Luke is reminding us of the Lord’s Prayer. But this is more than a re-stating of a sacred Christian mantra. Luke’s edited version is engineered to fit into a larger, more comprehensive lesson. Luke forces our focus in new directions and insists that we see the Lord’s Prayer in particular ways; forbidding us to hear it and say it mechanically.
I cannot say, “Lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately put myself in a place to be tempted.
I cannot say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” if I am withholding mercy from another until they manage somehow, in their broken and dysfunctional love, to satisfy my demand for personal justice.
I cannot say, “Give us our daily bread”, if in reality I am super focused on tomorrow’s steak.
I cannot say, “Thy kingdom come” if I am resentful of that king’s authority in this moment.
I cannot say, “Hallowed be thy name”, If I am careless with that name.
I cannot say, “Father” if I do not approach God like a child.
Luke is a wordsmith. Here he weaves three powerful images: Prayer. Bread. Children.
If Luke is giving us a new twist on the Lord’s Prayer— maybe it is Oliver Twist.
Think of it as “a child’s prayer for bread.”
But I’d rather not. “A Child’s Prayer for Bread” is too lightweight for human brokenness; too ethereal; too sacred-sounding to be presented here into the theology of gritty, proclamation gospel.
Instead of a Child’s Prayer for Bread, let’s call Luke’s lesson:
Beg for bread like a child.
When Jesus teaches us to be “as children” the temptation is to imagine all kinds of lies.
We coo at newborn babies. Grab at the cutest chubbiest cheeks.
If you have had children—or have ever been a child—you know that children are far from innocence and stylized photo poses.
They are not humble.
Children are filled to the eyebrows with a sense of privilege. They are full of self justification like there was a buy three get one free for each liter sale. Like most adults, there is no distinction for a child between want and need. The only thing more irritating than a child’s inflamed selfishness is that it happens to be hardwired and riveted to the parental call button: mom, mom, mom, mom…
These are the negative and immature characteristics of what it is be “as a child.”
Is there anything to being as a child that is helpful in my approach to God?
A prayer master during a spiritual retreat once advised his listeners to adopt what he called the APU program as they prayed. When predictably they asked what the acronym meant, he smiled and said, “Be Aggressive. Be Persistent. Be Unreasonable.”
Approaching God like a child in prayer means that I am aggressively curious.
Like that child the week or two before Christmas, who knows the gifts are somewhere in the house,
Search for them.
Just because you can’t see them in no way convinces you they are not there.
You know they are there.
When you search in the most oddball out of the way places, you are sure to find the gift that has been there all along.
Charis — that is, “the gift” –that is, “grace”– is present in your suffering, has been there all along too.
It may not be obvious where Charis is but you can be sure it is there.
Seek and you will find.
If it’s on your Christmas list—you have asked— and it will be given.
See, this is another irritably endearing attribute of children: Children aren’t afraid to ask.
Until we train them to be polite, a child will demand for whatever their little heart desires.
So I say to you: ask and it will be given…everyone who asks receives.
The grace of God is given to the one who is so bold as to stand at a door and knock…and knock and knock.
The man who needs bread—that bread of life that only God can give—never leaves the doorstep—cannot leave because he is starving.
He will not leave without bread.
There is no sense in going home with the same emptiness – that same overwhelming need that drove him to a friend’s door in the inconvenient middle of the night.
Rather than talk you out of what you should and should not ask God for—or in what way you should or should not ask God; I would let God be the parent. I would encourage you to ask and acquiesce to God the authority of being the parent– He will give or deny according to His will.
As a child before God, your task is to ask fully anticipating good things.
You are not Charlie Brown. Stop expecting to get a rock at every door you knock on.
So we ask with Aggressive curiosity, Persistent boldness… and we pray also with all the unreasonable nature of a child.
Before they learn the value of things; before they know the weight of reality—Children dream.
Oh, how children imagine; limitless.
Have you ever noticed that when a child plays “pretend like” or “make believe”, no matter how overwhelming the odds, how strong the bad guy, how impossible victory is—the dragon never wins.
Somehow, no matter how improbable or unreasonable, the imagined hero is always faster, smarter, stronger —always crushes the serpent’s head under a heel.
Children at imaginative play can overcome the world. It’s old hat. They are veterans at this sort of thing.
This is the kind of spiritual optimism Luke is handing back to us.
You now have permission to dream again; all it takes is faith and trust—and just a pinch of pixie dust –Third star to the left and straight on till morning.
The Holy Spirit of God is given to those who are Aggressive, Persistent and Unreasonable enough to ask.
When I was a child I wanted to grow up to be just like my Daddy.
I imagined it.
I could see it in my mind.
Now that I am an adult, I still want to grow up to be just like my Daddy—my Abba—my heavenly Father.
So, let me dream, if it’s all right with you.
Let me imagine that I could be an imitator of God.
Let me make believe that all I need for life and godliness has already been given.
Let me dream that I can be as He is in this present world.
Let me aggressively, persistently, and unreasonably trust in the promises my Father made.
Can I ask you to step out of the living room where the adults are: masking the tantrums of their selfish hearts with polite chatter and soul numbing realities?
Would you join me in the play room for a moment?
Here, we children have gathered around Jesus. He laughs at our silliest jokes; pretends to be frightened when we sneak up behind; listens with wide eyes to our heroic school tales.
Look at us, pestering and bothering the Alpha & Omega.
Listen to us laughing and begging and demanding his time and attention and the Charis he hides in his hand behind his back; taunting us to guess what it is.
We can’t. No, it’s not a pony!
When you pray, say “Father”.
You can call him Father, but only if you approach him like a child…His ‘specially loved child.