Teach Us to Pray

I have spent the last couple of days at some denominational meetings.  Sounds thrilling, I know, but they were actually a good couple of days.  One morning before we started our meetings, there was a time of worship, prayer, and then a message.  The message was brought by Chuck Lawless.  Chuck is one of the VPs at the International Mission Board and is also the interim pastor at a nearby sister church.  Chuck’s topic was prayer in the Gospel of Luke.  As he was teaching, I saw something I had never seen before.  I am sure we are all familiar with the Lord’s Prayer.  In Luke it is found in chapter 11:1ff.  The Lord gives us this prayer upon the request of one of the disciples who actually says, “Teach us to pray.”  I had never really thought much about the context of that question.  They are with Jesus, learning a lot about God and serving Him.  Seems like a pretty natural topic to discuss.  I can almost see them getting their textbook out and one of the disciples saying, “Hey, could we look at this chapter on prayer.  I am just not getting it.”

So here is what I had not noticed before.  The request came right after Jesus said, “Amen.”  He had actually been praying.  They were listening.  They were watching, and that is when they said, “Hey, I want to know how to do that.”  But it wasn’t just that moment right there.  Check out Luke 4:42, 5:15, 6:12, 9:15 and 18.  As the disciples followed Jesus they saw Him praying all the time.  He made efforts to get away and pray alone.  He prayed alone, but in their presence.  He prayed with them.  He prayed for ministry and before ministry.  When He prayed, things happened.  This is when it dawned on me that when the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, it wasn’t just a theological discussion or a spiritual discipline that was next on the agenda.  They had watched Jesus, listened to Jesus, pray over and over, and finally one day when He said, “Amen,” one of them finally said, “Would you teach me to do that?”

Now our disciples were Jews.  They grew up in the Jewish faith.  They had been around prayers their whole lives.  They no doubt themselves prayed, but clearly, not like that.  I am guessing our story would be much like theirs.  We know we are to pray.  We have heard a lot of prayers and maybe said a lot of prayers.  A lot of us do not feel very confident that we are very good at it.  The disciples experience with prayer was probably just like ours, but when they heard Jesus pray, “That’s it.  Right there.  That has to be what prayer is.”  I think part of what they saw was intimacy.  Jesus was talking and relating with His Father.  It sounded close.  It sounded good.  It sounded like Jesus actually believed He was being heard and that it would make a difference.  I think that is probably the other part of what they saw: results.  When Jesus prayed, things happened.

As I listened to Chuck that morning and thought these above thoughts I began to feel bad about what I had shown people, primarily my children about prayer.  None of my kids has ever come to me and said, “Hey Dad, would you show me how you pray like that.”  Why would any believer not want their prayer life to be such that others, especially if they have children, would not come to them and ask?  I think I have a very strong, consistent, personal prayer life.  I think it is about the most important thing in my life, but I am not sure that has always translated to what others see when I am praying with them.  As I thought about them asking Jesus, I wondered what my kids have seen.  Well, they see me pray for food.  They see some prayers that probably come off sounding like a formality: we are praying here because that is what we do at the end of the day or before we go on a trip.  But do they see passion and priority in prayer.

You might be wondering where I am going with this.  I am guessing most of us would just like to learn to pray better or more consistently.  Having a prayer life that others want isn’t even on our radar.  But wait a minute.  Aren’t we followers of Jesus?  Do we not strive to live and be as He lived and was?  If His prayer life drew others to ask, should we not strive for the same?  Maybe we have set our target too low.  I am not talking about trumping out some kind of prayer to impress people.  I am talking about living and relating with God in such a way that it is evident in our prayer lives and people say, “Hey, I want that.”

Pray about it.


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