B Prayer

The other aspect of the childlike trust implicit in the above passage is given prominence elsewhere in Jesus' teaching and deserves separate comment — prayer. The children of the Father know that they can take their concerns and requests to God in confidence. This is clear already in the petitions of the Lord's Prayer, simple but basic in the concerns they voice. It is to God as Father that Jesus encourages his disciples to bring their requests for bread, for forgiveness, for deliverance from temptation (Matt. 6.9-13/Luke 11.2-4).52 Equally memorable is Jesus' assurance that God hears and answers prayer — (Matt.7.7-11/Luke 11.9-13):

Matt. 7.7-11

Luke 11,9-13

7 Ask. and it will be given vou;

9 So I sav to vou, Ask. and it will be given vou:

seek, and vou will find: knock, and the door will

seek, and vou will find: knock, and the door will

be opened for vou. 8 For evervone who asks

be opened for vou. 10 For evervone who asks

receives, and evervone who seeks finds, and for

and evervone who seeks finds, and for

evervone who knocks, the door will be opened.

evervone who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 Or what person among vou who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

11 What father among vou who. if vour son asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12

11 vou who are know

Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know

how to give good gifts to vour children, how

how to give good gifts to vour children, how

much more will vour Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

much more will the heavenlv Father give

Few question whether this teaching goes back to Jesus.53 It is not just an encouragement to persistent prayer54 but also an assurance of the eagerness of the Fa

52. Note how by adding the assurance that 'your Father knows what you need before you ask Mm' immediately before the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6.8; the same assurance as in 6.32), Matthew deliberately links the prayer to the subsequent teaching in 6.25-34.

53. Funk, Five Gospels 155; Lüdemann, Jesus 151. Note the typical performance variations (Matt. 7.9-10/Luke 11.11-12). It is presumably to Luke himself that we owe crystallisation of the 'good things' promised (Matthew) into 'the Holy Spirit', since the Spirit features more prominently in his Gospel (six appearances in Mark, twelve in Matthew, and seventeen in Luke). Partial echoes are retained in P.Oxy. 654 = GTh 2and GTh 92, 94. Note also John 16.23-24. Matt. 18.19 is probably an elaboration of the same motif as part of Matthew's 'community rule'. See also below, §15.7g (3).

54. Reinforced in the Greek by the present tenses: 'keep asking', 'keep seeking', 'keep knocking' (though see also Davies and Allison, Matthew 1.679-80). Luke further reinforces the point by appending the parable of the friend at midnight (Luke 11.5-8), another parable which, despite its sole attestation by Luke, is usually referred back to Jesus without difficulty (Funk, Five Gospels 327-28; Hultgren, Parables 233 n. 29; Lüdemann, Jesus 335); for discussion of detail see Bailey, Poet and Peasant 119-33; Catchpole, Quest 201-11; Hultgren 226-33. It is also Luke who records the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18.2-8, making the same point (see chapter n.

ther to give to his children.55 At the same time any suggestion that Jesus naively encouraged his disciples to ask anything from God and assured them that God would give them whatever they requested would itself be naive. The requests envisaged are of a piece with the Lord's Prayer petition for basic food needs (bread, fish, egg). And the assurance is not that God will give whatever is asked for but that whatever the Father gives will be good.

In short, the portrayal of discipleship in terms of childlike trust in and reliance on God as Father is consistent within the Jesus tradition. This emphasis should not be set in antithesis to the Jewish piety of the day, even if it can be regarded as an intensification of such piety. Nor should it be set in contrast to the understanding of God as king (§ since the absolute authority of the father is always bound up in the term and in the relationship implied, even if Jesus' teaching gave greatest emphasis to the aspect of fatherly care. Nor should it be lightly universalized, as though Jesus simply declared that all human beings were children of God, even if his stringent call for repentance and faith was in principle open to all. Granted these important qualifications, however, Jesus' teaching on the fatherhood of God remains one of the most distinctive and alluring features of the whole Jesus tradition.

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