Luke 11

1. 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.”

It seems that the Lord was praying aloud, and when He was finished this disciple, being impressed by His prayer, asked Him to teach them how to “pray like that.” Many are the Christian leaders who try to impress by long and flowery prayers. Yet the Lord Jesus’ advice to His disciples is profoundly simple. Many words may impress men, but not God. Thus it was not the flowery language and long words that this disciple was impressed with.

The Hebrews would have understood that prayer is simply speaking to God. Thus, there is no “set formula” for the types of words to use and the order in which to say or speak them. We can speak to God and tell Him our mind. What is needed is to know how to speak to Him within His will. We live in the dispensation of grace. As such, God is not making plain His mighty works, or showing forth His power openly to the world. To pray for Him to do these things (at least, short of the kingdom to come,) would be to pray outside His will. It simply does not match with His current work to do these things, and so to ask Him to do them is inappropriate. This, more than anything, is what we need to know and to realize when we speak to Him in prayer.

2. So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,

First of all, the Lord Jesus establishes whom to pray to…the Father. There seems little point to me in forcing such things as making sure to pray to the Holy Spirit and the Son sometimes too. Christ and the Father are one, and the Spirit is Christ’s Spirit. It is not like each one is a separate God needing recognition and appeasement. Yet Christ’s advice here is to address their prayer to the Father, and I see no reason why we should ignore it and pray otherwise. Another solution, of course, is to choose a less specific term, like addressing our prayers to the “Lord,” which is how I usually do it.

Then, they are to acknowledge that the Father is in heaven. God is in an exalted place, higher than us. He has a better perspective on everything than we do!

Hallowed be Your name.

Then the Lord Jesus tells them to honor the Father by declaring His name to be hallowed. Hallowed means set apart or special. A name is a reputation involving one’s character. Let God’s reputation be set apart, and His character always be viewed as greater, better, and purer than ours. If only we would always hold this attitude about His name and not be so free with it, as so many Christians are, taking His name and using it to justify their own thoughts and desires!

Your kingdom come.

Next He expresses desire that God’s Kingdom will come. Many repeat this prayer, and yet have no idea that what they are praying for is God’s government on earth. Someday, God will take over the governments of this world and make them His Own. Indeed, I think many who pray for this would not want God’s government if they actually knew what it was they were asking for. It is good for all of us if we look forward to that time. I certainly do.

Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

Then He asks that God’s will be done. When God’s government comes, this will be a complete reality, for what He wills to happen shall happen on earth, as it does in heaven. Yet even now, we should strive to make His will a reality in our own lives. If this is the desire that we have, then we will live our lives as best we know how in a way that He would approve of. It is not our job to wait until He forces this to be. We need to pattern our lives as a worthy walk after Him.

3. “Give us day by day our daily bread.

Bread here is put for all kinds of food, and daily bread for daily needs. When the kingdom of God comes, God will provide for His people all that they need. It will not be their job to plan for future necessities, but merely to trust Him for their needs day-to-day. Notice that Christ did not tell them to ask for their wants, but rather their daily needs. Yet how often when we pray all our prayers are is a list of our wants! We need to consider this unselfish and utilitarian prayer and realize how far we have to go.

4. “And forgive us our sins,

God is truly the only One Who can forgive us of sins. Others may be able to forgive us our sins against them, but only God can forgive us of our sins against Him. Thus, only He can provide us with true forgiveness for all the wrongs we have done.

For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

This is a dispensational statement, for we know that through Christ all our sins are forgiven once and for all. Yet this was not true at this time, and the forgiving of sins was an ongoing thing. This is a law for the kingdom of God. Then, forgiveness will be attached to forgiving others, as is stated here. We have a different reason for forgiving than this. Ephesians 4:32 gives us our orders for today. “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” We are not forgiven as we forgive. Rather, we are to forgive because we are already forgiven.

And do not lead us into temptation,

Temptation may not be a good translation here. This word can mean temptation, but in this case it means trial or testing. The same word can be used for both. Tempting someone means testing him and hoping he will fail. When God tests us, He wants us to succeed. It seems that it is good to ask that testings and trials not come upon us. Sometimes they are necessary, of course.

But deliver us from the evil one.”

We need God’s deliverance, for the evil one is much older and more intelligent than we are! This simple prayer for deliverance from the evil one shows us how significant our danger is, and yet how simple the faith that can bring about our deliverance.

5. 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;

The Lord now sets forth an illustration in order to teach them something more about prayer. He gives the picture of a friend whom one goes to at midnight asking to borrow three loaves of bread from him.

6. “’For a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;

The reason he asks this of his friend is because another friend has come to him on his journey, and yet he was not prepared for him to come and so had no food to set before him. Hospitality was an important part of their culture, and having nothing to set before a visitor would be a great shame. Thus it would necessitate the asking of such a favor as this. All were interested in visitors from other places, and so this friend should have been interested in helping to welcome this traveler.

7. “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’?

The Lord sets this forth almost as an impossibility. According to their culture and the way guests were treated, this friend would not refuse to respond to this request.

In those days all the members of a family would sleep in one room, and in the same bed. In fact, they would even wear the same clothes they wore during the day. This man is sleeping with his family and does not wish to take the time to help his friend. We can sympathize with his reluctance to get up in the middle of the night!

8. “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.

Even if this friend would act in such an unusual way as to wish to refuse this request, eventually he would rise and give it to him because of his persistence in asking. All of us have probably had experiences when, being forced to get up in the middle of the night, we rushed to get whatever needed to be done finished so we could just get back to bed. This is what this man is doing here.

Just as it would be almost unthinkable for a friend to refuse to help someone in a case like this, so it should be almost unthinkable to imagine that God would not want to help His children in their time of need. The Lord will further emphasize this fact in the following verses.

9. “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.

The Lord gives them this promise here, and it is almost an unequivocal one. He tells them if they ask, it will be given to them, if they seek, they will find, and if they knock it will be opened to them. Yet we cannot take this promise out of its context here. First of all, we must remember what the context of this promise is. One of His disciples had asked Him a question in verse 1, and He spoke to His disciples, “them” in verse 2. Thus, this promise was to them and not to others. They had this great promise from God.

I do not believe that we have any such promise in prayer today. We will certainly receive more when we ask than if we did not ask. We will find more if we seek than if we never sought. We will have more doors opened if we knock than if we never knocked. Yet we will not always have things given to us, find, or have it opened to us. This promise was to His disciples, and it is not right to spread it out to today in the dispensation of grace. This is simply not the way prayer works today.

10. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

This word “ask” is a word often used from an inferior to a superior. Of course it does not refer to just any asking, but to asking of God. I believe that this is a great principle of the kingdom of God, that then all that is needed to receive something is to ask for it. Yet remember in verse 8 the Lord spoke of the man rising and giving him “as many as he needs.” This is regarding needs, not just anything that one might want. Yet it will be true in the kingdom that all anyone needs will be provided simply for the asking. As Psalm 145:16 says, “You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

This is not the way prayer works today. While we would like to think that no believer will ever perish for a lack of what he needs, I do not believe that any such statement can be made. We live in the dispensation of grace. We may live in a privileged part of the world, but that does not mean that there are not believers in others places in this world who lack for the very things they need to survive. Our basis for prayer is not this verse, which speaks of the way things will be when God is governing all that takes place upon earth. Our basis for prayer today is found in Philippians 4:6-7.

6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This is our basis for prayer today. We have no promise that we will receive. However, we can ask, and know that God hears us, and then be satisfied with the peace, that true union with God, that He gives us. This is the promise we have regarding prayer today.

11. “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?

The Lord now uses another example, this time a ridiculous one. If a son asked his father for bread, would he give him a stone? If he asked for a fish, would he give him a serpent instead? Of course no father would do this.

12. “Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

He gives a third ridiculous example, of the son asking for an egg, and instead the father giving him a scorpion. Again, all these things would be ridiculous, and would never happen.

13. “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!”

Now we come to the heart of the Lord’s promise to these disciples. This reveals exactly what it is that God would give to any one of them who asked. What the Lord is speaking of here is specifically the Holy Spirit. In Greek this is pneuma hagion without a “the” in front, and so emphasizes the gifts of the Spirit rather than the Giver. What Christ was promising them is that the heavenly Father would give the gifts of the Spirit to those who ask Him for them. Moreover, He promised this to these disciples, not to everyone on earth who happens to decide to ask.

I believe that this was a principle that continued throughout the Acts period. The gifts of the Spirit were freely available to any one of these disciples just for the asking. That means that if they needed any particular gift to carry on their ministry, all they had to do was ask for it and God would give it to them. As we read the book of Acts, we will see that this was so. Whether it was miraculous power, or healing, or the ability to cast out evil spirits, or divine wisdom, all that the disciples required was granted to them. They never lacked for any gift of the Spirit that they needed.

Now even in the case of these disciples, they did not get everything they asked for. Even by the Lord’s examples the father is asked for good and needful things, not for superfluous or inappropriate things. The disciples could not ask to fly like a bird and receive the power to do it. This was not a gift of the Spirit. In Acts 12, we read that James the brother of John was killed by Herod. We cannot believe that neither he nor any of the rest of the disciples asked that he might be released. Yet being freed from prison was not a gift of the Spirit. Even the twelve could not ask for that and receive it as a matter of course from God. This promise was limited to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet this promise was fulfilled as Christ spoke it, and I believe that these men did receive any gift from the Spirit that they needed.

Some try to spread this prayer out, and make out that God will grant us anything we ask for if we could just figure out how to ask it the right way. Yet often we ask for things that it would just not be right for God to give us, and we should not be surprised when we do not receive them. If God subjected himself to our every whim, we would soon get ourselves in greater and greater trouble. We simply often do not know what we truly need, or what would really be good for us. Thank God that He knows better, and grants things according to His will, not ours. This promise regarded the gifts of the Spirit, and even then it was only to the Lord’s disciples. We should not think that anything and everything is open to us if we just ask for it. Even the gifts of the Spirit are not given to us this way today.