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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Luke 11

 

 

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Verse 1

Luke 11:1

I. Our Lord seems to have undertaken no great work without earnest prayer for God's guidance. If we undertook everything in this spirit we should have more success, and more happiness in our success than we have. And it was not merely when He had some special boon to ask that our Saviour prayed; to pray was with Him something more than merely asking for favours—it was to worship and adore the Father, to rise in spirit from the world, and above all bodily cares and wants, and join in spirit that glorious company of angels and Cherubim and Seraphim, who ever live in the light of God's countenance, and cry, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God.

II. Consider some general features which ought to belong to prayer, according to our Lord. (1) Christ warned His disciples against the Pharisees; whomsoever they imitated, it must not be those hollow professors with their high pretence and rotten hearts: it must not be those who sought the praise of men, and thought little of the praise of Him who seeth in secret. Any man follows the example of these hypocrites who comes to the house of prayer with any hollow purpose. (2) For the matter of prayer, I will only allude to that advice of our Saviour's, where He says "Use not vain repetitions." It is chiefly to guard against this danger that the Church has ever used fixed forms of prayer, that no prayers may be offered which are unworthy of God. (3) Again, our Lord taught us that though we are to pray reverently, yet we are to pray earnestly, as those who will take no denial. He spoke the parable of the widow applying to the unjust judge, and who obtained her suit by her constancy, to show us how we ought to pray; and He promises that those things which we ask in faith we certainly shall have. Wherefore it appears that the Spirit which God approves is that of earnestness and perseverance; He does not love coldness and lukewarmness; He loves genuine heartfelt zeal which is ever praying to Him for increased blessings, and ever pressing on, and never satisfied with what has been given, but desiring more abundant supplies.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 1.


Forms of Prayer.

I. That liturgies were of Divine appointment under the Jewish dispensation there can be no question. The songs of Moses and Miriam, and the titles prefixed to a large number in the Book of Psalms, bear evidence of being composed for congregational use. Besides, through the writings of Josephus and other Hebrew historians, no inconsiderable part of the ancient Jewish liturgies have been preserved to us, and a remarkable coincidence has been discovered between the order and method of these early compositions with our own Book of Common Prayer. Unsafe as it might be, as a rule, to base an argument on the silence of Scripture, yet we can hardly suppose that if our Lord had intended that in such an important particular the Christian worship was to differ from the Jewish, He would not have told His disciples so plainly, rather than just join in such pre-composed devotions Himself, and then institute a form, which from being expressed throughout in the plural number, must have been intended for public and social use.

II. Note some objections to prepared forms of private prayer, however spiritual and excellent they may be, if they be used exclusively. (1) It is obvious we are thereby confined in regard to the matter of our prayers; we restrict our conversation with Heaven to a fixed routine of subjects, and preclude the mention of those hourly spiritual experiences which, though unseen, and unknown to the world, make up the great incidents of the soul's life, and may give, day by day, a new complexion to its prayers. (2) Again, there is a danger lest the exclusive use of forms should have a tendency to deaden the spirit of prayer. It is a question to be entertained calmly, whether the heart be not kept closer to its work when it has to search out of its own experiences and its own feelings the materials of its sacrifice, than when in the prepared human composition the fire and the wood are laid ready to its hand. Words, we know, are but outward things. Words are but the priest's censer which, whether it be made of gold or of clay, affects not the fragrance of the incense, nor the height to which the cloud ascends. In the estimates of Heaven the tongue of the eloquent, and the lips of the stammering, have a common value, and both are only so far regarded by God as they proceed from an honest heart—as they discover a lowly spirit, as they evidence a strength of faith, as they bespeak an earnest longing for the approval and regards of Heaven.

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,199.

Forms of Private Prayer—the Uses of them.

I. Let us bear in mind the precept of the wise man: "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God." Prayers framed at the moment are likely to be irreverent. To avoid the irreverence of many or unfit words and rude, half-religious thoughts, it is necessary to pray from book or memory, and not at random.

II. Forms of prayer are necessary to guard us against the irreverence of wandering thoughts. If we pray without set words (read or remembered), our minds will stray from the subject; other thoughts will cross us, and we shall pursue them; we shall lose sight of His Presence whom we are addressing. This wandering of mind is in good measure prevented, under God's blessing, by forms of prayer.

III. Next, they are useful as securing us from the irreverence of excited thoughts. If we are encouraging with us an excitement, an unceasing rush and alternation of feelings, and think that this, and this only, is being in earnest in religion, we are harming our minds, and even grieving the peaceful Spirit of God, who would silently and tranquilly work His Divine work in our hearts. This, then, is an especial use of forms of prayer. When we are in earnest, as we ought always to be: viz., to keep us from self-willed earnestness, to still emotion, to calm us, to remind us what and where we are, to lead us to a purer and serener temper, and to that deep unruffled love of God and man, in which is really the fulfilling of the law, and the perfection of human nature.

IV. Forms are necessary to help our memory, and to set before us at once, completely, and in order, what we have to pray for.

V. How short are the seasons which most men have to give to prayer. Before they can collect their memories and minds their leisure is almost over, even if they have the power to dismiss the thoughts of this world, which just before engaged them. Now forms of prayer do this for them. They keep the ground occupied, that Satan may not encroach upon the seasons of devotion.

VI. The Forms of the Church have ever served her children, both to restrain them in their career of sin, and to supply them with ready utterance on their repentance.

VII. Let us recollect for how long a period our prayers have been the standard forms of devotion in the Church of Christ, and we shall gain a fresh reason for loving them, and a fresh source of comfort in using them. They have become sacred from the memory of saints departed who have used them, and whom we hope one day to meet in heaven.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 257.


References: Luke 11:1.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 336; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 220; A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 1; A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 19; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 308. Luke 11:1-13.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 51.


Verse 2

Luke 11:2

The Address of the Lord's Prayer.

I. This name by which we are commanded to call upon God is one of the most remarkable things in the whole prayer. There are the seeds of it, indeed, in the Old Testament, just as there are seeds of the other truths of the Gospel. Yet, even in those passages of the Old Testament, in which God bears that name, it is rather as the Father of the Jewish people. To fix upon that tender name, to choose it out from all God's other greater titles, and to appoint it as the special name by which Almighty God is to be addressed by all His sinful creatures, this was Christ's doing; this privilege we owe to Him.

II. Every privilege has its corresponding duty. Every gift is a talent and a trust, for which we are to make God a return. Let us consider, therefore, what duties the privilege, which Christ has bought for us, of calling God our Father brings with it. (1) The first and chief duty is the behaving to Him as children should behave to their father. If we are aware how great a privilege it is to call God Father, let us prove our sense of it by using it diligently. You need not be afraid of using it too often. Pray as often as ever you will; you cannot weary God with your petitions. To the prayer of the dutiful and godly heart His ear is ever open. (2) The knowledge that our Father is in heaven, and can do whatsoever He pleases, should fill us with faith and a courageous trust in Him. Moreover it should raise our thoughts to heaven, and lead us to think of it and to love it as our home. Though we have never seen heaven, yet we know enough of it from Scripture to enable us to think of it, till our hearts kindle at the thought into an active desire of going thither. We know that heaven is our home, the place we ought to be journeying to, the city of our destination, where our happiness is to consist in seeing our Father, and gazing on Him till we become like Him.

A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 396.


I. The form of address, "Our Father," is remarkable, because it was not the ordinary form of address before Christ came. The idea of a Father is not put forward in the Old Testament as the great all-comprehending idea of God, as it is in the New Testament. For I consider that this is emphatically the character under which God is revealed to us through Christ, namely, that of a Father. Consider (1) what is the meaning and extent of the privilege. We poof sinners, fallen from our first estate, can have no right to call God our Father. Yet our Saviour, when He taught us to pray, bade us say, "Our Father, which art in heaven." Therefore we may come as children, for Christ has given us leave; and I conclude from this permission that the chasm between God and us has been bridged over, that the wound of sin has been healed, that forgiveness of sin is possible, even from a just and jealous God. (2) The way in which we become possessed of this privilege. It was through the sufferings and death of Christ. When, therefore, you use the words of the Lord's Prayer, and say "Our Father," bear in mind how it has come about that you have been permitted to use these words; by using them you claim the benefits of Christ's Passion, you address God by a name which Christ, who taught you to use it, purchased with His own blood.

II. "Which art in heaven." The intention of these words is: (1) To impress upon our minds the exceeding majesty of God, and our own smallness as compared with Him; (2) to remind us of God's power, that we are praying to Him who is able to grant our requests, because He is the great God who governs all things, who by His words created the heavens, and who, by His power, sustains all things which He has made.

III. The address of the Lord's Prayer is to our Father. Thus the prayer is to the Father, not of me or you only, but of all Christian people; and so the Lord's Prayer is a witness to the communion which ought to exist between the members of the Christian Church. Thus the Lord's Prayer brings before us our position as members of a body: it is the voice of a member of the Church, of one bound to his fellows by infinite mysterious ties, of one praying not for himself alone, but bearing upon his heart before God all those who are members of the same mystical body with himself.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 19.


He is the best man, the most holy man, the most Christian man, who can use, with the greatest earnestness, these words. For he who would forsake sin and follow holiness, and who would avoid hell and obtain heaven, must have something higher before his eyes than merely his own advantage. The great all-sufficient motive with the full-grown Christian is the glory of God. It is the highest wisdom, as it is the most Christian act, to pray, first of all, that the Name of God may be honoured as it ought to be honoured, and hallowed in the hearts and lives of all men.

I. Think first of the Name of God. The Name of God is spoken of in the Old Testament in a manner calculated to excite the very deepest awe, and the most intense fear of polluting it. As in the case of the Israelites so in all others, the honour of His own most holy Name is the end of all the works of God. And as the glory of God is the guide of His own acts, so that same glory ought to be the end of all that His creatures do; whether they be angels or men, all who have gift of an intelligent soul are bound to make the glory of God the end of all they do.

II. Consider how a person ought to act who wishes to live up to His prayer, that God's Name may be hallowed. (1) A man does not hallow the Name of God who does not speak of Him most reverently. (2) The man who could hallow the Name of God should be very diligent in publicly worshipping Him; he who is diligent in attending on the public worship of God thereby honours God Himself. (3) Every man who would hallow the Name of God should so manage his whole walk in life, so conduct himself in business, in his work, in whatever he has to do, that it may be clear to all men that the honour of God is the rule of His actions. Christ our Lord said that His disciples ought so to act that men should see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 37.


I. What is this kingdom of which, in the Lord's Prayer, we pray that it may come? The kingdom which John the Baptist spoke of as being at hand implied a great change in God's government of the world, somewhat in accordance with those words of St. Paul, when he says, speaking of heathen times, "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." I should conceive, therefore, that, in one sense, the kingdom of God came upon earth with the coming of Christ, because with His coming a new order of things, in some measure, began. God began to show His power, and to influence the world by His Spirit more than He had before.

II. The kingdom of God may also mean the progress of the Church in the world. There is sufficient reason why we should still pray as of old, "Thy kingdom come;" there are, indeed, vast portions of the earth which are not even professedly members of the kingdom. And there are other gods who have part in Christ's kingdom in this Christian land, and who have a strong hold on these subjects, the flesh, the devil, covetousness, pride, sloth, intemperance. We have yet need to pray that amongst us the Kingdom of God may come.

III. A man who prays that the kingdom of God may come, prays—and if he prays he ought to have it in his heart to wish—that all men and all things may be governed by the laws of Christ, that everything contrary to the spirit of the Gospel may be banished from the world, that all bitterness, malice, evil-speaking, lying, slandering, may be utterly abolished, that all loving of pleasure, rather than loving of God, may be a thing unknown, that all worship of mammon—that is, pursuit of gain only for gain's sake, may cease, that the Cross of Christ may be in reality the standard by which men measure all things else, that all things in this world may be judged of, not by any partial distorted standard of our own, but by rules such as Christ would approve. The coming of Christ's kingdom implies all this, and a man is not honest who prays for the coming of that kingdom, and is not ready to accept such a result as this, as the answer to his prayers.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 55.


I. How is God's will done in heaven? (1) God's will is in heaven done willingly or heartily; that is, His servants there obey Him and do His will, not because they are commanded to do this and that, and dare not disobey, but because they do not wish to disobey; it is their happiness to do God's will, it is because they do it that they are happy, and they would grieve if they might not do it. (2) Again, God's will is done in heaven completely, perfectly; whatever is done is His will throughout, with no mixture of the will of any other; unlike earth, where the very best of things have generally, perhaps always, some mixture of evil. (3) Once more, the doing of the will of God in heaven is not only willing and complete, but it is universal; there is no division between those who serve God and those who serve Him not, because all serve Him.

II. The prayer, "Thy will be done," implies a complete surrender of self to the will of God, a desire to do the will of God, and that the will of God may be done whatever it may cost ourselves; a desire that the honour of God and not self may be the rule of action of all men, ourselves included; that the idols which now are worshipped and which are all in some way images of the great world idol, Self, may be utterly abolished, and that in place of them one God only may be worshipped, and that all (ourselves among them) may think nothing good and great but what tends to His glory, nothing contemptible and mean but what opposes His will, and is displeasing in His sight.

III. If we really desire to do God's will He will enable us to do it. There is no situation in life in which we may not do His will; in the ordinary path of life, in that life of labour to which God has appointed us all, there are abundant opportunities of putting in practice this rule, of doing God's will and not our own, except so far as our own agrees with His, and though it may be difficult to expel all selfish feelings and all rebellious wishes, yet constant efforts will be blessed, and we shall "grow in grace."

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 73.


References: Luke 11:2.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 222; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, pp. 408, 418, 431; W. Wilson, Christ setting His Face to go to Jerusalem, pp. 246, 276; E. Thring, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 195; H. N. Grimley, The Prayer of Humanity, pp. 12, 22, 31, 40, 50, 61, 74, 88; C. Stanford, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 1, 29, 53, 85, 112, 130.


Verse 3

Luke 11:3

I. Dependence and not independence is the true condition of man; dependence upon God for all things—things bodily, things spiritual. Men are not very ready in general to allow this, at least are not ready to recognise it in the only way which is of any value; that is, in their practice, in their everyday life. Men are ever ready to make their plans and their schemes as boldly as though they were masters of their own lives, and as though they lived by some inward independent energy of their own, and did not draw their breath and move their limbs, and eat and drink, and lie down and rise up again, by the power of God. The spirit of the text is that of entire dependence upon God. They acknowledge the Source from which all things come to us, for if even our daily bread is a gift of God, much more must all other blessings which are not so common as daily bread, and they acknowledge this also, that our dependence is from day to day—that is, constantly; that the gifts of today are no guarantee for the gifts of tomorrow, but that we must be daily askers if we would daily have. You will see, therefore, that there is something in the petition of the text much more than a mere petition for food; it acknowledges a principle, it asks in spirit not for bread only, but for all bodily necessaries, all that we can want from day to day for the support and health of our bodies.

II. What lessons, then, do we learn from the prayer of the text? (1) We learn a lesson of reliance on God's providence. (2) A lesson on Christian simplicity; we pray for bread, and bread only according to our wants. (3) A lesson on the gratitude which is due to God for all His manifold favours to us. For if we pray for daily bread for the time to come, doubtless we must in our hearts give thanks for that which we have already received; and, indeed, thankfulness is a great mark of true earnest religion. (4) As we pray, labour, and are thankful for our daily bread, ten thousand times more ought we to pray, labour for, and be thankful for the bread of eternal life.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 90.


References: Luke 11:3.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 97; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 442; C. Stanford, The Lord's Prayer, p. 156; H. N. Grimley, The Prayer of Humanity, p. 103.


Verse 4

Luke 11:4

I. The mischief of sin is its universality; it is everywhere, different parts of the world have different products, and men have different characters in different quarters of the world, and different manners and customs, and different colours, but in this one thing they all agree, that sin has tainted them all. And it does not confine itself to any particular age; as soon as a child can walk and speak it is made quite clear that the root of sin is in it, that it only requires favourable circumstances and it will spring up and flourish.

II. And here is the key to the fallen state of our nature; it is this sinfulness which runs through all our acts, except those which are done by the help of God's Holy Spirit, which renders our condition so deplorable. Sin hath separated us from God; betwixt Him and us there is a great gulf; our wills are not the same; we do not naturally love what He loves, and hate what He hates; we have lost by Adam's transgression our union with God, we have lost our life in Him; but we have not lost our wills, we have still free wills given us by Almighty God, and have still the heart aspiring to God, though a body of flesh inclining us to sin; we have still the power of shaking the fetters which sin has riveted upon us, and wishing ourselves free, and exulting in the hope of liberty.

III. Sin is a thing which must be punished; it may seem a mysterious thing that God cannot forgive sins, but He cannot—that is, He cannot except through our Lord Jesus Christ. If we are to get rid of our sins we must consider what is to be done on God's part and what on our own. (1) In the first place, we must repent of our sins; repentance must go before forgiveness. (2) And then there must be determination to amend and to forsake sin; it will not do for us to repent of our sins, and then go and do the like again. (3) Our Lord will not allow us to pray for pardon except under certain conditions; namely, that we give pardon ourselves. A man who does not forgive others cannot be forgiven himself, and therefore is not permitted to pray for forgiveness. We need not deceive ourselves by fancying we can obtain pardon of God, so long as there remains an injury unforgiven by us, or any injury that we have done and have not made amends for; we shall only receive the portion of the hypocrites if we approach Almighty God with a prayer for pardon on our lips, and have unforgiveness towards any in our hearts.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 1st series, p. 108.


I. Some may say that if temptation is the lot of all men we ought not to pray as in the text: "Lead us not into temptation." This does not follow; sickness is the lot of our race, and yet we pray to God for health, and God will send it to us so far as He sees it to be good for us; indeed we may pray for all things if we use the proviso which our Saviour added to His prayer: "Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done;" and thus we may pray against temptation because it is a dangerous thing and a thing painful to endure, even though we should come off victorious in the end. But, after all, I conceive the spirit of the prayer against temptation is to pray quite as much for grace to withstand temptation as for freedom from it, quite as much for strength when temptation comes as for the happiness of its not coming at all.

II. There is one practical piece of advice which belongs to this subject, which I may give here. When you use the Lord's Prayer, you pray that you may not be led into temptation, and inasmuch as the flesh is weak, however willing the spirit may be, you do rightly so to pray; but you must remember that you must act consistently with this prayer; that is, if you pray that you may not be led into temptation, you must take care that you do not go into it of your own accord: it is impossible that your prayers can be answered if you do not do what you can towards obtaining an answer to them.

III. This life of ours is a warfare and not a time of rest; rest belongs to the next world, where the evil one may not enter, but to this belongs continual battle and alarm, and it behoves us to be clad in the whole armour of God. He is a Christian of the true stamp who not only prays "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," but who bears this prayer about with him as the motto of his life, and who feels that as it has pleased God to place him in a world where he is liable to temptation, so it is his duty to be continually on his guard to resist temptation; and that as there is in this world an evil one, whose constant aim it is to become his master, and usurp that place which of right belongs to Christ, so it is to be the business of his life ever to fight against this enemy of his soul, and to see that his heart is a pure and undefiled temple, worthy in some degree, at least, of the presence of Christ's Holy Spirit.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 1st series, p. 143.


References: Luke 11:4.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 40; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, pp. 456, 471; C. Stanford, The Lord's Prayer, pp. 179, 203, 229; H. N. Grimley, The Prayer of Humanity, pp. 113, 138, 156, 169, 178. Luke 11:5-8.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 341; W. Wilson, Christ setting His Face to go to Jerusalem, p. 349; R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 330; H. Calderwood, The Parables, p. 133; A. B. Bruce, The Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 144. Luke 11:5-10.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. viii., p. 318.


Verses 6-13

Luke 11:6-13

The Friend at Midnight.

I. The success of prayer is conditioned by the character of the suppliant. Not every kind of asking is acceptable prayer. That which men desire simply for the gratification of malice, or the pampering of appetite, or the satisfying of ambition, or the aggrandising of selfishness, God has nowhere promised to bestow; and unless there be in us the spirit to subordinate everything to the honour of Jehovah, we have no warrant to expect an answer.

II. That which we ask must be in accordance with God's will. Beneath every genuine supplication there is the spirit of resignation breathed by Jesus Himself in His Gethsemane anguish, "not as I will, but as Thou wilt." God is no mere blind indulgent Father, who gives His children everything they ask. He is wise and kind, and has, withal, the discrimination of omniscience; so He gives only that which will be best; and if we were to view the matter rightly, we should see as much reason to be thankful to Him for a refusal as for an answer to the letter of our prayers.

III. But this condition, connecting itself with the nature of the thing asked, is nearly akin to the third class of conditions which spring out of the purpose and prerogative of God Himself. This is a view of the case which has not been sufficiently attended to by Christians. The Hearer of prayer is not the only relation in which God stands to His people. He is their Father as well; and He is, besides, the moral Governor of the intelligent universe. Therefore He uses His prerogative in answering prayer for moral purposes; and the action which He takes on the petitions of His children is a portion of that discipline to which He subjects them, and by which He trains them into strength and holiness of character.

W. M. Taylor, The Parables of Our Saviour, p. 243.


References: Luke 11:9.—Outlines Sermons to Children, p. 159; E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 61. Luke 11:9, Luke 11:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1091; W. Wilson, Christ setting His Face to go to Jerusalem, p. 364. Luke 11:10.—R. Case, Short Practical Sermons, p. 32. Luke 11:11-13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 959.


Verse 12

Luke 11:12

Short devotions a hindrance to prayer.

I. Our Lord's nights of prayer were not simple exercises of His exceeding spiritual strength; they were also the earnest cleaving of man to God. And if the infirmities of a sinless being drew him so mightily to God, how much more ought the sin that is in us to drive us to the Divine Presence for healing and for strength! The contrast of our weakness with His perfection gives us no discharge from His example; rather, it adds a greater force. It brings out a further and deeper reason which makes the law of prayer to us the very condition of life. If we do not pray we perish. It is no answer to say we are weak and cannot continue in prayer as He. That very weakness is in itself the necessity which forces us to pray.

II. Again, it is said, "It is impossible for those who live an active and busy life to find time for long private devotions." From the tone in which some people speak one would think that our blessed Master had lived a leisurely and unimpeded life; that He had nothing else to do but to live alone in retirement and solitude, in contemplation and prayer; and this of One whose whole life was toil amid crowds and multitudes, hungry and wayworn, full of calls and interruptions. It were rather true to say that no man's life was ever yet so broken in upon, and taken from him by labour and care, and the importunity of others, as His; and yet He is to us the perfect Example of devotion. It was the toil of the day that turned His night into a vigil. Alas for the man that is too busy to pray! for he is too busy to be saved.

III. But once more. It may be said, "All this proves too much, for if it prove anything it proves that we ought to give up our natural rest and our night's sleep, and to break the common habits of a regular life in a way that health and sound discretion would equally forbid." Is it not true that people who would without a word, travel many nights together for business or amusement, would positively resent the notion of spending even a few hours of Christmas or Easter Eve in prayer and self-examination? However, it is enough for the present purpose to say that whosoever would live a life of prayer, must spend no small part of every day in praying.

H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 342.


We are not told the exact time or the particular spot where this prayer was made. Of the spot, we know only that it was a mountain; it must have been a mountain near Capernaum. Twice we read of Jesus Christ going out into a wilderness or solitary place to pray, and twice into a mountain.

I. It is clear that the place was selected as helpful. He could not do what He has told us to do, for how could He, who never had a house, "go into His closet, and shut the door"? Therefore He made the mountain His closet, and the rocks shut the door about Him. And there was a grandeur and a fitness when the Incarnate Creator of this world found His secret place in the stillness of the fastnesses of nature. It may not be given to us ever to find the aid of these sublimities, but this is a good rule—Choose for prayer whatever most quiets and most raises the mind.

II. Of the time of Christ's prayer we only read that it was "in those days," those Capernaum days. But whenever it was, it was on the eve of the election of the Twelve. The eves of all events are solemn calls to prayer. How many days would have been saved their bitter, bitter regrets, if there had been more praying yesterdays. Life is full of eves. All life is an eve. Few great events have no eve. And we cannot be too thankful to God for those hushes given us for probation. The secret of a happy life—the secret of eternity—is a well-spent eve.

III. Our blessed Lord did not always pray the livelong night. The manner in which the fact is mentioned here shows that it was quite exceptional, and He had the Spirit without measure. The general rule is, Pray according to the condition of your heart. Do not let the prayer strain the thoughts, but let the thoughts determine and regulate the prayer. Pray as you feel drawn in prayer, or, in other words, as the Spirit of God in you leads and dictates. The great thing is to have something really to say to God. Whatever you do, do not pray on for words' sake, or for length's sake. You honour God in prayer by saying and leaving, more than by saying and repeating. And be sure that you carry into prayer the principle which you are to carry into conversation, and never talk, either to man or to God Himself, above and beyond your real level.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1868, p. 101.


References: Luke 6:12.—W. H. Jellie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 196; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 798; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 289, vol. vi., p. 270; G. Salmon, Sermons in Trinity College, Dublin, p. 171. Luke 6:12, Luke 6:13.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 129; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 319. Luke 6:12-16.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 30. Luke 6:13.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 344; H. P. Liddon, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 129. Luke 6:13-16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 223; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 88. Luke 6:13-17.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 97. Luke 6:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 639. Luke 6:15, Luke 6:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. xii., p. 43. Luke 6:17-49.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 41; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 110.


Verse 13

Luke 11:13

I. Whilst prayer is described in the Bible as a positive duty, man's inability to pray acceptably of himself is stated in the strongest and most unequivocal terms. But if such be the nature of prayer he alone who has the Spirit can really pray. It would seem to follow that the gift of the Holy Spirit must precede all effectual asking for that gift, and that consequently there may be but little worth in such promises as that of our text. It is amongst the most frequent of pulpit addresses, that the unconverted must seek the aid of God's Spirit by prayer, and that moved by fear of the wrath on which the preacher has poured all the energy of his descriptions, they shall go straightway to their closets and entreat forgiveness of the Almighty. But what becomes of all this if the unconverted have no power of praying—if they are not in a condition to ask for God's Spirit, inasmuch as the asking presupposes them to have it already? There is a difficulty here, but one which may be readily overcome; for long before the Spirit is possessed, as a renewing agent, He may be dwelling in man's breast as a striving agent. He does so probably in every man, certainly in every man who has been baptized into Christ. If the Spirit strive, as He often does, by exciting a desire after conversion, and by urging the duty of praying for conversion; and if the man on whom the agency works, cherish the desire and fall down on his knees; shall we not have the offering of acceptable petition, and that by an unrenewed man, and nevertheless through the operations of the Holy Ghost?

II There seems nothing wanting in this argument but a fuller demonstration that the Holy Ghost does indeed strive with unconverted men. We will fetch this fuller demonstration from the power and the agency of conscience. There is something in every man which tells him of the rightness of virtue and of the wrongness of vice, which spreads over the whole soul a feeling of satisfaction when he does what it directs, and a feeling of remorse and uneasiness whenever there is the hardihood to thwart its decisions. If you took away conscience and introduced the striving agency of God's Spirit, there would practically be the same circumstances in human condition; so that the man who has a conscience, a conscience which warns him back when he would overstep the boundary line of virtue, is situated as another would be, who, without a conscience, was striven with by the Spirit. It is, therefore, in perfect consistency with all those doctrines of Scripture, which represent man as himself incapable of supplication that we press on the unconverted the duty of praying for conversion, and encourage them by the declaration of the text.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,018.

References: Luke 11:13.—A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 48; Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 210; Ibid., vol. xxi., p. 362; Ibid., vol. xii., pp. 94, 193; Homilist, vol. i., p. 370; new series, vol. iv., p. 120.


Verse 14

Luke 11:14

I. "Jesus was casting out a devil, and it was dumb." What is the message to us? Look at the Greek word here translated "dumb." That Greek word means, in its first use, blunt, obtuse; and so a blunted or lamed man in tongue. Mark here, then, the first lesson enshrined in this little word. The power of speech was in that tongue, but that power was not presently available. The machinery of articulation was perfect, had once been used, but an intruding hand had grasped the driving-wheel, and the machinery was still. We are shown beyond all question that the man was under the possession of an intrusive force, how the once invited guest had at length become the domineering tormentor, how the once permitted suggestion had in course of time changed into the tyrant habit of a captive life. It is always so with permitted sin. The incarnation of the blessed God has greatly weakened the force of evil. And yet, is there not here an accurate picture of what is going on around us? Allowed sin always masters a man in time. The man may loathe his master, yet he obeys him; he may fear his master, yet still he does his hateful bidding.

II. The change wrought by the tempter is threefold; a blunted tongue, a defective hearing, a dulled mind. All these are implied in that one Greek word. The silencing process employed by Satan is a gradual process—a slight impeding of the freedom of action—a little poison of sin which gently impedes the circulation of the spiritual life. So surely as the unused muscle or the long-bandaged limb loses strength, so does the impeded soul lose its power of communing with God, a neglected faculty becomes a withering faculty. A religion that becomes mechanical stops of itself. And of such, what, then, is the cure? The old heathen philosophy honestly confessed that it could find no cure. "Plato," said Socrates, "perhaps the gods can forgive deliberate sin, but I do not see how." In the life and death of Christ the Saviour the mystery is solved, and the cure is made plain. We can look up to Christ even when our spirits are most dull, even when our prayers are most heavy, even when the whole soul seems weighed down, oppressed, silenced by the sin in our nature. We can look up to Him when we begin to struggle for the mastery with the bad habit of a lifetime, with the coldness of years, with the carelessness of a long duration. We can bring ourselves before Him, relying on His words of faithful promise, "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out."

B. Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 209.


References: Luke 11:14.—J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 223; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 60. Luke 11:14-16.—G. G. Bradley, Christian world Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 193. Luke 11:14-28.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 58; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 144. Luke 11:14-54.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 190. Luke 11:20.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 125; Ibid., vol. v., p. 80. Luke 11:21.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 112; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 213. Luke 11:21, Luke 11:22.—Ibid., vol. iv., p. 89. Luke 11:21-26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 613. W. L. Alexander, Good Words, vol. ii., pp. 243-7; Ibid., vol. vi., p. 660.


Verse 23

Luke 11:23

(with Luke 9:49-50)

The Antagonism of Indifference.

I. When we place these two sayings side by side, it seems clear enough from the very fact of its solemn utterance as a maxim universal to all, and even from the critical circumstances which called it forth, that the first of my texts is to be taken as the leading and the governing principle. It was spoken at a time when our Lord's mission, now far advanced, was forcing itself upon its enemies as a terrible reality, and when His miracles were startling into adoration the wondering people. Then the Pharisees spoke out a cavil which, St. Matthew tells us, had been uttered before: "He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." The words of the text hardly seem to be addressed to these bitter and determined enemies. It was on the people that the stern incisive words of the text broke in like the sound of a trumpet, warning them that they must not idly accept a suspension of belief—that they must make up their mind, and take their side. The other occasion was a very different one. Our Lord accepted what He knew to be a real but an imperfect homage—a homage of a true belief, although that belief had not led, as it ought to have led, to the great sacrifice of following the Lord. He would give it at least some crumbs from the table of His blessing; He would cast over it, at least, the skirts of a negative protection. "No man," said He, "who can work a miracle in My Name will lightly speak evil of Me. He that is not against us is on our side."

II. In these divided days, the call to do is louder than ever. We can recognise the true service of God, even if it be not in what we think the most excellent way. Let us hold our own line—the more distinctly, the more fervently, the more resolutely, the better; and yet, unless it absolutely cross the path of our duty, we need not forbid, and we need not thwart, it. In that threefold battle for truth, for right, for godliness, there is room enough and there is work enough for all.

Bishop Barry, Penny Pulpit, No. 800.

References: Luke 11:23.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 158; J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 213. Luke 11:24-26.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 96. Luke 11:26.—J. Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 134. Luke 11:27.—J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 233. Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1920; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 176; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 206; T. C. Finlayson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 24. Luke 11:28.—T. Islip, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 110. Luke 11:29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 898. Luke 11:30-32.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 115. Luke 11:31.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1600; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race and Other Sermons, p. 199. Luke 11:33.—S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 252; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 354.


Verse 35

Luke 11:35

I. Through the avenues of conscience, which is to the soul what the eye is to the body, communications from God are always pouring in. In nature, in providence, but still more by His Word, and by His own inward grace, He acts upon the man. The understanding is formed, the reason is directed, the affections are moved, the will is urged, holy influences stream in upon the inner being. And this process, up to a certain point at least in every man's life, is continually going on. To what a height this inward light is capable of being raised by culture it is impossible for us to estimate, seeing no man has ever cherished it as much as he might. But did we pray, and study, and listen, and obey the still small voice as we ought, there would be no limit to the degree in which the judgment would be directed, the heart softened, the will conformed, the thoughts made sunny, the future assured, the love of God dominant, and heaven foretasted. For if the eye be single, the whole body is full of light.

II. But it is a truth too certain, that all this light, with which God beams upon us, is capable, not only of being hindered and resisted and destroyed, but, worse than that, of being actually converted into a deeper darkness—becoming a medium of spiritual blindness, or casting the soul into a more utter night. For there is no death so locked as that which once lived the most—there is no blackness so black as the shrouded day— there is no soul so dark as the soul that was once illumined. The grieved light goes away from some men, and no marvel now what step they take in the dark, when the Holy Ghost is gone. It is like a traveller, overtaken by the night in a dark wood. What was clear is now misty and shrouded. The precious jewel looks like a stone—or the stones may look like the most precious jewels. Shadows pass in the wood for substances, and substances for shadows. Their outline is undefined—there is no faculty to separate between the real and the false—between the vile and the good. But do not say of any one you love, do not say of yourself, that there is a night set in, which must last for ever. If there be still one latent consciousness of this light, and if there be in your heart the slightest wish for that light again, I do not fear to say that the morn is breaking, and I see the horizon tipped with light for you. For that Spirit lives in your soul, and is the same, who once moved upon just such a chaos, and just such a darkness as is going on in your mind, and He said to it, "Let there be light": and there was light.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1868, p. 28.


References: Luke 11:35.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. x., p. 150. Luke 11:36.—Philpott, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 78. Luke 11:37-47.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 15; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., pp. 314, 316; E. Conder, Drops and Rocks, p. 194. Luke 11:40.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 219. Luke 11:41.—J. E. Tonge, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. v., p. 318. Luke 11:44.—D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 191. Luke 11—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 172.



 


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 11:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/luke-11.html.

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