“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13)
How do you feel when you come before God in prayer? How do you feel when you ask for God’s help, even with shameless persistence? Do you feel optimistic? Nervous? Afraid? Hopeful? Confident? In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus provides a reason for confidence as he reveals more about the character of the God to whom we pray.
In yesterday’s reflection, we read a parable in which a desperate man bangs on the door of his friend’s house until he gets the food he needs. Jesus used this story to encourage us to pray and keep on praying. Yet, the story could be disconcerting. Is Jesus saying that God is like the selfish friend. Is God willing to bless only if we badger him repeatedly?
In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus makes it clear that God is not like the friend who responds favorably to a friend’s desperation only to shut him up. In this passage, he uses the analogy of fathers whose hungry children ask for something to eat. Would fathers give their children a snake instead of fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg? Of course not! That would be absurd. (And now that I live in Texas, with both scorpions and snakes in my yard, I get Jesus’ point even more plainly!)
Building on this analogy, Jesus continues: “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Earthly fathers, who are sinful people, almost always give good things to their children. Only in sad and unusual cases are fathers cruel and uncaring. Thus, if even sinful fathers respond graciously to their children’s requests, how much more will our sinless Heavenly Father give to us when we ask him.
In Matthew, a similar saying of Jesus reads, “…how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11). In Luke, Jesus focuses on one particular gift, one of the most prized of all gifts, the Holy Spirit. When we ask our Heavenly Father for something, he may or may not give us exactly what we desire. But he can always be counted on to give us a fresh experience of his presence through the Spirit.
In sum, Jesus encourages us to be confident in prayer because God’s goodness and grace far exceed that of mortal parents. The character of God instills confidence within us as we offer to him our prayers.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you think of God as your heavenly Father who is eager to give you good gifts, including the gift of the Spirit? If God wants to give us good things, why are there times when God says “no” to our prayers? How might this passage from Luke encourage you in your prayers today?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for this encouraging passage from Luke. When I think of how I delight in giving good things to my own children, in spite of my sinfulness, how wonderful to realize that you are so much more giving, loving, and wise. You give me so much better than I deserve. Thank you, Lord.
Today, I thank you especially for the gift of the Spirit. How glad I am to know that when I first put my faith in Christ, your Spirit was given to me. How thankful I am for the ways I have grown in awareness of and openness to presence and work of the Spirit. Yet, Lord, I know I have so much farther to go. Help me to be open to all that you would do in and through me.
All praise be to you, O God, because your unfathomable goodness reaches to the skies. Amen.