“Lord, teach us to pray,” A reflection on Luke 11:1-15
He had been following Jesus for several months now. He had seen the amazing things that were happening. People who were broken were being made whole. Fear was giving way to hope. The stupor of disappointment and depravity was giving way to promise and a taste of the first fruits of the kingdom. There really was something powerfully wonderful about this man, Jesus and the disciple wants to be a part of it. So it is no wonder then that when the disciple in this passage from Luke sees Jesus returning to them after having spent some time in prayer, the disciple cannot help but blurt out “Lord, teach us to pray.” As if to say, “I no longer want to simply witness what it is you are doing. I want to be a part of it. I want what you have! I want to know God like you know God. Show me how.”
And so Jesus does. Without skipping a beat, Jesus replies “When you pray, say..” and then goes on to speak what we have come to know as the Lord’s prayer. Jesus gives the hungry disciple words to put in his mouth but Jesus does not stop there for he knows that the hunger runs deep. Words in the mouth alone will not satiate the hunger of the soul.
I encourage you to read the passage fully for yourselves for there is much there to chew on, but in the end, Jesus says “So, I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Prayer, as Jesus models, is indeed one of the ways that we can experience the intimacy and power of God. But prayer is more that speaking the correct words as if reciting an incantation will summon God to us. The starting place of any prayer is a deep desire to know God more fully. It is the soul’s hunger to partake in the force of life and goodness that was flowing through Jesus and spilling across the Judean countryside changing lives forever. The starting place of prayer is the persistent hunger in our souls that lifts our hand to knock at the door.
And so in a very real way, the prayer that the disciple desired was already on his lips when he called out to Jesus that day. The words that we speak are merely vessels that hold the passions and needs of our souls. Without the engagement of our deepest selves, words will only fill our mouths without satiating the hunger within.
May the starting place of all our prayers be the soul’s hunger to know God. Amen.