Summary: Year C. Eight Sunday after Pentecost July 29, 2001 Luke 11:1-13 Title: “How long do I have to pray in order to get what I want?”
Year C. Eight Sunday after Pentecost July 29, 2001
Title: “How long do I have to pray in order to get what I want?” At the request of his disciples Jesus teaches them “the Lord’s Prayer” and further comments on God’s readiness to listen to and certainty that he will answer prayer.
This text is composed of sayings of Jesus and a parable. First there is a request for instruction in verse one, followed by a formal or “pattern” prayer verses two to four. Then comes a parable that speaks of God’s readiness to hear prayer, verses five to eight, and a statement that God will certainly answer prayer in verses nine and ten, even more surely and readily than will a human father.
In verses one to four, we have Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer. Matthew has a slightly different form, containing more petitions. Matthew’s version was probably developed and used in his communities’ liturgies. It is impossible to determine which version is closest to the original words of Jesus. The fact that there are two versions makes clear that the early church did not believe Jesus was teaching an exact set of words to be said, but giving an outline of sentiments and attitudes to be expressed. The prayer actually sums up the teaching of Jesus. It expresses the longing, constant longing, the disciples should have for God’s kingdom, their dependence upon God as their father for food, their daily needs, forgiveness, their new relationship of reconciliation with God and freedom, their need of his power to keep them free from yielding to temptation and return to slavery.
In verse one, the Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples: We have here the only request in the Gospels for Jesus to give instruction. The disciples wanted a prayer, characteristic of their movement, just like the Baptist’s followers had.
In verse two, when you pray, say: The Greek hotan means “whenever.” Jesus is giving the disciples a pattern of prayer for all occasions, to be used whenever they pray.
“Father,” This is the same simple form of address Jesus himself used when addressing God. Matthew has a fuller form, “Our Father in heaven,” which most Jews of his day would use. “Father” is more intimate and, at the same time, respectful. In giving the disciples the same word he used for God Jesus was initiating them into the same close relationship he enjoyed with God. Thus assured of God’s loving care for them, they could ask him for gifts with the certainty of being heard.
After the address come two sets of petitions. The first set has two parallel petitions pertaining to the establishment of God’s name or kingdom. The second set has three petitions pertaining to the personal needs of the one or ones praying.
“Hallowed be your name,” God’s name is, in effect, his reputation among human beings, but the term stands for God himself. People are to think and speak of him with appropriate reverence and honor. However, the petition is more than one of asking that God’s name as name be honored. God’s real “name,” his very self, is honored when earthlings act in accord with his revealed character. This petition is another way of saying “Your kingdom come” or “Your will be done.”
“Your kingdom come,” If God’s name is more than a title, his kingdom is more than a political state. It is a realm that can be conceived as outside the worldly realm and thus an alternative to it. Or it can be conceived as within the worldly realm, competing with it for allegiance. But God’s realm does not just sit there, taking up space, a geographical place on a map. His realm is also the atmosphere wherein he rules. When there is no competition between God and Satan as ruler of the world and of the person, then his kingdom will have come. Luke does not have the third petition found in Matthew’s version of this prayer, “Thy will be done.” It is really the same petition as the two mentioned here.
After, and only after, God’s “needs” have been addressed does the petitioner mention his or her or their own personal needs. These are kept general in this model prayer or pattern prayer, allowing the petitioner to make them more specific. They are for food, representing the natural world and human material needs; for forgiveness, representing human social needs; and for freedom, representing spiritual needs.
In verse three, “daily bread,” In the Greek the word translated “bread” artos really means “food.” May God continue providing food day by day. Without it humans could not live. Thus, this petition recognizes absolute dependence upon God not just for the original gift of life, but for the daily sustenance of it. Any and all physical, material needs come under the umbrella of this model petition. Of course, the petition can also refer to more-than-physical needs, such as the “bread” of wisdom or even the Eucharist, but its primary focus is on food itself.