This chapter starts with Jesus “praying in a certain place”. It doesn’t surprised me that one of his disciples—maybe the spokesman for them all—said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” I’m thinking it would be wise to pay close attention to what the Master said about prayer when his disciples asked for help.
Many will tell us that The Lord’s Prayer, the prototype Jesus gave to the disciples, is outdated since he was talking to people under the Old Covenant. It may be that some parts of the prayer have been completed “in Christ”, but as we read it, line by line, we can see that much of it has not. Jesus’ prayer teaches us much about the world and the will of God. Early in the prayer pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, suggesting that God’s will is not always done. And, certainly, to pray that we would be delivered from evil—either that which we might do or that might be done to us—is a very contemporary need.
What he tells them next should encourage us in our prayer. It is a discourse on why we may expect our prayers to be answered. When we know the will of God—and the disciples would know because that is what they saw Jesus doing on the earth, and what he told them he came to do—we then pray according to His will, and we can expect a positive answer to that prayer. “If a son asks for bread, will you give him a stone?” Jesus asks. Some might say that refers only to the Holy Spirit, which Jesus mentions at the end of the lesson, but in context of the whole teaching, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
This chapter continues with lessons about what God is doing and what he is not. When Jesus casts out a devil and sets a mute man free, some said he did it by the power of Beelzebub, ruler of demons. Jesus schools them on what happens when a kingdom is divided; i.e., he would not be casting out demons on behalf of the devil. He, instead, was the “stronger man” who seized the devil’s spoils.
It seems that prayer, in all of its forms, must be based on what the scriptures have to say about prayer and about God’s will, and upheld by what Jesus has already accomplished on the cross.
I found it interesting to read Jesus’ reply to the woman in the crowd who called out a blessing on “the woman who gave you birth.”
“But he said, ‘Indeed, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'” (vs 28)
We’ve heard “keep it” before.
Remember? In the Sower and the Seed teaching, Jesus said those who keep the word, the seed, bring forth the intended harvest. Harvest is the whole point of a seed. Which is why, I believe, we see Jesus’ stern rebuke to the lawyers at the end of this chapter. These who claim such knowledge of God and His ways are the ones, he says, who have killed the prophets in the past. The prophets who brought the people God’s words.
“Woe to you lawyers! For you take away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering,” (vs 52).
The key of knowledge. What might that be? A key opens something—a door, a box. It gives access to something. That key might certainly be the Fear of the Lord which is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. It is the key that brings access to knowledge because it carries with it an honour that doesn’t despise or treat lightly the Word of God.
Might we be hindered from “entering in” to the freeing, healing, overcoming place it provides if we allow those words, the seed, to be twisted, explained away or ridiculed by those who do not enter in themselves?
I can’t help but look back, right now, to the beginning of our journey with Luke and remember why he wrote this documentary. It is so good to be reminded, in this teaching about prayer, of the reality and certainty of what we have been told and believed! It is no fairy tale. It is history and it is alive today.
“Until now you have asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full,” (John 16:24).