The disciples ask their teacher how they should pray. They have seen their rabbi at prayer many times, they have lost him only to find him up a mountain deep in conversation with Yahweh, and they have attended synagogue with him regularly.
They are all good Jewish boys, and would have been taught the correct prayer life by their parents and in the basic schooling they received as young children. But they want more. How can they achieve the same level of devotion that Jesus has? They have seen how prayer can bring healing and release, and taken it out on their missions and experienced it for themselves. Some of them have even seen Jesus transfigured. Still they seek more.
Perhaps they feel that they are missing out? Perhaps word has come from John’s disciples about the prayer life they experienced with their rabbi? Andrew, it is believed, was a disciple of John prior to following Jesus, perhaps he felt that something was missing?
Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.Luke 11:1
So how did John teach his disciples? We have no record of John’s relationship with his disciples, understandably, as the gospels focus on Jesus and John bows out shortly after Jesus’ baptism, and then of course he comes to a sticky end.
What we do know about John though, is that his way of life was more ascetic, perhaps more disciplined. John himself lived a very simple life, wearing animal skins and grazing for his own diet. His teaching was on repentance and the only ritual he held was that of baptism, of being cleansed in preparation for the one to come.
Perhaps John had given to his disciples a form of prayer that was an identifying mark to the group. We know his disciples fasted and prayed. It was not unusual for rabbis to teach specific prayers. Notice that the text treats prayer as a learned experience, not simply as a release of feelings. Discipline is clearly implied.Fred B Craddock
What the disciples received and we have inherited is a formula for prayer that covers just about every aspect of life, but differs dramatically from the ascetic lifestyle of John. The first thing that the disciples are required to do is draw close to God, not keep him at a distance for fear that our earthliness will be an insult to God. Jesus tells them to call Yahweh ‘Daddy’.
The prayer begins surprisingly, by calling God ‘Abba’ – ‘Dear Father’.
The Jews have several names for God, and a hundred ways of avoiding his holy name. No one has ever presumed to call God ‘Daddy’. Jesus is inviting his friends to share his own intimate relationship with God. This is not like any prayer that has ever been before. This is love talk.Andrew Knowles
The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray as John had taught them, instead he teaches them a new intimacy with God. In what has become known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ there is no call to repent of our sorrows, but instead an invitation to come into the Father’s presence and to ask for what we need, with an assurance of the Father’s love and desire to give us all that is good for us.
Yes there are the words about seeking forgiveness, but they come with an assurance that sins will be forgiven, rather than a fear of not being good enough; and those words, along with a plea to be protected from temptation, come after the disciples have been invited to ask for their daily needs.
John teaches us to make ourselves ready to come into God’s presence, and Jesus welcomes us in.
The disciples asked to be taught to pray as John’s disciples had been taught, instead Jesus teaches us once more the power of love. To be accepted as worthy to be in God’s presence and to join the heavenly pursuits of love and forgiveness.
The disciples had asked the wrong question of Jesus. They wanted to be taught to pray as John’s disciples prayed, instead Jesus teaches them to pray as co-heirs of the kingdom.
Read it here.