Guests: and

1. Jesus’ Practice of Prayer

Among the Gospels, Luke gives the most sustained attention to the praying Jesus. Only Luke records the story Jesus told to urge his disciples to always pray and not lose heart (Lk 18:1-8). Only Luke pictures Jesus as praying in the following six vignettes:

  • Jesus prayed at his baptism (Lk 3:21).
  • He retreated from his public ministry of healing to pray in the wilderness (Lk 5:16).
  • Jesus prayed all night then selected the Twelve from among his disciples (Lk 6:12, 13).
  • He took Peter, James and John with him on the mountain to pray. While in prayer he was transfigured (Lk 9:28, 29).
  • Jesus was praying when the disciples asked him to teach them to pray (Lk 11:1)
  • On the night of his arrest Jesus revealed to Simon Peter that he had been praying that Peter’s faith not falter (Lk 22:31, 32)

2. Prayer in the Early Church

This emphasis on prayer in Luke prefigures the emphasis on prayer in Acts, Luke’s companion volume. Particularly in the first half of the book the progress of the church is bathed in the practice of prayer.

  • 120 believers were gathered in prayer before Matthias was chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:12-26) and the Spirit is poured out on Pentecost (2:1ff).
  • Over 3000 believers devoted themselves to a regime of fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer (2:42).
  • Peter and John were on their way to pray at the temple when they healed the man paralyzed from birth (3:1-10).
  • The believers prayed for boldness after the release of Peter and John (4:23- 31).
  • In order to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word, the Apostles instructed the believers to pick seven men for the food administration (6:1-6).
  • Peter and John go to Samaria to pray that believers there receive the Spirit (8:14, 15).
  • Saul was praying when God sent Ananias to restore his sight (9:10, 11).
  • Peter prayed before Dorcas is restored to life (9:39, 40).
  • Cornelius, a devout Roman centurion who prayed constantly to God, is assured during the ninth hour of prayer by an angel that his prayers have been heard. The angel sends to seek out Peter (10:1,2, 30-31) ) who also is in prayer when he is told to welcome Cornelius (10:9-23; 11:5).
  • The church is in earnest prayer to God for Peter’s release (12:5). Released by the angel, Peter arrives during the prayer meeting (12:12-13). See also 13:3; 14:23; 16:12, 16, 25; 20:36; 21:5; 22:17.

3. The Lord’s Prayer, According to Matthew 6:9-13

The prayer is composed of an address, followed by seven petitions. It is divided into two parts. The first half of three petitions is directed towards God: May your name be declared holy, May your kingdom come, May your will be done on earth. The second half with four petitions is directed towards the believers’ needs and is expanded: Give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil [or, the evil one]. The last petition actually blossoms into two parts, one negative and one positive. This serves as a climax to the prayer.

This structure isn’t accidental: it fits in with the basic plan in expressed in Matthew 6:33,”Seek first His {God’s} kingdom and His {God’s} righteousness and [then] all these things {food, drink, clothing} will be added {by God}. The order expresses both the believer’s God-ward priority and the believer’s confidence in God’s care for personal needs, physical and spiritual.

This attending first to God, then to human needs and rights predates the time of Jesus. The Ten Commandments both in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 in the Old Testament have a similar orientation: first, the commandments on how God’s rights are to be met; second, the commandments on how our neighbors’ physical, social and economic rights are to be preserved.

Reflection and Discussion:

  1. The prayer Jesus taught his desciples (Lk 11:2-4) could be spoken in less than a minute. Is this consistent with Jesus’ all-night prayer session (Lk 6:12,13)?
  2. How does Jesus’ appeal for persisting prayer (Lk 11:5-8, 18:1-6) fit in with the picture of God ready to answer prayer (Lk 11:19-13)?.
  3. Luke indicates the disciples were in prayer at certain hours either collectively or alone (Acts 2:42; 3:1; 10:9, 30; see also Lk 1:10). Does Luke intend for his readers to adopt a similar practice? Ought the present- day believer to observe regular hours for daily prayer?
  4. Is it reasonable or even wise to expect dramatic answers to prayer like those described in the book of Acts?
  5. How much can be accomplished without prayer? How much is attempted without prayer? Do we believe the answers usually given to these questions?
  6. Why the difference in wording and length between the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13 and the prayer Jesus gave his desciples in Luke 11:2-4? Why do most modern versions omit “For yours in the kingdom, the power and the glory” from Matt. 6:13?
  7. What conclusions can we draw from the fact that the Lord’s Prayer is essentially a series of petitions?

Comments are closed.