Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 11:1-13
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 12–Sunday Between July 24 and July 30 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

1He 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.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9″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. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If 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!”

DIAGNOSIS: Prayer-less

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Rigid
The disciples come to Jesus and ask, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” If John can teach his disciples to pray, then, by all means, Jesus should do the same for his disciples. However, this is only a signal that the real problem for the disciples is not that they did not value prayer–the problem is that they were so rigid in their legalistic practice of prayer, and under-appreciative of prayer’s value. Even the Lord’s prayer may not be appreciated for all that it asks (including, perhaps especially, the relationship of forgiveness with others). Disciples today are, likewise, reluctant to ask for great things, mouthing the words of the Lord’s Prayer (perhaps only because it is commanded of us), but unaware that they are really asking for anything. The prayer is prayed only out of deference or payment to God, and not with a sense that we actually benefit from what it is we pray.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Stubborn in Independence
Because we think of prayer as our payment to God, we are unwilling to receive anything from God. The pray-er him or herself is really standing it alone, without a sense or value of the relationship with God in the praying. Eventually, the praying itself falls into disuse, giving way to the standing on our own two feet for what we need. We have stubbornly mistaken this sense of independence as freedom. We have even interpreted independence as the proper opposite of the oppressive experiences of dependency, unaware that we may be cutting ourselves off from any real source of strength and power to combat oppression.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Evil
But are we really independent, or are we are just walled off into our independence? The truth is, as we seek to stand it alone, we do not have the resources to combat the wiles of the Evil One. Jesus himself calls his disciples “evil” (v. 13). We become nothing more than evil in our rigid independence, cut off from a fruitful relationship with God. We are in animosity with God because of our standing aloof. And all that is evil will have its critical day in court.

PROGNOSIS: Prayer-full

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Befriended
What is good news for us is that, indeed, it is Jesus who recognizes our evil–and has come, nonetheless, to befriend us and to bring us back into a promising relationship with God. Jesus is the friend of sinners, the friend of those cut off from a wholesome relationship with God, the friend of evil ones like us. It is truly inconvenient for such needy, lost ones as ourselves to be befriended or aided in our distress (v. 7). Nevertheless, Jesus himself prays as a dependent child of his Father to follow the cross to plead our case before his Father (and thereby, our Father).

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Persistent in Dependence
We, too, are authorized by Jesus’ befriending of us to call upon God as our “Abba, Father” (v. 2; see also Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). One of our joys is that we get to be dependent as Jesus is dependent. We get to be persistent in our praying, because we know the Father as our Father. And we get to ask for the Holy-ing Spirit to cure us of all our evil, to bring us into closer relationship with God in all our needs and wants.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Asking, Seeking, Knocking
The real surprise comes in the asking, seeking, and knocking through prayer. There are whole vistas that have yet to be opened up to us that come as a result of our praying in our dependent relationship with the Father. There is receiving, finding, and having doors opened. And beyond the rigid and closed cloister of our world, there are doors that we become agents of opening through our dependent relationship on our “Abba, Father” through our Lord Jesus Christ.


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