Text: Luke 11:1-13
Date: Pentecost IX (Proper 12)
St. James the Elder, Apostle + 7/25/10
Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, Rochester Hills, MI
At the end of the tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel last week we understood the concluding story at the house of Martha and Mary to be an illustration or commentary on proper worship. That is, right worship begins with the passive action of “the good portion” of a Mary quietly receiving the words of Jesus and only after that responding like a Martha in service to the praise of God and also to the service of neighbor. In our former hymn book the first two sentences of the preface said it in the shortest, most memorable and best way, “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says.” Then it continues, saying, “Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise…. Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure…. The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him” (LW p. 6). If, then, we were right in understanding the story of Mary and Martha in this way, it makes sense that the next chapter of Luke should address the subject of how to pray.
And it came to pass when [Jesus] was in a certain place praying, when he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father.’” (Luke 11:1-2)
You noticed that Luke’s version of what has come to be called mainly in English “The Lord’s Prayer” is a little different from St. Matthew’s version, which the Church has adopted as the more complete and regularly used version. To explain the difference we might entertain the idea that Jesus gave versions of this model prayer more than once. Or we may recall the slight differences, for example, in the four records of the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper. Here Luke has “Father” instead of “Our Father,” and the phrase “who art in heaven” together with the third and seventh petitions (“thy will be done,” and “deliver us from evil”) are not found at all. For our consideration today let us concentrate only on these two parts of the prayer, the address, “Father,” and the petition for daily bread.
Jesus said, “When you pray, say, ‘Father.’” When you pray, say, “Father.” Oh, you may begin your prayer sometimes addressing God as “Almighty God,” “Lord God, King of the Universe,” or direct your prayer to the Second or Third Person of the Trinity. But how can you or anyone even dare to approach God—God the all-powerful Creator of the universe, the all-holy God who cannot tolerate sin—and not fear that He will reject your prayer if not just blow you away or flick you out of His presence like an ant? The only way a person can not only dare to approach God but approach Him with confidence is if and when God has first established a relationship of peace and mercy with you. And He does that through His Son, Jesus. In teaching us to address God “as dear children ask their dear father” our Lord means to give us a relationship with God similar to what He has.
By our fallen, sinful nature God is not our Father, our proper one. Oh, He is our creator and “father” in that sense. But even as a child, separated from birth from their biological father, has no father-child relationship, so God remains a Stranger to us and we to Him. The devastating judgment of that Day awaits all who have remained separated from God, despising His claim on you and His invitation to be reconciled to you in the words, “I never knew you; depart from me” “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 7:23; 25:41).
Now, in teaching us to address God as “Father,” our Lord means to give us a relationship with God similar to what He has. Oh, no one is related to God in the same way as Jesus. As the Son of God He is the only-begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father from eternity. But in coming into our world He has come not only to lift us out of our helplessness, our sin and death, restoring us only to the status of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but to lift us even further, as His own brothers and sisters, on the inheritance list with Him, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), a status even greater than at the beginning! And how has He accomplished this but by His becoming like us in every way, taking on our flesh and, in His altogether holiness, also taking on Himself even our sin, and not ours only “but also the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). For this, the sin of the whole world, He died; He died the perfect, sacrificial death that now reconciles the world to God and God to His world. This forgiveness of sins and reconciliation now becomes the possession of all who hear, who believe, who are baptized into His death and resurrection.
There He gives you that familial relationship through the Word and water of Holy Baptism where you receive the Holy Spirit, faith in the heart to grasp the forgiveness of sins and the power of Christ in His death and resurrection. So the Apostle Paul writes, “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:15-16). Now, as true sons and daughters of God once again by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, He tells us, “When you pray, say, ‘Father.’”
Father. “Which father, from among you, will your son ask for a fish, and instead of a fish will he give to him a snake? Or again, he will ask for an egg, will he give to him a scorpion? So if you, being evil, know to give good gifts to your children,” guess what…just make one guess what you think your Father from heaven wants to give to you?
That’s the whole point of the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” For “daily bread” is not only enough food for three squares a day. It is that, and also all the “needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” Tell me, how often do you think of “good government” whenever you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”?
Daily bread. “Everything.” “Everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” But more! The almost mysterious Greek word translated “daily” has both the meaning of the regular food we need for each day but also the meaning of “the food for the future,” not only the “day after tomorrow” but all our future days and in this way has also the meaning of our future of eternal life. The theologians call it “inaugurated eschatology”! One old translation has, “give us this day our super-substantial bread” meaning the bread/body of the eucharist! Nevertheless, Luther’s concept of “everything,” “Everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body” certainly would include that which has to do with the support and needs of our future, resurrection bodies! And so “everything” means everything, including all spiritual gifts and qualities of the life of repentance and faith; everything we need for salvation! These, too, must be received from God as gift and are not anything we can in any way manufacture or produce on our own.
“Father,” “give us this day our daily bread.” When you pray, say, “Father.” Then, as a father desires to give to his children every good gift they need for life, so does God desire to give every good and perfect gift for this life and for eternal life—the forgiveness of sins and, ultimately, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, all “gift” of the Father.
That gift is already ours and yet its fullness is in the future. So our Lord brings the benefits of His past sacrifice and delivers them to us now in His body and blood. Yet that same body and blood once sacrificed is also risen and ascended and so at the same time it is a foretaste of the feast yet to come. Here, in His body and blood, past and future come together and we are given eternal life.
“Lord, teach us to pray.” And as we learn to pray we are drawn by the grace of God to call Him Father and trust with all confidence that He will give us all that we need for today and tomorrow and eternity.