How should I pray?


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“Jesus was praying.” That’s how Luke 11:1 begins. Honestly I’ve read that many times, but this time it floored me, “The Creator and Rescuer of the world is on His knees praying to God, His Father.” Isn’t that amazing? Notice, Luke doesn’t say how Jesus prayed, how long, where, or what He was praying, it simply says, “Jesus was praying in a certain place.”

Prayer is a discipline that most Christians feel they fall short, me included. You and I are not naturally born prayers. It’s a learned skill. So if I had a question for Jesus, it would be similar to the one His disciple asks, “Lord, can You teach us how to pray?” How does Jesus respond? Does He say, “That’s a silly question. You’ve been with me this long and you don’t know?” No. Does He organize a weekend prayer seminar? No. Jesus’ School of Prayer is ‘show and tell’.

PRAY LIKE JESUS (11:2-4)

Jesus’ prayer here is known as the Lord’s Prayer. It’s quite common. I memorized it during my catechism classes growing up in the Catholic Church. However, you will notice, Luke’s prayer is a lot shorter than Matthew’s prayer. I suppose since Luke wrote his gospel after Matthew, he thought his friend did a fantastic job and just summarizes some of main points of Jesus‘ prayer.

I am not going to spend a lot of time looking at Jesus’ prayer, but I want you to see how He elevates God. Also, I want you to see how He teaches His disciples how to pray. Jesus answers His disciple, “When you pray, say…” (v.2a)

  • “Our Father…” (v.2b), God is Father. The word “Father” here is not formal, it’s intimate. Jesus, like a little child address His loving Father as “Abba” or “Daddy.” It’s the first time this view of God is introduced and Jesus approves and encourages it.
  • “hallowed is Your name” (v.2c), Our Father is holy. God is a magnificent Daddy. He is completely different and glorious compared to everything in the universe. His name is above every name!
  • “Your kingdom come” (v.2d), Our Father is King. Not only is He my Daddy, He is King. He’s the King of kings. My heart’s cry is to be with Him in His kingdom, a place of forever justice, love, and mercy. He offers you room in His palace. His kingdom will never crumble. Our Daddy is King!
  • “Give us each day our daily bread” (v.3), Our Father is generous. Our Daddy cares perfectly for His children. God is not stingy or greedy. He provides everything we need.
  • “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (v.4a), Our Father forgives sin. God justly deals with sin, but He willingly forgives those who come to Him. He forgives spiritual debts because Jesus paid the debt with His blood.
  • “And lead us not into temptation” (v.4b), Our Father leads well. If we hold God’s hand and listen well, He direct us away from dangerous traps of the enemy. We can trust our Daddy (cf. James 1:13).

If you learn to pray like Jesus, your prayers will be intensively Father-focused. Does this align with your perspective on prayer? What aspects of Jesus’ example prayer do you most utilize or neglect?

PRAY LIKE THE SHAMELESS NEIGHBOR (11:5-8)

To illustrate how to pray, Jesus shares two parables and two principles. His first parable fits the eastern context where honor and shame are still very present aspects of culture (vs.5-8). In Jesus day, people would travel, usually on foot, sometimes on the back of an animal. After a long journey, there wasn’t a Motel 6 to keep a light on. There wasn’t texting or telephones to give your friend a heads-up. There wasn’t even a Denny’s to buy a ‘Moon’s Over My Hammy’ at 2:00am. Yet there was an obligation to honor guests hospitality and help neighbors in a pinch. If not, it could bring shame upon you and your house.

I am challenged by this parable, especially since I am on the brink of entering this kind of culture. I am not very neighborly. I can put on a good face, but I’m frustrated by spontaneous interruptions without appointments. I like to hit the hay early, so if someone came to my door at midnight asking for a loaf of bread I would be pretty perturbed. My response might be, “You need some bread? Ok.” (Thinking: “Dude, you just woke up my girls. Couldn’t you have gone to Seven-Eleven?”) “Here you go, enjoy.” (Thinking: “This 4th of July, I am going to buy lots of bottle rockets.”) I suppose this shows my heart. Agh, I am that guy! That ugly neighbor. I am so unlike God, but I want to be! That’s why this challenges me.

What would you do? How would you respond? Of course, you would open the door because you want to know why this guy is so persistent. Isn’t that Jesus’ point? His point is about the shameless neighbor who’s thinking, “Yeah, it’s late, but I’m going to stand here and knock on the door until I get myself a few loaves of bread.” He’s persistent because  he knows eventually his request will be answered. Why? Because ultimately you do care—even though he’s frustrating—you will meet his need. Likewise, Jesus is saying, even if you’re not the most pleasant child of God, even if we’re not having the best intentions or motives, God is loving, gracious, and kind. You can come to Him, day or night, 24/7, because He’s never asleep and He’s never tired and He’s never weary. He’s not unable or incapable or inconvenienced as a normal neighbor would be. You can talk to God anytime about anything and God hears and answers your prayer.

If you pray like the shameless neighbor, your prayers will be persistent and your persistence will prevail (vs.9-10). Jesus says that prayer is about three things: asking, seeking, and knocking. In the Greek, each of those three words are in the present tense, which carries the idea of “keep on” asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep on communicating with God. That’s prayer.

Asking means coming to God in faith and saying, “Dad, I really want…, I need…, please teach me…” Now, some of you are planners, who say, “I don’t need God. I need a plan.” Others of you panic. You don’t make a plan or talk to God, you just freak out. Don’t just make a plan, don’t just panic. Go to the Father and ask. What are you asking God, right now? What haven’t you asked Him?

Seeking means doing something about asking. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I prayed about it, now I’m going to sit here and do nothing.” Often, you pray about things you should be doing anyways. You got to get up and go do something. You got to seek, you got to serve, you got to pursue answers to your request. And if that doesn’t work and it still hasn’t been answered, you just keep banging on the door. You keep knocking. God’s answer will always be: yes, no, or hold on just a moment.

Friday, I heard my daughter Justus asking for me, “Hey, Dad? Dad? Dad? Mom, where’s dad? Where’s dad? What’s dad doing?” She was asking for me. She couldn’t find me. So she started seeking me. I heard her voice. I heard the pitter-patter of her feet on the floor. She looked in every room. She was very persistent, very committed to finding me. “Hey, dad? Where are you?” She came to the very last room in the house that she hadn’t checked, the bathroom. And she came, asking, seeking, knocking. “Dad, are you in there?” She found me. My answer, “I be with you in a moment, baby girl.”

This is the idea Jesus is trying to convey to His disciples. God’s your dad! Ask for Him. Seek Him. Knock on the door. Keep on doing it. Tell Him what you want or need. Bring it all to Him. Bring your Dad your needs, not your greeds. He adores you. He’s not gonna treat you like a stranger. So if you want to understand prayer, look at dads and children.

PRAY LIKE A CHILD WHO TRUST HIS DADDY (11:11-12)

Jesus’ second story is quite interesting (vs.11-12). It’s about a son who comes up to his dad, “Hey, Dad, can we have fish for dinner?” “Sorry, son all out of fish. How about a snake?” That’s weird! “Okay, dad, how about eggs?” “Nope. Have a scorpion.” I don’t know about you, but this dad really weirds me out. He must be off his meds or smoking something strange!

The story is ridiculous and humorous for a reason. Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” (v.13a) If you go to your dad, even if he’s a bad dad, and ask for a good thing, he won’t give you a bad thing. Children, do not use this verse as leverage against your dads, we already know we are evil and sinful. We are not perfect, yet we know the Father who is. In fact, this week, I enjoyed one of the sweetest times of prayer with three dad’s. Each of them were praying for their children and pleading with God that the way they father would resemble the way God fathers them. God is a Father. Even if you are not 100% convinced He is good, when you ask God for something do not fear what He will give. Trust that God is a good Father. He isn’t evil. He is not the father of lies (cf. John 8:44). God our Father is good and He give good gifts.

In Luke 11:1, a disciple asks Jesus, “Can you teach us how to pray?” Jesus gives the clincher in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” You see, everything that Jesus has done, His sinless life, His righteousness, His substitutionary death, His resurrection, all of that is given to you, brought to you, applied to you by whom? The Holy Spirit. So apart from the Holy Spirit, all the gifts that the Father has to give are received by the Holy Spirit. This is something Jesus’ disciples would get later (cf. Acts 2).

If you pray like a child who trusts his daddy, God’s goodness gets glory and you get the greatest gift. Jesus says the greatest gift of all is the Holy Spirit. That’s huge! This is the big idea of Luke 11:1–13 on how to pray: Jesus says, you pray by asking, seeking, and knocking. Trusting that your Father is a good, holy, generous, forgiving, King. And if you do this, your prayers will be Father-focused, persistent and prevailing, in the power of the Holy Spirit. So what are you waiting for? Let’s pray!

Father God, you are a good Father. Lord Jesus, you’re a good Savior. Holy Spirit, you’re the greatest gift. Please fill me. Please teach me to worship You forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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