Martha and the Lord’s Prayer

The disciples watched Jesus closely as He prayed. They were captivated and quiet in this instance. When He was finished, they asked Him for a specific teaching on the practice of prayer.

Take note that this happened “in a certain place” according to the report we examine in Luke 11, verses 1-4. It tells us that a place for prayer was part of the pattern that Jesus followed.

The disciples were used to praying. Several of them had learned from John the Baptist. But in this place and at this time, the power of the Savior’s way astonished them. They had to learn more from the Master.

Before we jump into the lesson of the Lord’s Prayer itself, look at the end of Luke 10. What we read there has some connection to Jesus’ great teaching moment on praying (see Luke 10:38-42).

Picture Jesus as He sat among some of His dearest friends. He was in the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. These sisters and brother, though related, were very different people.

Martha was the get it done type. She was happy to have Jesus at her table, but she also was beholden to providing a certain level of hospitality. This was her focus and she was lost in it, according to this account.

And then she got harried. Sister Mary was with Jesus, listening as He spoke, hanging on His words, as were the others there.

Frustrated at the state of things, Martha did something, and it seems from my reading, that it was something she felt within her rights to do. She interrupted Jesus:  “Lord, tell Mary to help me.”

What? Martha, what were you thinking? Jesus was talking here. Eternal words were being spoken. And she barged in seeking help in the kitchen. Well, it’s not as if she had asked Jesus to turn water into wine as another Mary had done.

Bold Before Jesus

I tend to read more into the relationship element at play in that room. Martha knew Jesus and knew Him well, perhaps too well. In this case, her familiarity and annoyance got the best of her.

A lot of people like to harp on Jesus’ response:  “Martha, Martha you are cumbered about with many things. Mary has chosen the good part and it won’t be taken from her.”

Was Martha put in her place? I don’t think so. She was admonished, for sure. But I purpose to listen for the gentleness in Jesus and His words as I read this. And I marvel at Martha’s faith, a child-like faith that also would become mature faith.

I can say this because I have read the gospel of John, chapters 11 and 12. In those passages, Martha is shown to be a woman who knows Jesus and also one who knows the truth. It seems to me that she heard things as Jesus taught them. Somehow I think Martha managed to get the good parts while still being very much Martha. Could it be that as she listened to Jesus she learned to love the person she had been made to be and that this made her an even more effective and relaxed servant of the Lord?

Could it be that as Martha listened to Jesus she learned to love the person she had been made to be and that this made her an even more effective and relaxed servant of the Lord? Click To Tweet

To me, her boldness is worthy of admiration. This is why I think what happened with Martha set up what happened in that certain place where Jesus taught us to pray and how to do it.

The disciples got a very good part, but notice they were careful not to interrupt Jesus as He prayed. When He stopped, they made their request. Martha asked for help, and the disciples asked for help.

Asking Jesus for help — what an amazing thing to consider. When you’re frustrated, perplexed, and all caught up in your concerns and the things you have to do, go to Jesus. He may make new wine, or He may do something else. Either way, you’re going to get something out of Him. Jesus did not send Mary to the kitchen, but He did give Martha His attention and His instruction.

How many of us would have turned from that moment offended and bitter? It’s a big question for all of us.

I think Martha already understood the real element behind the prayer outline Jesus shared with the disciples. She believed that the Lord would listen to her. And she would not stop coming to Him and she would always express what was on her mind — “Lord, Lazarus has been dead four days — he likely stinks.” She actually said that, to the Lord as He prepared to call Lazarus back to life. (For the whole story, see John 11:17-44.)

Personal and Direct

How is one to start out in prayer? Open your mouth this way, Jesus said: “Our Father who art in Heaven. …”

Be personal and direct. Be like Martha. Be bold, be forward. Get in God’s face. Storm Heaven with any and all requests. When in need, why take things quietly? Go to the Lord.

The prayer lesson emphasizes the nature of God in its breadth and height. He is the personal Father. We’re His children and He loves to hear us. He is ready to put the daily bread on the table He’s prepared for us; some days He sets the table in the presence of our enemies. He’s a faithful forgiving Father who also gives us His power to forgive as He forgives. He is the Father who leads in the way we should go, the One who teaches us discernment and how to turn from temptation.

Our Father is also our King, the King, the Sovereign Lord over all things as the Maker of all things. His will shall be done here on Earth. Heaven’s decrees are from everlasting to everlasting. He’s our Deliverer, the One who triumphs over the evil one.

Father King, we come to You. Teach us afresh the power of the Prayer. With big things and small things, we come to You. You hear us. You know us. You lead us. Help us to never lose sight of this.


Steve Andrulonis
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