Let’s be honest. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray. How. Not what. How. Teach us how to pray! They ask him.
Jesus responds to their request with “When you pray, say:”
Jesus doesn’t teach them how to pray.Teach us to pray! they ask. As if they don't really know how. Click To Tweet
Proper 12C | Luke 11:1-13
If we remember back in chapters 9 and 10, Jesus is showing his disciples how to do what he does. He shows his closest followers and then sends them off. He shows them how to heal and exorcise demons. He tells them to go do it too.
Then he sends the 70 everywhere in the world to do the same.
Do what I do, he tells them.
Then this lawyer shows up and calls him “Teacher.”
‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
This is significant in the gospel of Luke because Teacher is not Luke’s term for Jesus. It isn’t the followers’ term for Jesus. It is somehow beneath him. It is too normal. He is more than a teacher. He is Lord.
The lawyer calls him teacher and demands that Jesus teach him. But he doesn’t plan on learning from him. He plans on trapping him. Like the purists trying to trap our teachers in classrooms all over the country. I dare you to say something. I dare you to teach our children.
So the disciples are now asking to be taught how to pray.
We’d be forgiven if we took this moment as if this were a normal exchange, or as if Jesus is just some teacher hanging with his students and not the Lord. Not the one showing them the Kindom Come.
It is no coincidence that they ask Jesus to teach them, for the writer we call Luke wants us to notice this strange connection: this lawyer with these followers.
Do they doubt who Jesus really is? Do they doubt what he is really up to?
Teach us to pray! they ask. As if they don’t really know how.
They Already Pray.
How could these who went out into the world, healing and exorcising demons in the name of Jesus not know how to pray? Come on. Let’s be real. If they can make demons submit to them, they can pray.
The paradox should be startling to us. They have the very power of Jesus in their bones, and yet they think so little of themselves that they can’t be trusted to pray?
Teach us to pray.
Jesus ignores their request. He doesn’t teach them. He knows they know how to pray. They just need help understanding what it is they are actually praying for.
They’re busy praying for health and wealth and blessing. They are praying for their neighbors to get well.
But Jesus has just expanded their sense of neighbor to include people outside their tribe. He has just said that the greatest of commandments is love. Love GOD and love your neighbor as yourself.
He doesn’t teach them to pray. They already pray. He teaches them what to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer.
We pray this way each week. And it is a revolutionary prayer. A deep prayer. A startling prayer.
GOD, you are most hallowed. We love you above all.
Make your kindom replace this kingdom that we might live like you would have us live.
Give us all bread for tomorrow.
Forgive us our separation from you. For we have forgiven those separated from us.
And do not bring us into judgment.
We ought to pray this like we mean it.
This isn’t how to pray, it is what. Praying for the restoration of the world. Praying for change in behavior. Praying for equality and true justice. Praying for our becoming what GOD wants.
Jesus doesn’t push them to pray, he shows them where to pray. Prayers for something. Prayers for change. Prayers for GOD’s way in the world, not ours. Prayers for a difference.
His teaching on persistence is funny in light of this, isn’t it? Because it sounds like he wants us to pray harder. But then he says why would you think GOD ignores them in the first place or why would GOD respond to a request with something that hurts you?
Jesus is showing them that praying to GOD is active and participatory in this great embodied experiment. We have the spark of GOD in us, so we aren’t calling out to the Big Other like a genie or a butler and hoping for GOD to show up and answer.
We are joining in a big project of love and restoration. We are digging in the dirt and pushing in labor and building our cathedrals and tending to the sick and feeding the hungry and we are praying every single day that GOD be in us, that Christ be us, that the Spirit drive us to a new place. A new understanding. A new world.
When we pray, we are loving our neighbor as ourselves. We are exorcising those demons. We are restoring the world.
We aren’t taught how to pray. We live it. We embody it. We make prayers of our flesh and our dreams come alive in our hugs and cooking and our feasting and our praising GOD for the beauty of holiness! This is prayer.
Make prayers not only be on your lips but in them.
Make prayers not only be in your hearts but in your hands.
Make prayers not only be in your heads but in your feet.
And move, move to where GOD has called you to move.
And heal, heal those whom GOD has called you to heal.
And love, love those whom GOD has called you to love.
Make your whole life a prayer to GOD. And be at peace. Amen.