Prayer as a Demand
This week’s text is Luke 11: 1-13. This sees Jesus giving us the Lord’s Prayer and other instructions on how to pray. The glaringly obvious thing about all this is that Jesus would have us boldly, and indeed irritatingly demand things from God. None of this is new to scripture. Genesis 18 sees Abraham haggling with God and Exodus 32 sees Moses having God repent. God clearly wants us in a relationship, and this means that we plead and at times demand.
In the first part of the text, the Lord’s Prayer, it is all about demanding things from God. Even the beginning is a demand. “Father, hallowed be your name”, is a request that God do this through us, it is an imperative. The rest of this prayer is a list of demands as well. Give us bread, forgive our sins, and help us avoid the time of trial. Jesus is telling us to demand things boldly, and perhaps irritatingly from God our Father.
Prayer as Persistence
The rest of the text is filled with parables to illustrate the other aspect to Jesus’s call to prayer, persistence. He tells of the friend who demands, at a late hour, to be received and given provisions so that he may not be seen as inhospitable. Then Jesus tells of asking, and knocking, and the door will be opened, and we will be given good things from the Father.
All of this reminds me of a prayer discipline I learned that went by the acronym A.C.T.S. This stood for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. It always struck me, not in a good way, that this was telling God, that I really love you, I am really sorry, I am really grateful, now here is a list of things I would like you to take care of. Yet, in reading this passage, this is exactly, what Jesus is teaching us to do.
More than that, Jesus is telling us to be uber persistent in this effort. Upon reflection, this makes sense. Much of scripture is filled with people who triumph in their faith simply because of their perseverance. There is no better example of this perseverance than Mother Teresa. As it turns out, she was a woman belittled by doubt, as letters uncovered after her death revealed. Given where she spent her ministry, how could she not face periods of doubt. Yet, she triumphed because she persevered. She is so emblematic of what Jesus is teaching in this text. Keep asking, keep demanding, keep knocking, and God will answer. Mother Teresa’s life stands as an edifying example of how we are to embrace this teaching and live in persistent, faithful witness.
All Good Things
It is important to note that the text says that in response to this shameless, persistence we will receive good gifts from our father. Verse 13 analogizes this by stating “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!’”. The key here is good gifts. Like human parents and their children, our Heavenly Father will give us good gifts. This is different than what we think we want and or need. When we take this position with our children, we hope that though they may in the here and now be disappointed, they will come to see that you really did give them a good gift in response to their request.
So, it is with God. What he gives us is not necessarily, specifically what we asked for, but it will be the very thing we needed. Along with shameless, irritatingly persistent demands, we are to trust that how God answers us is what we truly need. Then we are to take that answer and go forth in faith and act in response to God’s gifts. That is, we are to believe, and obey.
Praise Be to God