luke 1:12). Jesus is saying that the inherit fallenness of my frame does not undermine me understanding the basics of how to be a blessing to my children. When my child requests something basic that they need, even though I am evil, I am able to show concern and care for my child through giving.
Can I be a better parent than God? Can I, with an essential evil in me, exceed the excellence of God in giving. Certainly not! He is not evil, y’all! He is good… all the time. All the time… He is good. God can and will do better giving to those who ask Him (Luke 1:13). The Son, who knows the Father on a level that no one else can or ever will (John 1:18), now drops a bomb about the greatness of God’s graciousness: the Father will even give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! It was never heard before. In all the Law and Prophets and commandments there was nothing about God’s willingness to give His Spirit for the asking.
Solomon is to be commended for the humility to recognize and admit his need (2 Chronicles 1:10). He is to be applauded for asking for the right thing and for the right reason. And God granted His request (2 Chronicles 1:11-12). But the idea that He could have asked for the Holy Spirit was not understood. His father, David the King, had the Holy Spirit but there is no record that he told or taught his son to ask for Him (Proverbs 4:1-9). In fact, David is only seen asking for the Spirit not to be taken away on account of his sin (Psalm 51:11).
Prior to David the Spirit was given for a time to Saul. But only for a time. After a period of rebellion the same was taken away. And it was not a breach of contract or violation of the covenant for the LORD to take away the Holy Spirit. Under the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants the LORD had not anywhere obligated Himself to provide the Holy Spirit. So then, what Jesus said was outrageously good.
In our covenant the gift of the Holy Spirit is a given (Ephesians 1:13). And yet we are still able to ask for spiritual things.
If we find ourselves lacking the gifts required for
doing a work, we can request additional gifts.
“Earnestly desire the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The gifts in me may be added to. Such was the case with Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6-7). Does this offend your conservative theology sensibilities? I will be even more undignified than this. Some of us need to request the gift of teaching for the sake of our assemblies. With this gift, which comes with a strict judgement, we are to serve humbly and with diligence. With this gift, we are to bring the insights needed to serve the Lord effectively as His witnesses.
Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & Customs of the Bible. Bridge-Logos Publishers.
Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. (2017). Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective. Ariel Ministries.
Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2). Victor Books.
Postell, Marissa. (3 January 2023). Churchgoers Value Time Alone with God, Practice Varies. Lifeway Research. https://research.lifeway.com/2023/01/03/churchgoers-value-time-alone-with-god-practice-varies/
Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 11:1). Broadman Press.
Sanders, J. Oswald. (2007). Spiritual Leadership. Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Stein, R. H. (1992). Luke (Vol. 24). Broadman & Holman Publishers.