Summary: Through the Lord's Prayer and the parable and teachings that follow, Jesus teaches us not only how we should pray, but about the nature of the One to whom we pray. Jesus assures us that God answers prayer!
“She’s like a kid in a candy store!” You all have heard this expression before, right? When we say that someone is “like a kid in a candy store,” we are saying that person is exhibiting a complete, unguarded, total excitement about some experience. I believe you know what I’m talking about. I’m pretty sure there are some of you out there who kind of go crazy when you walk into a Hobby Lobby. Am I right? There’s hardly an aisle you walk down that you don’t get excited about some possible project and the supplies you could get to do it. I know this about you because I’m the same way! Just like a kid in a candy store, who can hardly walk down an aisle without feeling the need or desire to taste every single candy along the way.
Paul Harvey tells the story of a three-year-old boy who went to the grocery store with his mother. Before they entered the grocery store she said to him, "Now you’re not going to get any chocolate chip cookies, so don’t even ask." She put him up in the cart and he sat in the little child’s seat while she wheeled down the aisles. He was doing just fine until they came to the cookie section. He saw the chocolate chip cookies & he stood up in the seat and said, “Mom, can I have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you not even to ask. You’re not going to get any at all.” So he sat back down. They continued down the aisles, but in their search for certain items they ended up back in the cookie aisle. “Mom, can I please have some chocolate chip cookies?” She said, “I told you that you can’t have any. Now sit down & be quiet.” Finally, they were approaching the checkout lane. The little boy sensed that this may very well be his last chance. So just before they got to the line, he stood up on the seat of the cart and shouted in his loudest voice, “In the name of Jesus, may I have some chocolate chip cookies?” As you can imagine, everybody around just laughed. Some even applauded. And, due to the generosity of the other shoppers, the little boy and his mother left with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. This is the type of eager persistence that Jesus is pressing before us in this passage today about prayer. We ought always to pray and not give up!
What counts is persistence! Believe it or not, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he “encourag[es] a kind of holy boldness, a sharp knocking on the door, an insistent asking, a search that refuses to give up.” But this is not persistence in asking for a candy, or chocolate chip cookies, or hobby supplies; not even persistence in asking for something that we desire in our own lives. As disciples, Jesus encourages us to be persistent in praying for those things which are consistent with the will of God. Now, I must acknowledge that we are mere humans and it is not always easy to know clearly the will of God. But I firmly believe that if we are really honest with ourselves, we will know when our prayers are inappropriate. True prayer is an act of exploration; it seeks to discover God’s will and to submit to it. And one of the ways that we can do this is through the Lord’s Prayer, this prayer that Jesus taught to those disciples following him so many years ago who asked that he would teach them how to pray.
It was custom in Jesus’ day that rabbinical teachers would often formulate short prayers for use by their followers. And when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, this is probably what they have in mind. Most certainly, Jesus offers to the disciples a short prayer for them to use in their daily life. But, like so much of Jesus’ ministry, this prayer is different from the prayers of other rabbinical teachers; it’s special. This prayer that Jesus offers to the disciples in this moment grows out of the mission of Jesus himself. As the prayer stands, and as a framework for wider praying, the Lord’s Prayer, as we call it, has been ideally suited for Jesus’ followers in all times and all places. This prayer includes those most essential elements of the Christian life; reverent worship of the Father God, anticipation of his coming reign on earth, nourishment for the work we are called to do, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation and sin. These are the things for which we should be persistently praying! In fact, these are the only things for which we should be persistently praying. Certainly, there are times when our petitions to God would include healing the sick and feeding the hungry and comforting the grieving, but these things come and go because God does hear our prayers. But what Jesus is urging upon us in this passage is that day in and day out, we should be praying in worship to God, calling for God’s reign on earth, asking for sustenance, and forgiveness, and deliverance. Every day!