< September 04, 2016 >

Commentary on Luke 11:2-4

 

Week Four: Our Needs

With the fourth petition, we are invited to turn to God in the small (relative to the coming of the kingdom! Luke 4:4) but urgent matters of our lives and, like the ravens and lilies, learn to trust in the Father’s mercies new every morning because the Father knows already what we need (12:22-24, 29-31). The prayer recognizes that we do need the essentials of life day by day, but only enough, not dangerous excess. Inherent in the petition is a hope that we will neither fret nor hoard, but beyond that is a desire to be so fully present in the small day-to-day things of life that we will be able to sense Jesus’ presence even in the breaking of our bread (22:19; 24:30-35).

Forgiveness appears as a key theme throughout Luke (e.g., 1:77; 3:3; 7:36-50; 24:47). “Release,” another translation of the word for “forgiveness,” appears twice in Jesus’ mission statement (4:18) in release for the captives and the oppressed. Forgiveness is release from spiritual oppression --- for the forgiver as much as the forgiven. Both God’s forgiveness of us and ours of our neighbors figure in this petition, not because God will not forgive unless we forgive first but because we are called to model our love on God’s (6:34-36; 17:26). In forgiving others, we free ourselves to experience God’s forgiving love more fully, which makes it possible for us to love still more (7:47). The reference to release from debt here (also 7:41-43) reminds us that our relationship with money shapes our hearts (18:18-27; 19:1-10).

Finally, we request deliverance from temptation (NRSV: “time of trial”) that can cripple or destroy the soul (Luke 8:13). Immediately after the Gospel opens with a burst of Spirit-filled joy and shortly before it closes in the same way, we find references to the sort of temptation in question here. Jesus is tempted by the devil (4:2) even before his ministry begins; then when Satan has found his moment (4:13; 22:3), Jesus twice interrupts his own prayers for deliverance to tell the disciples to pray that they may not come into temptation (22:39-46). But the Spirit who fills with joy also leads Jesus through the wilderness (4:1) and teaches Jesus’ followers when they face their trials (12:12), so this final petition leads us again to the gift of the Spirit (11:13). The fire that will inspire and guide Jesus’ disciples also clothes us in power (24:49).