Teaching from Experience (Luke 11:1–14)

Two thoughts from Luke 11: (1) It is striking to me how, in this Gospel, Jesus’ teaching on prayer immediately follows a scene where he himself is praying. (2) If you visualize when you read, verse 14 is quite the jolt. Is there a discernable flow to these passages, or is verse 14 supposed to hit like a class 3 white water rapid? Maybe both.


Chapter 11 opens with a couple dependent clauses that set the scene.

Luke 11:1
Καὶ ἐγένετοAnd so …
ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενονwhen he was in a certain place praying …
ὡς ἐπαύσατοand as he finished …

Now the scene is set for the delivery of three familiar blocks of teaching, one unique to Luke but two of which are located in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.

  1. “Lord’s Prayer” (Luke 11:2–4 // Mathew 6:9–13)
  2. Ecouragement to persist in prayer via the example of a knock on the door at midnight (Luke 11:5–8)
  3. “Knock and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9–13 // Matthew 7:7–11)

In Luke, it seems that these teaching overflow from Jesus’ own personal experience of prayer (Luke 11:1). When I reread Luke 11:1 knowing what follows, I imagine Jesus was praying in 11:1 with the attitude and demeanor he describes in 11:2–13.

Straight Tarantino

Then your hit verse 14, and we are in the middle of an exorcism. No words are spent setting a new scene. There is, however, a paragraph break in NA and THGNT. While that paragraph break doesn’t set a new scene, you might compare how it affects the reading experience to a cinematic fade to black. But the opening of the next scene throws the reader into the middle of action that stretches our imagination.

Luke 11:4
Καὶ ἦν ἐκβάλλων δαιμόνιον κωφόν.And he was casting out a demon that made its host unable to speak.

Verse 13 is one of the most comforting and calming verses where Jesus is arguing that the Father is ready and willing to give good things to his children. The argument even draws on our own experience with our children, and then … Verse 14: MIDDLE OF AN EXORCISM

Pulling it Together

Is there some way to reconcile verse 14 with the flow of the previous 13 verses? Perhaps all fourteen verses are intended to read as an overflow from Jesus’ expereince of prayer in 11:1. Maybe 1–13 explain how we should pray in light of how he prays, and verse 14 illustrates the power made available in prayer. I mean, the last words of 13 are “Your heavenly father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him,” and the next verse is the overthrow of an evil spirit.

No big conclusion to draw here, but today’s reading experience was interesting and memorable in these two ways.