One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
When You Pray
Let’s say someone has invited you to their home. When you get there, you can tell they’ve been expecting you. They’ve turned on the porch light. They smile when they see you and invite you in. They’ve prepared good food. They’ve set the table. In a similar way, whenever you pray the Lord’s Prayer, you know that the Lord has been expecting you. He has even laid out the words and the form of the prayer for you, so that you know you are welcome.
At times we might have a good reason to decline an invitation to someone’s house. But there is no legitimate reason why we would ever decline God’s invitation to pray. And yet we do. God in heaven invites us to pray, and we believe in him, and still we struggle to appreciate the gift he’s given us. It’s just more evidence that the sinful nature in you and me always runs away from God and wants nothing from him, and that there’s not a thing we can do to fix that. What a helpless mess we are!
And yet Jesus’ words still stand. He invites us to call God Father.
As Jesus speaks the words in today’s reading, he is looking ahead to his cross. And as strong as our sinful nature desires to run away from God, Jesus had an even stronger desire to suffer and die for us all. Now, by his suffering and death he has paid for our sins, and through Jesus God has declared us to be his forgiven children.
If prayer were nothing more than a business contract with God, then you would be legally bound to pray to him or he would cut off all ties. If your relationship with God were no more than a relationship between friends, then you would be expected to give as much as you get. Jesus sets the record straight. Prayer is an exchange between a child and his Father. God does all the giving, and like a good father, he will only give you things that are good for you. Your privileged role is to receive his gifts.
When God invites you to pray, he is inviting you into his throne room. Your Savior has cleared the way. By his death and resurrection, he has paid for your sins. Whenever you pray in Jesus’ name, you know that God’s been expecting you. Your Father in heaven is greeting you with a smile.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for giving me the privilege of prayer. Help me to use it well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.