Thursday morning I had time with Jesus in the Honolulu Airport. We arrived at 7am after an overnight flight from Japan. Because of the time change Thursday lasted two days. To get a cheaper airline ticket we endured a twelve hour layover. The “hardship” was vastly softened by the breeze sweeping over us as we overlooked a Japanese-style garden from the open-air concourse.
There I read thirteen astonishing verses on prayer (Luke 11:1-13). The section begins: “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, when you pray say…” And Jesus gives them a model for prayer that we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.
I read this familiar passage and pray against groggy arrogance. Jesus, GOD come in flesh, TEACHES His created ones about one of earth’s greatest mysteries: PRAYER. This section is dense with meaning.
Jesus prayed, His disciples saw Him pray and asked Him to teach them how to pray. I wonder, what did the disciples see when Jesus prayed? I consider His prayers recorded in the Bible, and surmise: They saw union with the Father. Intimacy. Dependence. Surrender. Tenderness. Clarity of purpose. And more.
Jesus was their example for prayer (and ours), but He didn’t pray to be an example. He prayed because man in his perfect, sinless state was created to pray. Adam and Eve talked with God in the cool of evening before sin slithered in to rot perfection. If perfect humanity was created to pray, how much more do we redeemed sinners need to pray?
After Jesus gives the disciples a model for prayer, He tells a story. A man beats on his neighbor’s door at midnight pleading for bread to feed an unexpected visitor. The neighbor drags himself from bed to still the din and give him bread. The point of the story: persevere in asking. Jesus goes on, Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Then, another word picture: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If 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!”
God wants me to ASK. Deep mystery resides here. He knows what I need before I do. Yet He tells me to ask. Asking is obviously for my benefit and not because God needs to be persuaded or nagged. Jesus tells me to keep asking, to persevere, to persist, while I wait for the answer. Delay doesn’t indicate reluctance or apathy on God’s part. He makes clear that He delights to give good gifts to His children. So, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Jesus closes this section reminding me that the Father will set loose the various ministries of the Holy Spirit in my life if I ask. An amazingly good gift.
I’ll stop there because I want to tell you how God punctuated my airport meditation.
Before boarding the flight to the mainland, we fortified ourselves with pizza. Little birds danced around our table snatching crumbs from the floor. But an audacious little flame-headed bird lit on the table and aggressively approached my pizza. We waved him off. Swatted at him. But he kept coming back. I tore off a piece of pizza crust and flung it to the floor. He flew off with it and returned again. He was a graphic, if brazen, illustration of the passage I pondered. Ask. Seek. Knock. And you won’t go away empty.
So, what do you want to receive? to find? to have opened?
ASK. Live the mystery.