Reading: Luke 11:1-13
The prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples is focussed on four things. They are framed as requests to God but without our input it is difficult to see how they can come about.
Firstly we are to pray that the communities and societies in which we live are changed sothat they are becoming more like the Kingdom Of Heaven……..”Thy kingdom come.” But they will not change without our input.
Then we should make sure that we keep healthy for without our daily bread how can each one of us work for the Kingdom? But the food we need will not be there unless weorganise things so that it is.
Next, in order that the relationships we make should be strong and lasting we must learnto be not only forgiving but also to be able to accept forgiveness from others. (It is interesting that in this translation the word ‘as’ in ‘as we forgive others’ is replaced by ‘for’ as in ‘forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgiv everyone indebted to us.’) Implying we already do forgive others. What we need is forgiveness from others. (It is interesting that in this translation the request sounds almost as if God is less forgiving than we are.)
Finally there is nothing wrong with never having been brought to a time of trial in this life and though we should not run away from one we should not actively seek one. Jesus backs up his prayer with two related teachings about praying. Firstly the man who at first won’t get out of bed to give his friend some bread but finally does so because of his friends persistence. We need to keep working at forwarding the kingdom, making sure we are fit, being forgiving and not running towards needless confrontations. These things come from persistence and not simply by asking. I think also that the man might not only get up because of his friends persistence but also because he feels a little guilty. He knows what is the right thing to do.
When Jesus says, ‘ask and it will be given you etc.’ he must have known that when in prayer we ask, search, knock it will not always be given, found, opened. The church has always got round this by saying that God answers these prayers with ‘Yes, No, Wait’. I suspect that, as in the prayer he taught his disciples, Jesus does not regard these requests as resulting in handouts from God but rather they require our persistence and effort. Deep down we know what things are true, honest and of good report. We know that it is up to us whether the things we ask and seek fall into those categories and if they do we have to act accordingly. Jesus knew that too ‘Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?’ We are required to do the right thing and sometimes that is very difficult not least because of the problem of working out what is the right thing. In prayer, to paraphrase Gandhi, it is better the heart is in the right place than the words.