devotion, 2-4-15

Good Morning!

Luke 11:1-4

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father,* hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.*
3 Give us each day our daily bread.*
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’*

Jesus was praying – Luke does not tell us where this particular prayer was, but he has told us that Jesus prayed in the wilderness, and on the mountain. Often, he went out to a solitary place to pray alone. This time, however, the disciples are watching. And when Jesus has finished his prayer, one of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” This implies that they have heard something about John having taught his disciples a specific way to pray, or things about praying, and they want to know if Jesus approves, if he has something to teach them more than what they have heard about John. The question goes much deeper than, what words should we use? The question is really, how do we develop relationship with God? The disciples saw Jesus’ nearness to God and relationship with him, the mutual love, when they watched Jesus pray; this is what they are asking. This is what we need to learn.

Jesus responds to their question, giving them words, that at the same time reveal a way to build relationship with God. We call these words “The Lord’s Prayer”, except that the words as we know them are closer to Matthew’s version:

Matthew 6:9-13

9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.*
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,*
but rescue us from the evil one.*

Luke gives an amended version – instead of “Our Father in heaven”, he simply says, “Father” – God is Father to us all, Our Father, and he is all around us – in the Greek, this word “heaven” means more like the air we breathe – God surrounds us like the very air. God’s very name is, indeed, holy – the ancient Hebrew people would not even speak God’s name. Unfortunately for our day, profanity often includes the very name of God. Both say, “Your kingdom come” – Luke emphasizes that Jesus was preaching the coming of the Kingdom. “Thy will be done” is left out of Luke’s version, included in Matthew’s; it defines “Your Kingdom come”, means the same thing – When God’s will is done, the kingdom comes. “Give us each day our daily bread”, Matthew says, “this day”. The point is to rely on God, rather than our own resourcefulness, and to take “one day at a time”, not worrying about tomorrow. Luke words the part about forgiveness a little differently, “Forgive our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” This is the only conditional part of the prayer – it asks God to forgive our sins, but this is conditioned on our forgiving debts, and debts in those days had to do with honor – a person who helped someone expected that person to honor them in some way, to “pay back”; they were owed a debt, often not a specific amount of money, as we think of debt, but a “favor”. “And do not bring us to a time of trial” – Matthew adds, “rescue us from the evil one”, or, as we have learned it, “Deliver us from evil”.

The last pieces of the prayer, as we know it, are not biblical at all, but were added by the early church, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen” These words were added as closing, benediction, to honor God in the closing.

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