Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." So He said to them, "When you pray, say:
"Our Father in heaven,And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have noting to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to 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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone
who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one."
- Luke 11:1-13In yesterday's reading, Jesus came to the village of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Luke's gospel tells us that Martha welcomed Him into her house. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." The disciple looks to the example; Jesus has been praying. I think it's interesting that Jesus is asked in some part "as John also taught his disciples." We know that many of Jesus' first disciples were previously disciples of John the Baptist. My study bible says that the request Lord, teach us to pray expresses a universal spiritual need. It adds that Matthew' record of the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) has a slightly stronger liturgical flavor.
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." My study bible says, "Our Father signifies (1) the unique privilege of being children of God by the grace of adoption, and (2) the unity of Christians who commonly call God 'Our' Father. God's name is hallowed when we praise and glorify Him by righteous words and deeds. God's kingdom and will are closely related: we pray they may be actualized on earth as they are in heaven, where God's reign is gloriously manifest." First of all, God is "our Father." Next comes the understanding that He is King, we are part of a Kingdom and even part of His name (as in anything set with a royal seal) by adoption. Christ the only-begotten has come here to bring this Kingdom into our midst; it breaks in among us, and we are to be Kingdom-bearers by adoption.
"Give us day by day our daily bread." My study bible notes, "Daily (Gr. epiousios) can also mean the 'essential' bread which many Church Fathers understood as (1) the truth of God's Word for daily sustenance, or (2) the sacramental bread of the Eucharist, Christ Himself." This word, epiousios is a word unique to the Gospels, and not found in other literature of its time. Another sense of this word is "super-substantial" (as Jerome revised Matthew's version of the prayer in the Vulgate). Ousia is essence or substance. Epi is a prefix that means "on" or "atop." It can also imply "future" which gives us a sense, in the context, of the bread of the coming Kingdom. St. John Chrysostom has written: "Mark, I pray thee, how even in things that are bodily, that which is spiritual abounds." While we pray for daily sustenance, in our prayer is also the prayer of the coming Kingdom, that which we need to also "incarnate" this Kingdom as has the Father in the Son by the Holy Spirit.
"And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Here is another emphasis on the Kingdom, on God's leadership and mediation of this Kingdom. My study bible says, "Willingness to forgive everyone is a prerequisite to being forgiven by God. To be indebted means to have committed a sin against another. Although God tests us, He does not lead us into temptation. Deliverance from the evil one (rather than from evil in the abstract) is the classic patristic understanding of this petition." To forgive is to give up the "debt" to God - we don't seek our own revenge. This doesn't, to my mind, necessarily mean reconciliation or coming back for more abuse, but it does mean that God is the ultimate mediator of justice and judgment. We turn in prayer for discernment for how we relate to others, even those who are in some sense "indebted" to us - who have a mark on the "debtor" side of the books! We also ask for the same forgiveness for our own debts. Temptation is closely linked: harmful acts of any kind are temptation to behavior that takes us away from God's peace, and they are seen as linked to the work of the evil one. That is, the enemy of this coming Kingdom that we are here to help bear into the world.
And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have noting to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will rise and give him as many as he needs." My study bible says here: "Jesus praises persistence even if it seems inopportune and bothersome. Persistence in prayer helps us to focus our attention on God." Again, there is the emphasis of reliance on God, the head of this Kingdom, for what we need in life. But there is more to it, as my study bible notes. Persistence is key here. God wants His children to come to Him, as often as possible. When we remember God in our daily lives, however that is done, we are doing just that.
"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." My study bible says, "We ask in prayer, seek through study, and knock through righteous living." It seems to be in the grand cosmic scheme of things that we, as adopted children of this kingdom, are to continually be returning to the King for all the things we need. God wants dialogue with us! We are, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, to take the initiative, make the petition, and to continually be persistent in acting on our desires for this kingdom. St. Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing."
"If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" My study bible says, "Evil is used here in the general sense of all human beings being weak and sinful. If Jesus promises to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, how is it that we ask? The [Eastern] Church, since the early days, has provided this prayer: 'O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who are in all places and fill all things, the Treasure of good things, and Giver of life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain and save our souls, O Good One.' " In the context of the prayer, it is clear here what we ask for. Think of Mary's listening to the word of Jesus in yesterday's reading, and how Jesus quoted from Scripture in response to the "evil one" when He was tempted earlier in Luke's Gospel: "It is written: 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.' "
In the image of the "daily" (epiousion) bread that we need "day by day," we find many echoes of the Gospels and sayings of Jesus. There is first of all the Incarnation itself, God made man, in which human and divine natures are merged as one. In the Eucharist, we have an image of the Incarnation, bread and wine given to us as body and blood -- the Kingdom manifest in our midst of which we also partake and in which we participate as children ourselves, in His name. Christ is the Word, His "bread" is every word that proceeds from the mouth of God -- just as in yesterday's reading, Mary's good portion was the word she heard at Jesus' feet. In the prayer for the coming Kingdom, we pray to participate in that Kingdom and to be bearers of that Kingdom in the world, even as it "breaks in" through the Incarnation of Christ the Word in Jesus. There is no separation between what we consider our food and our lives as bearers in or workers for this Kingdom. Can we get a sense of how this works in our lives, and how we need this kind of daily bread of the coming Kingdom, each day of our lives?