Petition in Prayer

‘While he was praying in a certain place, after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples”‘ (Lk 11:1).

What prompted the disciples to ask, I wonder. Many of them were John’s disciples before they were Jesus’ disciples. Was there something different about Jesus practice of prayer that caused them to ask for teaching?

In any case, Jesus’ response was to give them what we call the Lord’s Prayer (Lk. 11:2-4). In Luke’s version, it’s told in a way that emphasises petition, asking for things – for the text immediately goes off into the parable of the friend at midnight, followed by the aphorism Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you (vv. 9-10).

I think other passages teach us that prayer isn’t simply filling in an order form and waiting for the delivery (as Luke shows in his own telling of the Gethsemane story, Lk. 22:39-44). But the aspect of asking and receiving is emphasised here (perhaps in deliberate dialogue with John the Baptist) and prayer cannot be fully understood (or practiced) without it.