It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 NASB)
Jesus has been leading His disciples for 3 years now? And He’s on His way to die on a cross, when His disciples finally ask to be taught a prayer for their group. The rabbis teach their disciples prayers, John taught his disciples, and now Jesus’ disciples want one. I see two really strange things here.
I see that Jesus never really felt the need to provide His disciples with a prayer. That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but when you consider that the culture would then use this prayer as a method (as opposed to a “model”) it may make more sense. Jesus didn’t seem interested in providing a “rote prayer”. He refers to prayer a lot, and in Luke He seems to be always off by Himself praying someplace. We’re not given a sense Jesus used memorized prayers. Yet He provides a prayer for His disciples. We call it a model, but they didn’t. He provides one so simple, yet so complete it was easy to memorize and effective to use. So while He didn’t feel the need to suggest one, Jesus acquiesces to their request for one.
Second, Jesus’ prayer, while simple and short, could not have been what He used when they constantly found Him praying alone. He didn’t give them what He used. Now, chill out, I know Jesus is God and has a relationship with the Father that is qualitatively different than ours, and all. But He is also human with human needs, and human physical weakness. What I mean is that while Jesus may have used a sort of framework like what He provides to His disciples, it’s not certain. He doesn’t say, “Do like I do in prayer.” He says, “Pray in this way.” There is a difference that was probably not lost on His disciples. Jesus gives them a glimpse into the reality that prayer is a developing experience, not a formula. I believe this is because prayer drives our relationship with God, which, as it develops and deepens, then informs our prayers.
What do you learn from the disciples question?