Luke mentions prayer more than any of the other gospel writers. While Jesus’ “model prayer” in Luke 11 is also found in Matthew 6, the Luke account is more detailed.
I’ve wondered why the disciples didn’t know how to pray. Jewish people had set prayers that they prayed as a part of their worship liturgy, but perhaps personal prayer was less common. It is noteworthy in this regard that the story of Esther, chronicling one of the most perilous times in Jewish history, does not mention prayer. Perhaps the feeling was that God did not listen to prayer – or perhaps did not respond to it. That would explain Jesus’ focus in Luke’s account.
In the story of the man who went looking for bread at midnight, his friend gives it to him because of the “boldness” or “shameless audacity” (NIV 2011) in his request. The Greek word translated like this occurs only here in the New Testament. It occurs some 258 times in all of Greek literature and in every case (except when Christians have changed the meaning), it has a negative connotation. It refers to someone who “has no proper sense of shame and willingly engage in improper conduct.”
Jesus wants his disciples to pray. He wants them to pray for the kingdom, for the necessities of life, for forgiveness and guidance. But just as important is the relationship of the praying person with God. As believers, we are God’s children. That special relationship allows us the privilege of shameless audacity in God’s presence. It also should cultivate within us a bold confidence that God hears and will give us what we need (though not, necessarily, what we ask).
However, Luke’s account has a strange twist. It’s not just that God will give us what we ask, but that He will give us His Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that assures of God’s presence, guidance and protection, and that, really, should be an important part of our prayer. It’s not the indwelling of the Spirit we should pray for. As Christians, we have that. More importantly, it is the abiding presence of God.
One final point about the prayer. Note that it is not “give me,” or “forgive me,” or “lead me,” but “us.” The privilege of prayer is not granted because we have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” – a wholly unbiblical concept by the way – but because we are a part of the community of faith, and because we are a part of the community, our prayers should include the community.