Let's do something a little different today. We've been looking at Luke 11 and things Jesus said about prayer. This is also the point at which Luke inserts Jesus' teaching the disciples what we call "the Lord's Prayer". Since the words in Scripture are somewhat different from the version we have learned, let us meditate today on the words as Luke recorded them.
Hallowed by your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
What Do We Need?
Asking for needs versus wants can seem like a disappointment in prayer if our basic needs for food, shelter and safety are met. But Jesus considers something else as a basic necessity: Holy Spirit. He tells us this in Luke 11:11-13, "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give 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!"
The fish and the egg represent a basic necessity - food. And a child needs to have food given to her. We wouldn't expect a child to earn food. Further Jesus speaks of his Father as giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives does not have to be earned and is as much a necessity as food.
For reflection: How much Holy Spirit do I have in my life? How much do I need?
Let us pray. Father, giver of all good gifts, I ask today for more of the presence of your Holy Spirit in my life. I have a great need for the strengthening, the power and the love of the Holy Spirit.
Needs vs. Wants
We have been discussing being both bold and persistent in prayer through the lens of a couple of short stories told by Jesus. But there is something to note in these stories - Jesus is talking about praying for what you need. In the story from Luke 18: 1-8, Jesus speaks of a widow who needs justice. Probably her very livelihood depended on it. The position of widows in Jesus' time was tenuous. Women were dependent upon fathers or husbands to take care of them.
In the story from Luke 11:5-8, a man needs to set out food for unexpected visitors. In this instance, the need is not even for himself, it is for others. Hospitality was extremely important in Jewish culture. It was no doubt embarrassing for him to have to go to his neighbor in the middle of the night and admit that he did not even have bread for his visitors. How humiliating!
For reflection: In my prayers, am I asking for my needs and the needs of others? If I have all I need, whose needs can I attend to?
Let us pray. Jesus, I am knocking on your door. There are needs.
Persistence and Boldness
There is another short story in Luke about being persistent and bold about asking for what you need. Jesus proposes the following scenario: "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" (Luke 11:5-8).
For reflection: Put yourself in the picture. With which man do you identify - the one asking for the bread or the one being asked for bread? Are you outside asking for a favor, or inside not wanting to be bothered?
Let us pray. Father, here I am knocking on your door. I hate to bother you again, but you said to be persistent and bold, so here I am. I need . . . .
Persistence in Prayer
Last week I spoke of asking God for keys to healing various physical afflictions. I've been doing this for some time because I know, from the Scriptures, that God ordinarily wants to heal people. The record shows that Jesus spent a lot of his time in ministry healing people. Jesus, being God, could heal people instantaneously. Most of the healings I've seen or heard about took time and persistence in prayer.
Jesus told a story about being persistent in prayer. A widow had a case before a corrupt judge. With no means to bribe the judge, her case was delayed and delayed. But she harangued and harassed him. She wore him down. She got her justice. Jesus added, "Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly (Luke 18:7-8).
The moral of the story is this: if a corrupt judge can eventually give justice, how much more will a loving God give his children what they need.
For reflection: Have I been persistent with God in prayer? If I don't have an answer yet, why have I stopped asking?
Let us pray. In your court, Lord, I ask for justice, I ask for healing, I ask for provision. I ask for wisdom and the keys to getting things done. I need (a job, a home, more business, peace, healing . . . ).
Asking for Keys
Lately I have been asking God for keys. (No, not car keys or house keys.) What is the key for healing autism? What is the key for healing multiple sclerosis? What is the key for healing down syndrome? What is the key for healing asthma or allergies? I haven't been asking for treatments, I've been asking keys to healing. When Jesus walked the earth, he healed people, he didn't treat them. He didn't offer a treatment to the 10 lepers. He didn't offer a treatment for blindness or lameness. That's not to say that I don't appreciate everything doctors today can do to treat and heal. I do appreciate them and their knowledge. But there are so many diseases for which we have no answers as to cause, no treatment for relief, and no cure.
Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Luke 11:9).
For reflection: Can we join together in asking God for keys to healing? What disease affects you or your family?
Let us pray. Jesus, we are asking, we are seeking, we are knocking. Please give us the keys to open the doors of healing. Holy Spirit, author of hope, inspire us with the answers.
The Hand of Hope
Even in the midst of darkness, God extends the hand of hope. The Israelites, due to their own stubbornness in wanting an earthly king, a king other than Yahweh, had been governed by worthless rulers who abused their trust and could not keep them safe. The negligent, incompetent rulers and their false prophets died in Babylon, the land of captivity. But the faithful people, those who stayed true to Yahweh and could be trusted, received the true words of the Lord through Jeremiah. "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight (Jeremiah 9:23-24). To these people God promised restoration. "You will be my people and I will be your God. . . . I have loved you with an everlasting love. . . . I will build you up again" (Jer 30:22 - 31:4).
For reflection: When I need help, to whom do I turn? Who extends the hand of hope to me?
Let us pray. God, you are my father. You always extend your hand of hope to me. There is no one else who comes through for me as consistently as you. I reach out for your hand today.
"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). The Lord spoke those words to people in captivity. He was encouraging them to live their lives to the full - to build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children and grandchildren - while they were in captivity. "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jer 29:7).
Like a good father, even when he is punishing his children for misbehaving, he wants them to do well; he is on their side and planning to help them do better. He also encourages them to make the most of a bad situation. Don't sit and sulk. Don't give up. Do what you can to improve your own life and the lives of those around you. If you work for the peace and prosperity of those around you, you too will benefit.
For reflection: It has been 2500 years since this encouragement from the Lord was spoken. These are still words to live by. What am I doing to increase the peace and prosperity around me? Do I have a tendency to sulk or to keep moving forward, knowing that God has good plans for me?
Let us pray. Father, I know that you have good plans for me, plans to prosper me and not provoke me. Help me to keep holding on, moving on, going forward, working for the betterment of all. May peace and prosperity surround me wherever I go.
We have been (loosely) following a theme of right conduct, leadership and choices. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructs him on the attributes of church leaders. A leader should be "above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well. . . . not be a recent convert. . . . He must also have a good reputation with outsiders" (1 Timothy 3:2-7). For Paul these don't seem to be unusually high standards. He has basically the same expectations for all Christians except for being able to teach.
Paul was both warning Timothy about other, older teachers around him and exhorting him to live up to higher standards than they were. Paul encouraged Timothy to train himself to be godly (4:7) and to set an example "in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (4:12).
For reflection: Whose standards am I following? Am I training myself to be godly? What example am I setting for others?
Let us pray. Jesus, I recognize that there are areas in my life where I am a leader and areas where I am a follower. I always want to be following you and leading others to you.
Choices and Consequences
Monday we looked at the choice the Israelites made in choosing to have a human king. The first three kings, Saul, David and Solomon had their good and bad points. The kingdom of Israel degraded into civil war and divided after that. Northern and Southern Israel were ruled by a succession of evil kings (and one queen) until both were conquered by foreigners. The rejection of God as their King cost them everything - even their country.
God did not force himself on the Israelites. Using their free will, they chose human leaders and suffered the consequences about which God had warned them. We use our free will every day, and we too either gain the advantages or suffer the disadvantages of our choices.
For reflection: What major decisions/choices am I facing? What might the long-term benefits or consequences be?
Let us pray. Father, I am not able to see as far down the road as you. You know better the advantages and disadvantages of the decisions I am facing. Impart your grace and grant me wisdom. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise" (Psalm 111:10).
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.