Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 4, 2018
1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he 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 who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
— Luke 11:1-13, ESV
The “Do-Si-Do” is a common call in square dancing, not that I’ve learned this from experience. You begin by standing still, then move around your partner, then wind up standing still where you started.
The basic disciplines of the Christian life are like this, listening to God and speaking to God. You begin by listening to God, primarily to His word, as beautifully illustrated by Mary in the previous passage. Then, you respond by moving your mind and mouth in prayer to God. Finally, you end where you began, by listening to God, who has promised to speak to us in person. It is a spiritual Do-Si-Do that keeps you in close communion with God through the divine communication of prayer.
Prayer (fifty-eight mentions in Luke and Acts) and parables (more in his Gospel than any others) are pillars in the Gospel of Luke. Here he records a model prayer and a meaningful parable to teach us how to listen and speak and listen to God.
Prayer as a Response
Prayer, very much like worship, is essentially a response to the presence of God. God is omnipresent, so worship and prayer should be ever present in the Christian life. God is always worthy to be worshiped, and God is always available to talk to in prayer.
When God became flesh and dwelt among His twelve disciples, Jesus’ teachings and actions were conversation starters for Him and the Apostles. Christ would teach and his followers wanted to know what He meant. Christ would act and his followers would want to know why He did a certain thing, or how they could do it, too. In this case, Christ was praying, and the disciples responded by asking for a tutorial in prayer.
Prayer begins with God’s initiative and is fueled by godly curiosity. God speaks, primarily through His word, the Holy Bible. We listen or read the word of God and respond with words of our own, usually questions, because we are curious as to the meaning of the text. We see some activity in the world or in our lives. We know God is sovereign and provident over all things, so we want to know what He is doing or what we should do. So we ask, in prayer. We get up in the morning, which in and of itself is a gift of life from God. We want to know what to do with our days, we want direction, meaning, purpose. The best place to go is to God, in prayer.
When dancing through life, let God lead. He takes the initiative in every chapter in the book of your life. Often, however, His teaching is hard to understand or His providence hides a smiling face. That’s when you need to go to Him, face to face, in prayer. Respond to His word, to His leading, with your best speech.
Prayer as a Speech
Jesus’ response to their response to Him praying was to teach them to pray. Our Lord constructed a model which we Protestants refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Our Catholic friends call it the “Pater Noster” (Latin for “Our Father”). Both of us misuse it often. Protestants tend to be too loose with the prayer (saying it meaninglessly and horribly fast in football locker rooms), while Catholics tend to be too legalistic (prescribing a certain number of repetitions for penance).
While it can be and should be used verbatim in personal prayer and corporate worship, Jesus meant it as a teaching, a model, an outline to be fleshed out by His flesh and blood disciples in the discipline of prayer. We use His speech to write our own speech, our own prayer, to God.
Every good speech has three simple parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Jesus’ model prayer offers structure for the first two, but we have to build the end ourselves (under His leadership and direction, of course). Here are some principles for prayer, according to the Lord:
Begin as a child talking to his or her Father and a subject addressing his or her King. Of course, to do so requires being a born again child of God who has submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Though God knows and hears everything, unbelievers cannot actually pray to a God they do not believe in nor a Lord they are in rebellion against. So, prayer begins by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. It is spoken by people who consider God to be the most important being in the universe and whose kingdom matters more than anything else on earth. That’s what it means to say, “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.”
By the way, praying should be as casual and easy as speaking with your parents, spouse, family, friends, or anyone to whom you feel especially close. But it also should be formal, reverent, and humble as if you were speaking to a U.S. President (that you respect) or other VIP. Sometimes it is more one than the other, depending on the setting, but it’s really always a combination of both. I think of worship in the same way.
Now that you’ve made a beginning, get to the body of your prayer. You and those you pray for have material and spiritual needs. Tell them specifically to God. Ask with a clean heart, especially clean from the sin of revenge or hatred. Ask not only for things but for guidance, for God to put guardrails along your path to steer you away from bad choices and bring you to His more perfect will. That’s what it means to say, “Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
By the way, I like the way Luke uses the word “sin,” whereas Matthew takes the metaphor, “debt.” Sin is a debt to be sure, but I like to call sin a sin, especially when I’ve done it and am confessing it to God. Unconfessed sin is a barrier to prayer and fellowship with God, so prayer should serve to get it out of the way.
Once we’ve made a beginning in prayer and communicated the body of our requests, it is time to bring it to a conclusion. That’s what it means to say, “For Thine is the power, the kingdom, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” Wait a minute, Jesus did not say those words, at least not in this episode. Luke did not record it, and neither did Matthew. It comes from the Didache, an excellent first century document of Christian thought and teaching. It is not inspired Scripture, but it is an inspiring end to this model prayer.
After all, in prayer we call upon the Lord for certain things, because He controls all the power. We call upon the Lord to magnify His name in us and use us to improve and expand His kingdom, for He owns and rules it. We call upon the Lord to answer our prayers in such a way that our lives, and the lives of others, bring more glory to God. I like ending prayer this way, and do so almost every day in my life and every Sunday in our church. Soli deo gloria!
Right prayer is a response to God’s sovereignty in our lives. Righteous prayer includes the right ingredients, reverence and requests. And we are right to except that for every prayer, God has an answer. You may be surprised to learn that the answer is always the same, as revealed in the parable that follows this model prayer.
Prayer as an Answer
The parable that follows the prayer reveals the character of God and the key to answered prayer. Like almost all of Jesus’ parables, the Lord tells it with figurative characters and leaves us wrestle with the meaning. However, the last character mentioned in this parable is not figurative at all, but quite literal, and is the answer to all of our prayers.
The first take from the parable is the love, kindness, and generosity of God. He is infinitely greater than any neighbor and gives better gifts. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, so He does not have to get out of bed to answer our prayers. When we pray, we pray with confidence to a God who loves us more than we can know, and He will answer our prayers.
The second principle from the parable is that God encourages persistence in prayer. He often does not answer the first time, but bids us to keep on asking. This filters out senseless prayers, usually for material things, and makes us focus on the truly spiritual, vital, important prayers that serve to make us more holy, advance the kingdom, and glorify God. When persistence paints our prayers in the right color, God sees and answers.
The third and final teaching from the parable is one of the most powerful truths in Scripture, if we are able to comprehend it. God answers every prayer of His children, He answers it before we even ask it, and He Himself is the answer. Look closely at the conclusion of the passage: … “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
The answer to the Spirit-filled Christian’s prayer is the Holy Spirit living inside of him or her. The Holy Spirit is giving you the answer, whether you should stay or go, keep or give, this way or that way, yes or no. That’s right, He is telling you the answer after you pray, you just have to Do-Si-Do. Listen to the word of God, pray with all your might, then listen to the Spirit of God.
Admittedly, this is one of the most difficult disciplines in the Christian life. It can only be honed after mastering the first two, Bible study and prayer. Even then, it is often hard to tell the difference between the silent voice of the Holy Spirit and the strong human feelings and emotions we possess. I have gotten it right and wrong in my Christian experience, and I so want to get it right going forward. So do you, I know.
So Do-Si-Do. Dance with God in prayer. Begin with hunger for the word and feast upon it regularly. Let your prayers be short and sweet, personal and powerful, specific and consistent. Then listen to the Holy Spirit within and look for an answer that gives you peace, is going to be good for others, and glorifies God.
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