John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, said this about prayer in a letter to a friend:
Our ability to pray is so weak that, if we are sitting in a room trying to pray, we are over matched by the buzzing of a fly.
Tim Keller says that prayer is hard for us for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we have “distance” from God is the due to the fact that we live in a physical world, while God does not. We are absorbed by the physicality of the world in such a way that is hard for us to contact to a non-physical God. What, then, is prayer that we can engage in it, engage God and overcome the obstacles that get in the way?
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, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 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’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 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. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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 11:5-13)
Reading through Luke recently this passage impressed me in a way that hadn’t occurred to me previously. We often remember things out of context, but context is important and provides insight, and sometimes even changes what we think we know of the verse, standing alone.
It seems that the ask, seek and knock passage is often remembered for the proposition that God, our heavenly Father, will give us the good things for which we ask, seek and knock because a natural father doesn’t withhold good things for his children. But that isn’t the central point of the passage.
This passage is beautifully laid out in a progression of intimacy that I had not seen before.
“Deliver[i] us from evil[ii]” (Matt. 6:13) Is how the prayer Jesus taught us to pray aptly ends. Aptly because God’s end goal is deliverance of His children from evil, and not just deliverance from evil, but deliverance to God and His purpose.
Literally, this phrase in the original text means “draw us to Yourself (our Deliverer) and, thereby, deliver us from the pain and misery of evil”. God does not simply seek to deliver us from our troubles caused by the sin that entangles us: He delivers us to Himself for His divine purpose. Continue reading “Deliver Us From Evil”→
“Your will[i] be done[ii]….” (Matt. 6:10). This statement that is part of the way Jesus taught us to pray is not just a onetime proclamation, but an ongoing imperative cry for an emerging and growing reality in the life of the believer and in the world. Continue reading “Cross Purposes”→
“Our Father who is in heaven[i]….” is what Jesus taught us to pray. We might be tempted to picture God in the clouds, but the popular idea of God in the clouds is not at all accurate. God the Father is outside of time and space. Time, space and the Universe in which we live are contained and sustained by God. They emanated from God; they do not contain God. Continue reading “Our Father Who Is in Heaven”→
“Our Father…” (Matt. 6:9) begins the only prayer that Jesus taught. God the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen, the God who exists before and beyond time and space Continue reading “Our Father”→