WWJP (Luke 11:1-13)

I’m going to start a new fad to replace an old fad. The old fad is the bracelet WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). That phrase, What Would Jesus Do?, actually comes from a novel written in 1896 by Kansas minister, Charles Sheldon. The title of the novel was In His Steps: What would Jesus do? In it, a town is revolutionized when Christians “pledge themselves, earnestly and honestly for an entire year, not to do anything without first asking the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’”.…[1] Almost 100 years later, in 1989, a youth leader in Holland, Michigan, read the book with her youth group. The youth leader, Janie Tinklenberg, hired a local printing couple to make 300 “friendship bracelets” with the letters WWJD on them. She asked members of her youth group to give them away and wear them for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days more bracelets were needed. Then, someone much more cunning then Janie, saw the bracelets, made their own versions, and marketed them nationally, making lots of money. By the time Ms. Tinklenberg tried to register WWJD as her trademark, it was too late. Ironic, isn’t it? I don’t think stealing someone’s idea and making money on it is something Jesus would do.

My idea, and I guess I need to get started on the trademark, is to make another bracelet, but this time, instead of WWJD on it, have WWJP—What would Jesus pray? It’s an interesting question, and one the disciples asked. Think about that for a moment. Out of all the things Jesus said and did, and out of all the questions His disciples could have asked, the one question they did ask was, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). It’s an interesting question because Jesus’ first disciples were Jewish. They had been brought up in the synagogue, and in the synagogue schools. They knew their Old Testament. They had been praying their entire life. They knew the words to say. They knew the ritual of prayer. But they knew there was something different about Jesus’ prayers and how He prayed and what He prayed, and so they asked, “Teach us how to pray and what to pray.”

Prayer is exceedingly important. It is simultaneously the easiest thing to do and the hardest thing to do…consistently. How important is prayer? Consider the following quotes:

  • “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing” (Martin Luther, d. 1546).
  • “Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God” (Mother Teresa, d. 1997).
  • “If you only pray when you are in trouble…you are in trouble” (unknown).
  • “One song can change a moment, one idea can change a world, one step can start a journey, but a prayer can change even the impossible” (unknown).
  • “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (The Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:6-7).

t-shirtMore than any other Gospel, Luke shows us a praying Jesus. My friend, Michael Card, put it this way, “More than any other Gospel, Luke paints us a picture of Jesus on His knees.”[2] Luke shows Jesus praying, right after His baptism (Luke 3:21).  Later, Luke writes, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Luke reports that Jesus chose His Twelve Apostle after spending all night in prayer (Luke 6:12-16). Jesus spent time in prayer on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28). Finally, when Jesus overturns the tables out of righteous anger, He says the reason He became furious was because the temple had become everything but a house of prayer (Luke 19:46). It should come as little surprise that His disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

WWJP

 This question by the disciples comes after they witness Jesus once again, “praying in a certain place” (Luke 11:1). Prayer wasn’t something Jesus did on occasion; it was His discipline to pray regularly. Jesus answered the disciples’ question by offering a simple model for prayer. He says, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation’” (Luke 11:2-4). No fancy words. No long and drawn out phrases. Just a simple, short, one breath prayer. Also, the phrase, “When you pray” means “Whenever you pray,” pointing out the frequent repetition of prayer. From Jesus’ model prayer come six aspects of prayer:

The first aspect of prayer is intimacy. Jesus called God, “Father.” The Greek word Luke uses is Pater (Padre), and is equivalent to the Arabic word, Abba, meaning, “Daddy.” Prayer is only possible because the God of the universe desires to live in relationship with us. Through prayer we come to the God of the universe, not as an untouchable, out there somewhere, being, but as a child talking to his/her parent.

The second aspect of prayer is adoration. Yes, through faith in Jesus Christ, God is our Padre, but He is still more than “the Man upstairs.” He is God, and His name is to be revered… “hallowed be your name” (Luke 11:2). Through prayer we acknowledge the personal nature of God, as well has His sovereignty.

The third aspect of prayer is kingdom. Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2). Our prayers should change our focus from the temporary to the eternal and the impact the eternal has on the temporary. Since we are praying to the All-Powerful God, we should pray for His will to be done, not ours. While God’s kingdom is still in the future, we are to pray for His kingdom (His rule and His will), to be in our lives right now. God’s kingdom is both a present reality and a future hope! Through prayer we can change the world.

The fourth aspect of prayer is daily provisions. Jesus prayed, “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). Our prayers should express our realities. However, we pray, not in fear of our realities, but in confidence that God will supply our every need “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Notice also the emphasis on praying for daily needs instead of worrying about tomorrow’s needs. We pray about tomorrow’s needs…tomorrow.

The fifth aspect of prayer is repentance and reconciliation. “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4). It is important that we ask God to forgive us of our sins. It is also important that we forgive those who have done us wrong. God desires us to be in right relationship with Him through repentance and in right relationship with others through reconciliation; and one affects the other.

The final aspect of prayer is holiness. Isn’t it wonderful that the same grace that forgives us after we sin can keep us from sinning in the first place? “And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4). The Apostle Paul expounded on Jesus’ words when he wrote, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

WWJP—what would Jesus pray? He would pray to His Father, who is sovereign overall. He would pray for God’s rule and reign to be present in the here and now. He would pray for Himself, for His daily needs, as well as for others and their daily needs. He would also pray that we would repent of our sins and be reconciled to each other. Finally, He would pray for our lives to change and for us to live victorious, holy, lives.

Two Illustrations

How many times have you prayed and it felt like your prayers went nowhere? Have you ever not prayed because you think it doesn’t do any good? Have your prayers ever sounded like you were only talking to yourself? How can we know that God will hear our prayers and answer them?

Jesus knows we have doubts and questions and so He gives two illustrations that show how God answers our prayers. In the first illustration Jesus shows us that God answers prayers like a good friend. Jesus says:

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.’” (Luke 11:5-8).

 This first illustration is best understood in the cultural context of the day. In Jesus’ day, especially among the Palestinian poor (Luke’s primary audience) “hospitality was the highest of values and the obligation of the entire community.”[3] Thus, when the man who initially houses his friend has no food for the traveler, he goes to his neighbor’s house to ask for food. We know the people in this story were poor because the man says his children are sleeping with him. This was a one room house where the family slept on mats in the floor. The point is that even though the man is asleep and doesn’t want to get up and help, he will get up and help out of duty and because of his neighbor’s boldness. If the man refuses to help it will bring dishonor and shame, not only on his house, but on the entire community. “Jesus’ hearers would have considered the ‘hassles’ of getting up and unbolting the door a minor inconvenience compared to the scandal of not providing adequate hospitality.”[4] Likewise, God hears and answers our prayers because He is a good friend and doing so brings Him glory and honor. If God did not hear and answer our prayers it would bring Him shame. Thus, it is impossible for God not to hear and answer our prayers. This is why we can go to God with bold prayers.

It is in this context that Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).

In the second illustration Jesus shows us that God answers prayers like a loving father. Jesus continues:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

The comparisons of fish to snakes and eggs to scorpions is bizarre. The point, however, is clear: “(1) God is our heavenly Father (v. 13) and will do no less for his children than would an earthly father; (2) God is perfect and will do ‘much more’ than sinful man would.”[5] St. Augustine (d. 430) saw the three gifts in this passage—fish, egg, and bread—to symbolize the three great gifts of God—faith, hope, and love.[6] However, notice that the greatest of all gifts God gives us is the Holy Spirit and He gives the Holy Spirit to all who asks. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can boldly come to God as a good Friend and loving Father, confident that if we ask, seek, and knock, He will hear, answer, and provide.

CONCLUSION

The story is told of a man who for years worked the four to midnight shift at a nearby industrial plant. He walked to and from work each night. His route passed a cemetery. One night, in a hurry to get home and with an unusually bright moon overhead, he decided to take a short-cut through the middle of the cemetery. The route shortened his walk by several minutes and soon cutting through the cemetery instead of walking around it became his regular path.

On one particularly black night, he had an unfortunate mishap. He fell into a freshly dug grave! He wasn’t hurt but the hole was so deep he was unable to climb out. He yelled for a little while, but no one could hear him. Resigned to his fate to simply wait until morning when his plight would be discovered, he pulled his coat up around his neck and huddled in a corner to try to sleep.

A few hours later he was awakened by the noise of a falling body. A second unfortunate man had stumbled into the same unexpected hole. Sleepily, the first man watched the second man trying frantically to crawl out. After a few moments, he felt obligated to comment, “You’ll never get out that way.” Startled by the voice and fearful of what it might mean, amazingly, the second guy got out of the hole![7]

It’s a funny story, but it teaches a wonderful lesson: We all have more power to do more things then we think possible! For the followers of Jesus, that power is in prayer. Through prayer we can see the un-seeable and do the impossible. The great English pastor and evangelist, F.B. Meyer (d. 1924) said, “The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” Don’t let that be the tragedy of your life!

WWJP—what would Jesus pray? He would pray to His Father, who is sovereign overall. He would pray for God’s rule and reign to be present in the here and now. He would pray for Himself, for His daily needs, as well as for others and their daily needs. He would also pray that we would repent of our sins and be reconciled to each other. He would pray for our lives to change and for us to live victorious, holy lives. Finally, He would pray, confident that God would hear and answer His prayers as a good friend and loving Father.

“Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

_______________________________

[1] From http://twentytwowords.com/the-history-of-the-slogan-wwjd/

[2] Michael Card, 2011. Luke: The Gospel of Amazement. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, p. 144.

[3] Clinton E. Arnold, Ed. 2002. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Matthew, Mark, Luke, volume 1. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 417.

[4] Clinton E. Arnold, Ed. 2002, p, 419.

[5] Frank E. Gaebelein, 1984. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 949.

[6] The fish symbolizes faith because of the water of baptism, or because it remains unharmed by the waves of the world. The egg symbolizes hope because the chick is not yet alive but it will be. The bread symbolizes love because of the three love is the greatest and bread is the greatest of all food. (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, III, p. 190.)

[7] Adapted from Bruce Larson and his commentary of Luke in The Communicator’s Commentary, Volume 3 (edited by Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1983). Word, Inc. Waco, TX, p. 188.

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About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
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