He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Translation: And it happened, as he was praying in a certain place, just as he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say, 'Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Our bread, the super-substantial, give to us each day. And release our sins, for we ourselves release everyone who is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation.'"
And he said to them, "A certain one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and might say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread for my friend has come near to me from a journey and I have nothing which I will set before him.' And that one within answered (and) might say, 'Do not give me trouble. Even now, the door has been shut and my children are with me in bed. I am not able to get up and give to you.' I say to you, if he will not rise and give to him through being his friend, yet through his shamelessness, he will rise and give as much as he needs.
And I say to you, 'Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking will receive, the one seeking will find, and to the one knocking, (it) will be opened. But what father among you, if a children will ask bread, will not give upon him a stone, or if a fish, will he, for a fish, give him a snake? Or, he will ask an egg, he will not give to him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know good gifts to give to your children, how much more the Father, the one out of heaven, will give the Holy Spirit to the ones asking him."
Background and situation: Part of the lection is from Q--specifically, vss. 2-4 and 9-10. (See Matthew 6: 7-13 and Matthew 7: 7-11.) The text, incidentally, represents a major rejoinder to the idea that Mark is derivative from Matthew and Luke, as some have said. This theory says that Matthew was written first, followed by Luke. Mark is a later condensation of the two books. If this were really so, it seems passing strange that Mark would leave the Lord's Prayer out of his abridgement.
Our text follows upon chapter 10, which told of the mission of the 70/72, Jesus' rejoicing, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the story of Mary and Martha. Common themes of this section include hospitality, anxiety, and the "father-hood" of God.
In regard to the latter, see especially 10:22, which feels almost Johannine in its description of the relationship between Father and Son: "All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
Introduction to the text: Jesus is often praying in Luke (3.21, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 11:1). One of his disciples waits until he is finished to ask that his disciples might be taught a prayer along lines already modelled by John the Baptist and his disciples. In making this ask, the disciple properly addresses Jesus as "Lord."
John's disciples were known for certain practices, such as prayer and fasting (5:33). These practices served as markers for their identity as John's followers. Here, the (unnamed) disciple is requesting that Jesus' followers be similarly taught in regard to prayer. (It has been obvious for some time that Jesus' followers don't fast as John's did. 7:34)
The Lord's Prayer in Luke: What follows is Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer. It omits "who art in heaven" and truncates the part about God's coming kingdom to three words--"Your kingdom come." In 10:22, Jesus had said that only he knows the identity of the Father and that he himself is the one who chooses to whom he reveals this. Now, he instructs the disciples on how to relate to the Father in prayer.
Curiously, then, Luke does not have "Our Father," but simply "Father." Perhaps not having yet been instructed, the disciples are not quite ready to say "our". Or, perhaps Luke is resisting any impulse to express some kind of propriety rights over God. God doesn't belong to us, after all. He is not "ours" in that sense. Quite the contrary.
The Old Testament does not speak often of God as "Father," though there are a few references of note (Dt 32:6, Is 63:16, Is 64: 8, Jer 31:9). The image of "father" not only evokes origins, but also speaks of protection and care for the household.
The Aramaic word for "father" is abba. Abba is translated into Greek as pater. Abba is not, as some have said, an especially intimate reference for "father." It simply means "father." In other words, it does not mean "daddy-o," "dada," "popsie," or "daddy-cakes." (The New Testament is not an overly-sentimental parent's idea of a childrens' book.)
After the greeting, those who pray are to express reverence for the name of God--"hallowed be your name". (See Ex 20:7.) The name of God used in this prayer is "Father." In other words, the prayer is to the One identified as "Father," not the One identified as YHWH or Elohim.
Since "Father" is not only a title, but also a word of relationship--a "father" is a "father" in relationship to his children--it would not be too much to say that this relationship is to be considered "holy" to those children who pray it. Prayer is not about bowing and scraping to a heirarch--(though bowing and scraping to God the Father never hurt anyone either). The simple act of prayer, talking with the Father, is itself an affirmation of that relationship.
Rather than the lengthier version in Matthew--"your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"--Luke simply has "your kingdom come" (elthato he basileia sou). This has nothing to do with waiting around for heaven to show up. (Besides, in heaven, the kingdom is already there!) It has to do with the "reign of God" coming to earth. Even though Luke does not replicate Matthew's longer statement, the idea of God's reign coming to full expression on earth is the clear content of "your kingdom come."
"Our bread, the super-substantial, give to us each day." This verse is difficult because the meaning of epiousion is not clear. The word is formed from ousia, which every seminary student knows means "substance," to which is added the prefix epi, which means "upon."
This word does not appear prior to the New Testament. When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, he used the clunky phrase "super-substantial" to translate it, as have I, simply because I can't think of another way to say "substance upon" or "over substance."
Other possible meanings include: "daily," "bread for the coming day," "sustaining bread," or that which is necessary. If indeed the meaning is "bread for the coming day"--or even "super-substantial bread"--the meaning may refer to the coming kingdom, as if saying, "Let us participate in the bread of the coming kingdom now." Sounds (possibly) eucharistic.
"And release our sins, for we ourselves release everyone who is indebted to us." The word is aphes, which is normally translated as "forgiveness." The word means "release" or "letting go." "Forgiveness of sins" is a major emphasis in Luke (1:77, 3:3, 5:20-21, and many others).
The petition asks that our sins be forgiven, and notes that those who pray this prayer are already forgiving the debts (opheilo) of others. The petition is not a quid pro quo. It is not as though we forgive others their debts, and, therefore, God is obligated to forgive our sins as well.
The cycle of debt in first century Israel was devastating to the people. When the Romans conquered the region, they claimed they owned all the land and promptly started charging people rent. People who, heretofore, were living and farming their own land found themselves burdened with debt. Debt was a way in which the conquerors continued to afflict the conquered.
In forgiving the debts of others, the followers of Jesus reject the power to coerce others. "Release" of debt was a way of living out the reign of God on earth. Forgiving others, both sins and debts, is a sign of the coming kingdom. Disciples who do so "get it," and they request the same from the Father.
"And bring us not into temptation." The word translated as "temptation" is peirasmon, the meaning of which, in this context, is uncertain. The NRSV has "the time of testing," though Joel Green notes that the absence of the definite article in Greek makes this unlikely. "Temptation" or "testing" seems to be the sense of the passage.
The issue is additionally confused because people don't like to think that God would deliberately make life more difficult. Life is tough enough as it is! Yet, God did test both Abraham and Job. The sense of the petition seems to be that God not make life any more difficult than it already is: "Dear God, don't give us more than we can bear."
The Parable: Verses 5-8, the parable of the friend (philon) at midnight, is unique to Luke. You have a friend. Your friend goes to his neighbor, whom he also considers a friend to tell him about yet another friend who has arrived at his house late after a journey. (The word "friend" is used four times in four verses.)
The second friend has nothing to feed his guest. This would have been an hospitality crisis in the first century middle-eastern world. He goes to his neighbor-friend and asks for some food. It is late, however, and the man's neighbor-friend has already gone to bed and pleads that his children are nestled all snug in the same bed. (The neighbor-friend is probably a peasant living in a simple home, perhaps only one room.)
The situation is almost comical. No friend would refuse to help a friend in a hospitality crisis by saying it was too much trouble to roll out of bed. This layabout won't do the simplest chore for his friend, who was in a real dilemma. He will do it, however, because of "shamelessness" (anaideia). (NRSV has "persistence"; KJV "importunity". "Shamelessness" is better. "Not-shame" would probably be better.)
The pronouns are unclear in this verse. Is it the "shamelessness" in regard to the person who made the request? Or, is it the "shamelessness" of sleepy-head? There is no "not-shame" in making the request, though it does get a bit borderline if the request is late-night. Still, not being able to properly receive a guest is very nearly a community crisis. The man is not out of line in asking for help.
That leaves the man in bed. He will get up and help not because of friendship, but because he will look bad if he doesn't. His honor is at stake. The sense of the story is that even a sluggard will eventually do the right thing if for no other reason than that it's in his interest to do so. How much more, then, will God respond to prayer and entreaty from his people?
Indeed, the question of honor confronts God as surely as it does this sleeping neighbor. This is God's world, after all, and look what's happened to it. Back in the fourth century, Athanasius wrote that the situation was something like a city whose king was absent. While the king was gone, the devil came and occupied the city. The question is: What's the king--God--going to do about it? That city is his city, but he has been usurped. His honor is at stake.
Exhortations: Verses 9-13 are parallel to Matthew 7:7-11. In Matthew, these verses are part of the Sermon on the Mount. Here, they reinforce points already made. God will indeed respond. Therefore, ask, seek, knock on God's door at any time. What is notable about these verses is the striking note of universality. Everyone asking will receive.
The closing two verses also sound a note of similarity with the parable. In the parable, God is compared to a sleepy neighbor--how much more will God respond than this sleepy-head! In the final two verses, God is compared to a human father. If human fathers give good gifts to their children, how much more will God do?
Where the human father gives "good gifts", however, God the Father gives "the Holy Spirit." The Spirit is palpable in Luke. Whenever you see the phrase "in the power of the Holy Spirit," it's a fair bet that the citation is from Luke. The stunning conclusion is that the disciples' future is now tied to that of Jesus himself. As Jesus received the Holy Spirit (3:21-22), so will his followers.