One day he was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, "Master, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
So he said, "When you pray, say, Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil."
Then he said, "Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread.
An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don't have a thing on hand.'
"The friend answers from his bed, 'Don't bother me. The door's locked; my children are all down for the night; I can't get up to give you anything.'
"But let me tell you, even if he won't get up because he's a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he'll finally get up and get you whatever you need.
"Here's what I'm saying: Ask and you'll get; Seek and you'll find; Knock and the door will open.
"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in.
If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?
If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider?
As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing - you're at least decent to your own children. And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?"
Jesus delivered a man from a demon that had kept him speechless. The demon gone, the man started talking a blue streak, taking the crowd by complete surprise.
But some from the crowd were cynical. "Black magic," they said. "Some devil trick he's pulled from his sleeve."
Others were skeptical, waiting around for him to prove himself with a spectacular miracle.
Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, "Any country in civil war for very long is wasted. A constantly squabbling family falls to pieces.
If Satan cancels Satan, is there any Satan left? You accuse me of ganging up with the Devil, the prince of demons, to cast out demons,
but if you're slinging devil mud at me, calling me a devil who kicks out devils, doesn't the same mud stick to your own exorcists?
But if it's God's finger I'm pointing that sends the demons on their way, then God's kingdom is here for sure.
"When a strong man, armed to the teeth, stands guard in his front yard, his property is safe and sound.
But what if a stronger man comes along with superior weapons? Then he's beaten at his own game, the arsenal that gave him such confidence hauled off, and his precious possessions plundered.
"This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you're not on my side, you're the enemy; if you're not helping, you're making things worse.
"When a corrupting spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn't find anyone, it says, 'I'll go back to my old haunt.'
On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant.
It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he'd never gotten cleaned up in the first place."
While he was saying these things, some woman lifted her voice above the murmur of the crowd: "Blessed the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed!"
Jesus commented, "Even more blessed are those who hear God's Word and guard it with their lives!"
As the crowd swelled, he took a fresh tack: "The mood of this age is all wrong. Everybody's looking for proof, but you're looking for the wrong kind. All you're looking for is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. But the only proof you're going to get is the Jonah-proof given to the Ninevites, which looks like no proof at all.
What Jonah was to Nineveh, the Son of Man is to this age.
"On Judgment Day the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about 'proofs.'
On Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will come forward and bring evidence that condemns this generation, because she traveled from a far corner of the earth to listen to wise Solomon. Wisdom far greater than Solomon's is right in front of you, and you quibble over 'evidence.'
"No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It's put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they're going.
Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body. If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar.
Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don't get musty and murky.
Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room." Frauds!
When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner. He entered his house and sat right down at the table.
The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn't wash up before the meal.
But the Master said to him, "I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil.
Stupid Pharisees! Didn't the One who made the outside also make the inside?
Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands.
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God's love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.
"You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You love sitting at the head table at church dinners, love preening yourselves in the radiance of public flattery.
Frauds! You're just like unmarked graves: People walk over that nice, grassy surface, never suspecting the rot and corruption that is six feet under."
One of the religion scholars spoke up: "Teacher, do you realize that in saying these things you're insulting us?"
He said, "Yes, and I can be even more explicit. You're hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.
"You're hopeless! You build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed.
The tombs you build are monuments to your murdering ancestors more than to the murdered prophets.
That accounts for God's Wisdom saying, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, but they'll kill them and run them off.'
What it means is that every drop of righteous blood ever spilled from the time earth began until now,.
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was struck down between altar and sanctuary, is on your heads. Yes, it's on the bill of this generation and this generation will pay.
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars! You took the key of knowledge, but instead of unlocking doors, you locked them. You won't go in yourself, and won't let anyone else in either."
As soon as Jesus left the table, the religion scholars and Pharisees went into a rage. They went over and over everything he said,
plotting how they could trap him in something from his own mouth.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)