Luke 11:1-13 A Day of Prayer

Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
4 and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence[c] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!”

A Day of Prayer

It is Moody Bible Institute’s Day of Prayer today.  How do we pray? How should we pray?  I was made aware of controversy around Centering Prayer this week.  It is also called Contemplative Prayer or Breath Prayer.  I first was introduced to the idea by reading a book Scott Chapman, my pastor, gave me called Prayer by Richard Foster.  I found the book to be very helpful as it walked the reader through various prayer traditions that have been adopted by the Christian church through the ages.  Breath Prayer was advocated in one of the chapters and it advocated aligning a short phrase with your breathing rhythm.  I see now that some people run for the hills at this point because they see Eastern Mysticism creeping in.  They believe Breath Prayer is a mantra where words are emptied of meaning.  My experience was the opposite.  Let’s remember that Israel is in Asia and they fail to see the influence of western rationalism on their own thinking.  The use of words like centering and contemplative also send some conservative evangelicals into a panic.  As I read further on line, I found that those who objected to these forms of prayer often objected to Lectio Divina and Spiritual Formation.  They see Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer and Spiritual formation as ‘mystical’ and wrong.  What I found really puzzling was the objection to hearing from God in any way that was not a direct quotation from scripture.  The book of Ezra has a priest interpreting the word of God so that the people can understand it.  In other words, scripture is absolutely true but it is mediated by different processes like prayer and preaching.  Some people seem dogmatic that prayer can not be a two-way process.  Can God not bring to mind a Bible verse?  Is this semantics?  In other words maybe bringing to mind something by God is valid, but we can not use the term prayer to encompass the experience.  My biggest objection, I think, to the form the discussion is taking  is that it is straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.  To define prayer down to the last detail is important, but to keep multiplying divisions in the church, to condemn and distance oneself from people like John Piper or Beth Moore because of Lectio Divina Lite, seems to me to have embraced an unhealthy legalism.  Another irony is that whilst they quote verses from Paul to justify their rooting out of false doctrine in the church (which does need doing), they do so in a way that is actually more in line with the burdensome and debilitating policing that Paul is actually writing against.

So, as I come to pray I want to quiet myself before God.  I want to think about Jesus and to read and reread this passage so that it sinks in deeply and I can meditate on it.  I will pray this prayer that Jesus gives us as liturgy in a repetitive way, comprehending it more deeply with each iteration.  Far from condemning repetition as mantra, Jesus actually condones repetition in this passage. we are to be persistent in prayer.  I also believe that we are to be thoughtful and reflective.  Apparently, for those petrified by mysticism, Jesus was serious about God’s benevolence.  If we ask for the Lord’s presence, if we ask for the Holy Spirit in an experiential and uplifting way, if we ask for the Holy Spirit’s prompting, we get a devil instead?  Somehow, if we are open to God we are open to anything, and the Father who loves us will say, “I am Holy and you approached me the wrong way, so I will let a devil enter you to teach you a lesson?”  Or, “Whilst you were sensitive and listening for me to lead you, I decided to give you a serpent to teach you a lesson?”  Jesus appeals to the general principles of being an earthly father to show how absurd this view of the Father is.  Yet, there are those who believe that God allows people to become damaged very easily if they do not pray in very narrow and prescribed ways.   Under the Mosaic covenant this might have been true, but when we enter into God’s family through Christ and we earnestly seek him, we find him.  When we ask for the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, he does.  He doesn’t destroy us for the presumption.

Our Father is intimate and close, but he is not ‘Daddy’ or my home boy.  When I pray to him I come with the Fear of the Lord.  I am awestruck by his words in scripture, and I am silenced by his presence in nature.  It is good for a man to sit in silence before the Lord, because the Lord has laid it upon him.  I will refrain from any reference to Lectio Divina, Breath Prayer or Centering Prayer because it seems to cause some of my brothers and sisters to stumble. The way they define the terms are also quite different from how I have heard them used by Protestants.  However, a solid treatment of these practices may be found in Life in the Spirit:Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective edited by Greenman.

Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions

  1. What is the pattern of prayer that Jesus lays out?
  2. Why does Jesus give his disciples liturgy?
  3. How does Jesus promote repetition and dependency?
  4. What do you believe are the parameters of biblical prayer?
  5. Does God talk to us in times of prayer?  Justify your answer.
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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