Prayer and the Devil

Luke Ch 11: 1-36

1. Teaching on Prayer.

Luke has just spoken of Jesus’ personal prayer and in the preceding verses we have just seen Jesus’ viewpoint showing the importance of choosing to listen to his word, in other words to seek a relationship with God.  It therefore suits Luke to include his version of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is NOT the same as Matthew’s but that is principally because we have two evangelists writing for two different audiences and they will therefore have constructed their argument  (a) with that in mind and (b) depending on their own viewpoints.  Much the same as when I sit down and write the notes for these Bible Studies.  (Please note I am not equating myself with any of the Gospel writers here!)

Does that mean that scripture is not inspired?  Well, it depends how you might define inspired.  I don’t think it mans that an Angel of the Lord physically sat there at the side of the evangelist dictating the Gospels, but by a process of prayer, thinking, thinking again and immersing oneself in scripture, the author can make themselves more available to “inspiration”, which comes via our own selves, that is, God’s own creation.  It is complicated, I know and a bit of a head spinner, but probably worth taking a moment to let that sink in.  God calls everyone, and I mean everyone, to spread his message of love and forgiveness, and allows us to go out and deliver it in our own fashion, and by our own behaviour.  That is how much we are trusted by God.  Perhaps we should take that action of trust more seriously rather than walking away from responsibility at every opportunity.

The Lord’s prayer hallows (proclaims Holiness) for the name of God.  The name is meant to represent the nature of someone – in this example, the love and mercy of God, so we pray that we may know him in the intimate way a child knows a Mother or Father’s love.  The picture offered by the word Abba, which is best translated as Daddy, gives a picture of a small child cuddling up to their parent.  That is the picture Jesus draws for us of what our relationship with God should be like. 

We ask for the Kingdom to come, that the Kingdom which Jesus has announced may spread out and overcome evil more and more each day.  We ask God to provide our needs and here is the hard part; to forgive our sins or debts in the same way that we forgive others.  Oh Dear.  Jesus is clear on this.  God forgives us to the same measure that  we are willing to forgive others. 

If we are not willing to forgive others, will God be willing to forgive us?

Save us from the time of trial is often replaced in the traditional versions as “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.   The time of trial may be seen as a time when we are at our lowest ebb, our weakest point.  Consider how Jesus prays for Peter that he will be saved from the Satan; Peter’s weak point would be when he denied Jesus.

The verses immediately following are meant to highlight God’s overriding willingness to show love, forgiveness, mercy and patience compared to us.  The events of recent days will help us all realise the sad truth of our state of affairs so often.

V 13; If you who are evil – is just a typical literary exaggeration tool of the period used in order to make a point. 

2. Beelzebub

Who or what on earth is Beelzebub?  In short probably a derivation of an ancient deity called Baal, who occurs in the Old Testament.  Baal was a Syrian god, deemed by the Israeli people to be an alien power hostile to YHWH.  As people came to appreciate and notice the power of YHWH more, the other gods in the area gradually came to be un-deified, and came to be viewed rather as demons.  Whereas Baal, meant “Lord of the Heavenly House”, Beelzebub came to mean “Lord of the Flies”.

Bit of a downturn for Baal. 

Beelzebub is now equated with the Satan.  Jesus is therefore being accused in v 15 of being an agent of the Satan.  Why?  Well he played fast and loose with the law and its demands at times, he didn’t overly use prayer or mantra’s during his exorcisms; he just evicted, or threw out the demons apparently on his own authority.

Jesus first of all points out that a house divided cannot stand, just think of the labour party at the moment.  Of more importance though is Jesus view that he is enacting the Kingdom of God through his actions.  He is therefore announcing that the Kingdom - the realm – of God is come upon us – it is not here yet in it’s fullness, but we are already living in it’s embrace (Oxford Commentary)

Exorcisms then don’t reveal anything special about Jesus.  There were many exorcists around in his day (ten a penny).  Rather he uses them to signal the presence of God’s Kingdom arrived, here and now, and he announces as a consequence the ultimate demise of the Satan.  The writing is on the wall, so to speak, using a metaphor from a scene in the book of Daniel Ch 5. 

The reality and the urgency of the contest demands a response, so when the woman calls out “Blessed is the womb that bore you...” Jesus counters, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”

The word of God is progressive, it moves forwards constantly, it changes the world, it is transformative.  It doesn’t look back at past successes, there is still much to be done. 

If we listen to this message, see who he really is and fully embrace the truth, the light within us will shine to obliterate the darkness, and we will be seen to be an image of God by our actions and by our behaviour.   © Colin Waldock

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