Praying: context

jesus-teaching-mount1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread 4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ 7 and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. 9 “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? 12 Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

With the geographical note, “in a certain place” Luke has separated this narrative from the immediate context of Chapter 10 (the conclusion of the mission of the 72, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the encounter with Martha and Mary). Luke now presents three episodes concerned with prayer:

  • the first (Luke 11:1–4) recounts Jesus teaching his disciples the Christian communal prayer,
  • the “Our Father”; the second (Luke 11:5–8), the importance of persistence in prayer; and
  • the third (Luke 11:9–13), the effectiveness of prayer.

The Matthean form of the “Our Father” occurs in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:9–15); the shorter Lucan version is presented while Jesus is at prayer and his disciples ask him to teach them to pray just as John taught his disciples to pray. In answer to their question, Jesus presents them with an example of a Christian communal prayer that stresses the fatherhood of God and acknowledges him as the one to whom the Christian disciple owes daily sustenance, forgiveness, and deliverance from the final trial.

Luke on Prayer. Luke has a greater emphasis on prayer than the other gospels. His vocabulary includes the following (Although last two do not specifically mean prayer, there are instances where requests are made of Jesus or God.):

  • proseuche/proseuchomai = prayer/pray in the gospels
  • deomai/deesis = ask, beg, pray/prayer, petition
  • erotao/eperotao = ask, request, beg/ask for

Even when a pericope (story) is found in other gospels, Luke alone includes comments about Jesus’ praying:

  • Jesus is praying at his baptism before heavens open (3:21)
  • Jesus spends the night praying to God before selecting the twelve (6:12)
  • Jesus is praying before he asks the disciples, “Who do the crowds/you say that I am?” (9:18)
  • Jesus is praying on the mountain before the transfiguration. (9:28, 29)
  • Jesus is praying before the disciples ask him to teach them to pray. (11:1)

The following parables about prayer are unique to Luke:

  • The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8)
  • The Widow and the Judge (18:1-8)
  • The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)

As well Luke also has passages parallel to other synoptic passages about prayer:

  • Pray for those who mistreat you (6:28)
  • “When you pray, say . . . (11:2)
  • “My house shall be a house of prayer” (19:46)
  • Scribes, for a show, make lengthy prayers (20:47)
  • Jesus praying in the garden and asks disciples to pray (22:40, 41, 44, 45, 46)

This same emphasis on prayer continues into the Acts of the Apostles. Why this emphasis on prayer in Luke? It may be that Luke was writing to a group of people unfamiliar with Christian/Jewish prayer, so he emphasizes the importance of prayer. The effect is to show that if Jesus often prayed, how much more does the true disciple need to pray? Many scholars have pointed out that this is a Lucan characteristic of what it means to be a disciple.


General: Numerous parallels to the Lord’s Prayer have been identified in Jewish prayer traditions, and two in particular stand out. First, the kiddush that focuses on the name of God and his kingdom provides a striking parallel to the first part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is unclear, however, whether this prayer was widely circulated in the first century. Second, the Shemoneh Esreh, or Eighteen Benedictions, provides parallels to the second half of the Lord’s Prayer, where one finds the focus on divine forgiveness and provision. What sets the NT Lord’s Prayer apart is its: (1) simple and intimate address, (2) brevity, and (3) eschatological orientation.

The doxology “For the kingdom …” was added in the early Church. It is based on David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13: “Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.”. It is found in some early manuscripts of Luke.

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