By Nancy Bresette
I love the way Eugene Peterson sums up the final verses of Luke 11:1-11 in his modern-day translation The Message:
“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat and mouse, hide and seek game we’re in. As flawed as human beings are, they are kind to their own children. So, don’t you think the loving Father who created us will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask Him?”
For many of us, the assurance that God loves us enough to pour out his Spirit upon us brings to mind the same question echoed in the lyrics penned by Kris Kristofferson:
Why me, Lord?
What have I ever done to deserve even one
of the pleasures I’ve known Lord,
what did I ever do to deserve loving You
and the kindness You’ve shown?
We hear that age-old question asked by Moses, as he stands before the burning bush. He is told that God has seen the misery of his people and is concerned about their suffering, so He will deliver them into a land flowing with milk and honey. God then tells Moses He has chosen him to lead the way. An awe-struck Moses replies, “Who am I that you would send me?”
In Psalm 8 David asked, “When I look at Your heavens, the moon, and the stars that you have established with your very own hands; what is there about we mere human beings that You even notice us, let alone care about us?
Again, we hear that question asked by David when he wanted to build a temple to honor the Lord, a resting place for the ark of the covenant. God told David even though He had chosen him to be King over Israel forever, he was not the person to build an earthly home for the Lord because he was also a warrior who had caused much blood shed. That task would fall to David’s son Solomon. An obedient David accepted God’s decision and passed onto his son the plans for the temple and all the gifts the people had so freely and generously given for its construction.
And then in a beautiful prayer of gratitude David said to God, “Who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from You, and we have given back to You only what comes from Your hands. We are aliens and strangers in Your sight, just like our ancestors. We know everything we have has come from You. Keep our hearts loyal to You and give my son the devotion to You he will need to keep Your commands.”
It is part of the human condition that we stand in awe of our Creator, even those who are not sure exactly what else they believe about Him. Even we who believe with all our hearts hesitate to ask more of the holy God who has already blessed us in so many ways.
So, it seems only natural that those who followed Jesus would need and want instructions on how to approach their heavenly Father. When asked by His disciples to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them very basic instructions. Acknowledge God’s authority and sovereignty. Seek His provision for your physical needs. Seek His forgiveness for your sins, and ask for a willingness to forgive others. Seek God’s protection from your own selfish desires and from the temptations Satan throws in your path.
Because Jesus often painted word pictures to assist His listeners in understanding the lessons He was teaching, He then illustrated the lesson on prayer by telling them a story about persistence. He told them if they are bold enough to disturb a neighbor in the middle of the night to ask to borrow enough bread to feed unexpected visitors, the neighbor would eventually help them, if not out of the goodness of his heart, then out of the simple desire to get them to go home and leave him alone. At the very least the neighbor would help, rather than have the whole neighborhood awakened by the continued knocking which would signal his refusal to help.
Jesus then told his disciples, go ahead, ask and it will be given to you; if you seek you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. It’s all inclusive. Everyone who asks receives, all who seek will find, the door will be opened to anyone who knocks, regardless how tentative the knocking.
Jesus then tells his disciples their loving heavenly Father is going to be much more generous than a person would be with their own children, and we can know that with absolute certainty because He is going to give His very Spirit to anyone who trusts Him enough to just ask.
Because it is so hard to believe we are loved that much, we are often filled with doubts. We echo Moses, King David, and Kris Kristofferson: Why us, Lord? What have we ever done to deserve the kindness You’ve shown? And the answer is We have done nothing. As much as we like to think we are in control, we must acknowledge it does not in any way depend upon us.
God has chosen to love us. That love was manifested in the person of Jesus, who willingly surrendered His throne in Heaven to come and live among us, to teach us how much we are loved, and to teach us how to live in that love.
In today’s reading, Jesus tells those who follow Him that His Father is going to give His Spirit, the very essence of Himself, to all who trust enough to simply ask. And here is what Paul told us about the Spirit: If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. The Spirit does our praying in us and for us. The Spirit takes our wordless sighs, our aching groans and turns them into prayers. He knows us far better than we know ourselves. He knows our condition and keeps us present before God. That is why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives matters to God and are being worked into something good.
God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He had decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of his Son. We are given the privilege of seeing the original and intended shape of our lives in Jesus. It is through Him, and in Him, that we are privileged to be in relationship with our Heavenly Father.
It is that understanding that moves us to echo the words of Kris Kristofferson:
So, help me Jesus, You know what I am.
Now that I know that I’ve needed You…
my soul’s in Your hands.