“How to Pray” complex

LOY Commentary 2 Comments

David Bivin and Joshua Tilton propose a reconstruction of Jesus' teaching on how his disciples ought to pray and about the character of the God to whom their prayers are addressed.

During the period when Jesus was schooling his disciples, one of the disciples asked on behalf of the others that Jesus give them instruction regarding prayer. In response to this request, Jesus taught the disciples what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. After teaching them what to pray, Jesus further instructed the disciples on the character of the God to whom they pray. God is not a monster or a miser; he is neither an unscrupulous judge nor a boorish friend. The God to whom the disciples pray is a good father who knows how to give good gifts to his children, just as the disciples knew how to give good gifts to theirs.[1] On the basis of God’s character as the true judge of the nations, the faithful friend of humankind, and the loving father of all creation, Jesus encouraged his disciples to have full confidence when they prayed the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. God would indeed sanctify his name and vindicate his people, and he would indeed supply the disciples, who had cast themselves completely upon his care, with what they needed each day in order to serve him.

Matthew’s Gospel contains many of the pericopae that we believe originally belonged to the “How to Pray” complex, but not in their original order. Luke’s Gospel contains all of the pericopae that made up this literary complex, and, for the most part, in their original order.[2] It appears, however, that the author of Luke swapped out the more original form of the Lord’s Prayer, the one reflected in Matthew, for a simpler, less Hebraic form of the prayer, which he found in his second source, the First Reconstruction.

Click on the following titles to view the Reconstruction and Commentary for each pericope in the “How to Pray” complex.

Lord’s Prayer



Persistent Widow (coming soon)



Friend in Need (in preparation)



Fathers Give Good Gifts (in preparation)



Life Of YeshuaClick here to read the “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” which is essential for understanding the reconstructions and accompanying commentary.



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Click here to view the Scripture Key to “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.”


The image at the top of this page is of a painting entitled At the Entrance of the Wailing-Wall in Jerusalem by Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (oil on canvas, 1904). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • [1] At least one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, was married and may have had children prior to being engaged as a full-time disciple. There is no reason to suppose that there could not have been other full-time disciples in a similar situation.
  • [2] Cf. Montefiore, 118; Knox, 2:60-61. The author of Luke seems to have removed the Persistent Widow parable from its original location in order to include it in his discourse on the Son of Man (Luke 17:22-18:8). Bivin and Tilton owe the suggestion that the Lord’s Prayer, Persistent Widow, Friend in Need, and Fathers Give Good Gifts pericopae all belonged to a narrative-sayings complex on prayer to Robert Lindsey. See Lindsey, JRL, 111-113.