1He 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!”New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
There are two ‘worlds’ behind the text: the world that produced it and the world of the time in which it is set.
The world of the author’s community
Scholars generally agree that the Gospel according to Luke was written in elegant Greek some 50 years after the death of Jesus, probably in the 80s. Tradition has given the name of Luke to the author, but there is no certainty that Luke was the author’s name. Luke may have been a Syrian from Antioch. Most scholars conclude from elements in the Gospel that the author was a Gentile writing for a community predominantly made up of Gentile Christians in either Asia Minor or Greece. More details about the Gospel according to Luke can be found HERE.
The evangelist indicates that he is not an eyewitness to the events he sets out in an orderly account (Lk1: 1-4). Therefore, the world of the author’s community is in a different cultural setting to that of Palestine and is over 50 years after the time in which the text is set.
Most of the text is an example of the source Q, being ‘common’ to Luke and Matthew but not in Mark. The prayer that Jesus teaches has a corresponding version in Matthew 6:9-13 and the material in verses 9-13 corresponds to Matthew 7:7-11. The short parable in verses 5-8 is unique to Luke.
The world at the time of the text
Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic, the common language of Palestine in the first century. While the Gospel is written in Greek, Jesus would have said the prayer he teaches in Aramaic.
Jesus was an observant Jew and a rabbi, a religious teacher. By Jesus day daily prayers were an integral part of life for the religious Jew. Rabbis taught their followers how to fulfil their responsibilities in prayer, just as the text states that John the Baptist had done (v.1).
Jewish prayers invariably commenced with a statement sanctifying the name of God. Parts of the Qaddish (or Kaddish) prayer, a highly important Aramaic Jewish prayer date from the first century BCE. Part of the Kaddish says:
Exalted and hallowed be his great name in the world,
Which he created according to his will.
May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days …
The basic structure of another central prayer of the Jewish liturgy, the Amidah, a series of blessings and petitions, was well established in Jesus’ day. Three of the petitions of the Amidah refer to God as a father. One of these states:
Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned; forgive us, our King, for we have transgressed ….
The prayer Jesus taught his disciples may be his rewording and reinterpretation of these existing Jewish forms of prayer.
Honour, shame, friendship, hospitality and village life
Scholars are unsure about whether the original life setting in Jesus’ public ministry of the anecdote or short parable in verses 5-8 was part his teaching on prayer. Nevertheless, the author of Luke in the construction of the Gospel’s focus prayer places it in that context. An understanding of the codes of honour and shame, of friendship and of hospitality aids the interpretation of these verses.
Honour was a fundamental social value in first century Palestine. It was someone’s positive self-estimation, as well as the positive appreciation of that person in the eyes of the social group. A person was honourable if one acted in the way that was expected of him or her. Shame could be negative or positive. If someone did not follow the rules and expectations of the family or village, he or she was shamed. Positive shame was ‘to have shame’, a proper concern for one’s honour or the reputation of the family or village.
In the close-knit village culture with its many kinship ties and communal interdependence, friends treated each other as if they were family and neighbours were considered friends/family. Friendship came with the obligation to help a friend in need and not to do so was shameful.
Hospitality to friends and to strangers was a sacred duty and a necessary part of social exchange and community security. It was virtually a religious obligation to offer food and lodging to visitors, be they friend or stranger – “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Dt 10:19). A visiting guest was considered a guest of the entire village so anyone in the village was obliged to help the hosting household if necessary.
A typical Palestinian village home had one room. The whole household, and often its animals, all slept near each other. During the day a neighbour in the close-knit community would be welcome to enter the home. For security against marauders from outside the village, the door was normally secured at night. Any neighbour seeking assistance at night would wake the whole family.
Specific geographical knowledge is not necessary for the comprehension of this text. The writer carefully crafts the Gospel, and in the design, this occurs at “certain place” along the way of Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, a period of teaching his followers the requirements of discipleship.