Prayer in the Gospel of Luke – Part One
Prayer is a dialogue between God and Humans.
Article 25 of Dei Verbum spells this out very clearly. “Prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture so that a dialogue takes place between God and Man; for we listen to him when we read the Divine Scriptures, we speak to him when we pray.” The conversation commences with God speaking to us when we read and reflect on the Word of God. Having ‘heard God’s voice’ we then respond to his promptings, with prayer.
As we read through Luke’s Gospel we become aware of how frequently reference is made to prayer in Jesus’ life.
A good place to start is the passage, Lk 11: 1 – 13. The opening words are, “Once when Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished one of his disciple said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The best way to teach others to pray is to lead by example. It is not surprising that the disciples caught the spirit of prayer from Jesus. They must have frequently witnessed him at prayer. We too will learn the same lesson as we become aware of Jesus, the ‘Man of Prayer’ as he is presented by Luke.
Luke’s Our Father is somewhat shorter than what we find in the other gospels. Jesus presents us with a pattern of prayer rather than a formula.
Having read Luke’s version of the Our Father it is easy to see this pattern of prayer reflected in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. “Pray that you may not undergo the test. Father, not my will but yours be done.” (22: 40, 42)
“Father may your name be held holy.” We are taught to approach God as father. Our relationship is with a God who is the best ‘Father.’ Jesus is confident that our God is a loving, merciful, understanding God. We are taught to approach God with thanks and praise for all that has been given to us. Mary recognized this when in the Magnificat she sings, “My soul (life) proclaims the greatness of the Lord .. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (1: 46,49)
“Your kingdom come.” As we look around this world, at all the evil, we should balance this against the far greater good in the world. God’s plan for the world; justice, love and peace will flourish, in the world at large, and in our lives also.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” We petition our God for all that is good and all that we need. It is more important that we give thanks for the talents we have been given that enable us to provide for ourselves and those that we love. In the parable that follows the Our Father we are encouraged to “get up and give all that he wants.” (11: 8)
“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us.” Jesus takes it as a given that we frequently forgive others. The practice of forgiving, is a sure formula for living a full, wholesome and happy life
“And do not put us to the test.” Finally we cry out to God, not to leave us alone to confront evil. This is the prayer which Jesus prays for Peter. “Peter, I have prayed that your faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (22: 32)
Luke presents Jesus at prayer during the high and low points in his life. “Now when all the people had been baptized and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him.. (3: 21)
The Transfiguration takes place during prayer, in the presence God. “He took with him Peter and James and John and went up the mountain (into the presence of God) to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed.” (9: 28-29) On the Mount of Olives “He withdrew from them and knelt down and prayed. “Father if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.” Finally, as Jesus hangs on the cross Luke has him praying psalm 31. Even in this most desperate moment Jesus continues to trust the Father completely.
In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice deliver me; incline your ear to me; make haste to recue me! You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead and guide me. Into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Ps 31: 2 – 4, 6) (23: 46)