Lectionary Reflection for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 11:1-13:

Luke BTCBIn all respects, the Lord’s Prayer as found in both Luke and Matthew is a “concise direction for the Godward life of the soul,” as Evelyn Underhill puts it. In this prayer, she continues, “the soul opens its eyes upon Reality and discovers itself to be a child of the Eternal Perfect; and [that] the essence of worship is to be a total devotion to his interests, hallowing his name and cooperating in the action of his will.”

The Lord’s Prayer clearly invites, as Jan van Ruysbroeck wrote in the fifteenth century, “a turning of all things of the self into the freedom of the Will of God.”

It is in this respect a summary of all that Jesus has been teaching, by his words and by his example, so that once again the disciples are invited by the very form of this prayer into an action of imitatio Christi, imitation of their Lord. As he prays to the Father, so also should we.

With Underhill, we should recognize that “the Lord’s prayer looks towards a goal in which every action shall be an act of worship; an utterance of the Name.” Indeed, given the double sense of the Hebrew word ‘ăbōdâ to signify both “work” and “worship,” Underhill’s comment is an excellent summary.

The short illustrative narrative with which Jesus then continues his discourse on prayer underscores the desire of the heavenly Father to be generous toward his children. Jesus makes use of analogies. A friend will not refuse a friend who has an unexpected visitor and finds himself with an empty larder; even if he is asleep and the request is a nuisance, such a friend will certainly answer need, especially if the petitioner is persistent (11:5-8).

The disciples are accordingly encouraged to beseech the heavenly Father with confidence in their own time of need: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (11:9).

The parallel assurance of the next verse is explicit; the point, as Augustine says, is that “he would not so encourage us to ask were he not willing to give” (Sermon 108). In the rhetorical example that follows, Origen has seen an echo of the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4: “God does not in the place of bread offer a stone, which the devil wishes Christ to eat” (On Prayer 28.10).

In his conclusion, Jesus shows that the function of the analogy is in part to show how much more generous and ready to give is God than we are, yet suddenly that which God is said to provide is not material needs or even forgiveness but something more: “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” (11:13).


©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.