Coming just after the visit with Mary and Martha, this scene begins with Jesus again at prayer. Jesus’ disciples wanted to learn from Him how to pray. Jesus started on a series of teachings regarding prayer – The Lord’s prayer, the parable about a persistent friend and the need of asking. Luke’s version of Jesus’ response is briefer and simpler than that in Matthew. The first two verses have to do with God. The last three verses address the fulfilment of our needs. Each of those three is plural “give us—forgive us—Bring us”, emphasizing the community, which we are a part of rather than individual needs.
We tend to fixate on the mechanics of prayer: how the prayer should be answered, why the prayer must be answered, and when it should be answered. Jesus’ instructions to his followers, however, focus on who– who are you, your identity, that is asking the request and who you are asking the request of (. i.e. who is God to you?). It is important to focus on the invitation rather than the explanation. The basis of Jesus’ prayer is a relationship of trust and intimacy with God who is Father. God is our Father who yearns for a personal relationship with each one of us. We sometimes assume that God distances Himself from us because of our waywardness. However, God is never far from us but keeps coming to love us and care for us. Praying the Lord’s Prayer, we must first experience God as our Father with whom we can trust and abandon ourselves totally in His presence. If not, we will simply recite this prayer without knowing the Person whom we are addressing it to. Jesus invites us to address God as Pater, “Father”, the way a child would ask a parent for their needs. “Father” – in Jesus’ language, Aramaic, is “Abba”. Luke uses the Greek word, pater, as He is addressing his predominately Gentile audience.
A loving Father listens to the child but does not blindly endorse every request. Saying yes to the child at every turn would please him or her for the moment but would lead to trouble in the long-run. A loving Father must provide what is needed, including limits and discipline. Do we constantly, blindly give-in to the wants of our children? Is our love for them defined by just saying “Yes” to all their wants?
We are called to “persistence” in our prayer. Greek word is anaideia (Greek Septuagint (LXX)), better translated as “shamelessness” and implies a boldness that comes from familiarity. We thus must be shameless in our prayers. To be ourselves before our heavenly Father. To trust in God’s loving purpose for us. Not everything that happens is God’s will. We can affirm with St. Paul, “in all things God works for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
Jesus encourages us in prayer. If earthly parents are willing to pave out their children’s education, to whom they leave their wealth and assets, much more will our Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to His sons and daughters who is predestined to inherit His inheritance in Heaven. Jesus is telling us to trust the Father, our divine parent to give us all that we need, including and especially the Holy Spirit. When we relate with God as someone close to us, we will freely ask God our loving Father for the desires of our hearts. We must ask persistently with a heart that trusts God will give us the best that we need in His time and His ways. The very best gift that God will give to those who ask Him is the gift of His very same Spirit. The Holy Spirit which enters deep within our very selves, cleanses our hearts from all sins and gives us His peace, joy and faithfulness – gives to us the very life and love of God Himself. Therefore, Jesus said, “How much more…” We cannot fully understand the measure that God wants to give us.
Prayer is not primarily about getting things from God but rather about the relationship we have with God. While at other places in Scripture we are told that God knows our needs without being asked (Mt. 6:8), here we are called to make them known, to speak them into existence in the confidence that this relationship can bear hearing these things and may deepen upon hearing them.
The “Daily bread” mentioned is to be given to us “day by day”—kath hemeran in Greek. “According to the day”; that is, “Give us each day the bread which our bodies require, as they call for it:” as the Israelites had manna, “Let us have bread today for today, and tomorrow for tomorrow;” for then we may be kept in a continual dependence upon God, as children upon their parents, and have mercies from his hand daily. We will thus find ourselves under new and renewed obligations to do the work of every day, according to the duty of the day.
In Luke, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, “forgive us our sins” Here, sins (hamartia in Greek means “missing the mark”) are acts of rebellion against the authority of God over us. It is saying ‘no’ to God, missing our mark – which is God. A faithful child reflects the image and values of the father, so Jesus expects us to reflect the forgiving nature of God. How can the world learn of God’s forgiveness unless we manifest forgiveness in our lives? We have no reason to expect, nor can with any confidence pray, that God would forgive our sins against him, if we do not sincerely, forgive those who offend us. “Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God”– Henri J.M. Nouwen
Today, let us come before God with a lot of trust and love because we know that He is our Father. “Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you.” (St Tomas Aquinas)
With Peace and Joy,
Patrick and Letitia