Donald R. Elly, M. Div.
Prayer is a necessity and a mystery. I believe after reading the Gospels, and reflecting on the examples of Jesus, Paul, Stephen, Peter that prayer is an essential mark of the people of God.
The earliest Christian Community that developed around Jesus recorded many instances of Jesus at prayer. Pausing to pray, getting away alone were, for Jesus, ways to deepen his bond with God, his Father. Through prayer Jesus receives strength, wisdom and energy for the task of proclaiming and embodying the Kingdom of God.
Luke writes, “Jesus (He) was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” It is for the disciple not a matter of comparing Jesus and John. Rather, the implication I drew from this is that one of the ways disciples witness to their teachers is by not only praying, but how they pray.
Who taught you to pray? When you pray whose example are you bearing witness to? My clearest memory of learning to pray was in our foster home prior to adoption as the Browns made sure that a prayer of thanks was offered at dinner time and they made bedtime prayers of thanks a ritual. This was continued when my brother and I were adopted at age five by the our parents, Robert and Dorothea Elly. “When you pray say…”
Here I believe Luke is giving a guide to think about as we seek God, not a rote prayer to always say. The important topics of prayer are honoring God’s name, looking for God’s Kingdom, giving thanks for tomorrow’s bread (having already been fed today), practicing forgiveness and finally asking our Father to be present as we are tested by the times and pressures we are facing.
Luke closes his commentary with a story about the focus of our prayer. In light of God’s grace our prayers are always be an “ardent call for the Kingdom in which God’s name is hallowed and in which all have what they need.” 1 It is not prayer just for me, but for everyone. The focus is on others and that God attend to their needs. In Prayer we release the power of God’s Holy Spirit for others, not self.
1.Justo l. Gonzalez Luke, Interpretation series: Westminster John Knox Press (2010), pages 904-911.
July 28, 2019; Cycle C; 7th Sunday of Pentecost
Prov. 30:8b-12; Psalm 85; Col. 2:6-19; *Luke 11:1-13