Lord, teach us to pray
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’”
Prayer must be one of the most exhaustive subjects in the Bible. You find it all the way from Genesis to Revelation, and very much a part of the very fabric of human life spanning all of human history. Spiritual history has been created and woven by the prayers of those whose lives were marked by the presence of God and their relationship with him. In some cases, their very lives and the lives of those around them were shaped by their prayers. In other cases, their own nation and the nations around them were also shaped and destined by their prayers. The Bible itself bears witness to the truth that it is prayer influencing the hand of God that has molded and shaped and channeled all events beginning with the fall of man up to his redemption that came through Christ Jesus, up to the present time. And we are confident also that prayer continues to be the agent through which God is fulfilling his will to bring about the reign of his Son, at the coming of his Kingdom. And that’s the scope and power and glory of prayer— the very subject we’re attempting to study for the coming few weeks.
When we think about the enormity of the subject of prayer, and look at what prayer is and what prayer does, we are confounded by the magnitude and significance of prayer. Yet, as complex as prayer may seem, at the same time, it is amazingly simple in essence. It is so simple such that any living human being has the capacity for prayer. As enormous and complex as prayer seems to be, there is also no human being on earth who does not know to pray to God. As much as we are born with an innate knowledge of God engraved on our inner being— so also are we born with an innate knowledge of, as well as an inclination for prayer. It is very much a part of our very nature— it’s like second nature! As much as breathing is to the body, so also is prayer like breathing of the soul. In other words, prayer is an intimate component of every human life. What I am saying is that anyone can pray— believer and non believer alike. A person needs only lift up their voice to God and utter some words of heart; that would be prayer. But here is the reality of things: As simple as prayer is, it remains to be the most *intangible, most *misinterpreted, most *neglected and most *difficult of all spiritual labors under heaven. For this reason, we humble ourselves and invite the Lord to bless our study on prayer so that we might know a little more of this most important yet neglected of spiritual labors before God.
Since prayer is such an intense and exhaustive of Biblical subjects, it will be hard to organize this series into lectures that flow and connect with each other in an orderly fashion. I have decided to best deal with the theme of prayer according to issues of relevance— issues that I believe would shed light on our understanding of prayer in such a way as to help us piece together the various aspects that constitute prayer. I will study the theme of prayer based on how I have personally come to grips with understanding this great subject of prayer; and what was most relevant to me in grasping its importance and encouraging me towards fulfilling this most holy of spiritual labors in life and ministry. The question is where to start! And I believe the best place to start is right here in Luke 11:1(b). “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” We will therefore start our series on prayer right here with “Lord teach us to pray.” It is not hard to understand why this is the best place for us to begin. We need to be taught prayer, and the best teacher is the Lord himself.
By now, the disciples had been with the Lord for quite a while. They had traveled with him from place to place and had observed what he said and did. And of all that they had seen in him, his prayer life didn’t escape their notice. They had seen him pray on many occasions. They may not have said anything about the subject of prayer, but they had certainly understood something very important: That there is a powerful sort of connect between his wondrous life and outward works, and his inner life of prayer. They had recognized in him a Master of prayer, and had known that no one could pray like him. And one day they came to him with a request saying: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Years later, they came to understand that of all the things they had learned from Jesus, nothing had been more significant and blessed as the lessons about prayer that they learned from him.
Now as it happened, one day when the disciples saw that Jesus was praying in a certain place, they felt this great and urgent need to request something of him: “Lord”, they said, “teach us to pray.” In the same way, as we grow in our Christian lives, the faith of our Lord Jesus expressed in his life of prayer becomes more precious and meaningful to us. And our hope of imitating his prayer life becomes more appealing to us than anything else. And as we observe him pray, we know in our hearts that there is no one who could pray like him, and no one who could teach like him. Then we deeply come to understand how much we ourselves need to say the same prayer as the disciples did: “Lord, teach us to pray”. And when we think about who Jesus is, and all that he has given us in himself, there can be no doubt in our hearts that all we need do is but ask him: “Lord, teach us to pray” and he will be delighted to draw us ever so near in fellowship with himself, and would teach us to pray as he himself prays. Let’s ask the Lord Jesus, then, to enroll our names in his school of prayer, and say to him as his disciples did: “Lord, teach us to pray.” “Lord, we really want to learn to pray. Please be our teacher. Teach me to pray like you.”
“Lord, teach us to pray”. This is exactly what we so desperately need to learn! Initially, prayer is simple enough that any child of God can pray. But simple as it may be, we should know that prayer itself is the highest and holiest of labors that any child of God can ever rise to. We can classify prayer in many ways. But fundamentally prayer is a high and holy office. It is so because prayer is in essence communion and fellowship with the holy and Invisible and Majestic God. Prayer has the power to steer lives as well as steer the world. It has the power to mold and to shape and to guide all things in this world as well as in the eternal world. Prayer is the very heart and expression of faith. It is the channel of all blessings. It is the secret of power and life. And prayer is not only for ourselves alone as if prayer was a selfish and self-serving labor. But prayer is that secret power that shapes and blesses others, a power for the church, and a power for the world. It is in and through prayer that God has given us the right to call on him, to take hold of him and his mighty strength. It is on prayer that all the promises of the Bible are waiting to be fulfilled. It is on prayer that the coming of the kingdom of God depends. It is on prayer that the glory of God awaits to be fully revealed. I know that all that is said here is a little too lofty and a little too difficult to comprehend all at once. But as we continue our series, we will eventually come understand much more about the office of prayer and of the power of God in and through prayer as we turn our hearts to the Lord with the request: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
But in all this blessed and important labor that we as Christians are called to do through prayer, we cannot but recognize and confess how sluggish and unfit we are in prayer! And we are convinced that only by the Spirit of God are we enabled to do this work of prayer, and to do it correctly, the way God would have us pray. When we think about our own prayers, at times, our prayers are too formal and too ceremonial and could easily deceive us into thinking that we are praying effectively, when we are not! Think about how easily it is for us to become habitual in our prayer and how often they are shaped by our emotions such that they lack any real power. What I am saying is that we need to learn to pray from the Master, so that our prayers may not lack power but be greatly effective in moving heaven and earth. True prayer— the kind of prayer that uses God’s strength and draws from it— is the kind of prayer that is powerful and effective that the gates of heaven open wide in response. Do we now see how important and urgent it is for us to ask: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus’ life and ministry are themselves a school for teaching the redeemed children of God— especially those who desire it— the power of prayer and how to make it their own. Shall we not knock the door down, and say: “Lord, this is exactly what I need in my life. I want to be taught to pray from you. Would you please teach me to pray.”
“Lord, teach us to pray.” The Old Testament is a record of the power by which God’s people prayed and of the wonders that were done in answer to their prayers. And think about it! If what was done, was done under the old covenant, how much more will God do now that the age of grace has come upon us and the promises have been fulfilled. There is no doubt that the Lord God wants more than anything, to reveal his presence among us in the same way as he had always done, if we would only know to pray. If God Almighty has done wonders through the early Christians and down through the generations as he dwelt with his people, will he not do the same with us who now call on his name! We read of the labors of the saints of the 19th & 20th centuries, how they trusted God and expressed their faith through prayer. They were men and women like us, with the same passions and weaknesses as ourselves. But they experienced the power of God when they prayed. Why shouldn’t it be the same for us today? It just takes faith, that prays believing the Word of God is true. We have been redeemed by the same precious blood of Jesus. We have been given the same Holy Spirit. We have risen and ascended together with the Lord to sit with him in heavenly places. The promises that were given for our ancestors have also been given to us. The powers and the gifts that were given to them, were also given for us as well. So it should be our faith that these heavenly treasures are also at our disposal as well. “’Lord, teach us to pray’ so that we too might receive as abundantly as they did. Lord teach us to pray so that we too might be entrusted with your work— that your kingdom might come— that your will be done— that your glory may be revealed.” Therefore, “Lord, teach us to pray”. We offer ourselves to you as students, because we so eagerly want to be taught by you!
‘Lord, teach us to pray.” We feel the great need of being taught to pray. As we grow as Christians from babes to toddlers to more mature Christians, it is amazing how easy prayer comes to us at first. Later on, as we mature in Christ, it is amazing how difficult prayer becomes. We come to see and know more and more how urgent it is for us to confess: “Lord, teach me to pray, because I really don’t know how to pray as I should.” We have God’s word, and his promises for sure. But sin has a way of darkening our minds and hearts so that we do not know how, or are not sure how to apply the word of God. We seem to not seek what we should seek. We fail to pray according to our most urgent needs. God has given us the liberty to approach him in prayer and to ask him for whatever we need. But even if we know what we need to ask for, there is something we need to think about very carefully; Even if we ask for what we need to ask for, what would guarantee God’s acceptance of our prayers! What I am saying is that even when we pray for what God has promised to give us, there is still need for us to learn to pray in the way acceptable to God. This is a lesson for another time. But our prayers must all be for the glory of God. Nothing less would empower our prayers. Our prayers must be done in full surrender to his will. Nothing less would achieve results. Our prayers must be done in the full assurance of faith! Nothing else would be acceptable. Our prayers must be made in the blessed name of Jesus. And they must be offered with perseverance, the kind of perseverance that refuses to be denied. (The “I will not take no for an answer” kind of attitude)
What I am saying is that all this must be learned. It can only be learned in the school of prayer, with much practice until perfection. In the middle of our painful awareness that we are so ignorant of God’s ways and of prayer; and in the middle of our awareness of how unworthy we are before the Living God; as we struggle to overcome our doubts, and believe by faith; In the middle of all that, the heavenly art of powerful and effective prayer needs be learned. And who could teach us better than our Lord Jesus himself! Yet, even when we stumble and fall, we have One in heaven, the author of our faith and prayer— he watches over our praying and our prayer, and sees to it to that when we trust him for this holy education in the school of prayer, he will absolutely carry it out in us to perfection. So, as we pray this prayer, let us be humble before him and most importantly, let us be teachable! How can we be teachable? We can be teachable if we humbly acknowledge our ignorance and desperate need to be taught. We can be teachable if our faith is in him as our loving and perfect teacher, who makes sure that we will be taught all that we need to be taught in the school of prayer. We long to learn from him to pray. And we long to pray effectively in power. So let us believe that he will teach us to pray.
“Lord, teach us to pray.” No one can teach like Jesus, and no one but Jesus. So we should call on him, “Lord, teach me to pray.” A student naturally needs a teacher who knows his work; One who has the gift of teaching; One who is patient and loving enough to stoop down to our student’s needs; One who will rejoice in teaching us every step we need to take until we have graduated from the school of prayer. Blessed be the name of our Lord Jesus. He is all this and more! Jesus knows what prayer is. He himself is the essence of prayer. He learned it during his earthly life in the midst of his sufferings and tears. Now in heaven, prayer is still his glorious and cherished labor. In heaven, Jesus’ life is also prayer. And nothing makes him happier than to find those whom he can take with him into the Father’s presence; those whom he can clothe with power so that they might pray down God’s blessings on all around them; those whom he can train and discipline in prayer to become his fellow workers in the holy office of prayer through which the kingdom would come! Jesus really knows how to teach. He knows how to teach you and me. Perhaps he will first teach us by the urgency we feel in learning to pray. But surely later on, he will teach us by the confidence we have as we see the hand of God working to change us into his prayer warriors.
And he will teach us many things as well, and he will teach us through many means. He will teach us by his word. He will teach us by the testimony of others as their prayers are heard. He will teach us by the Holy Spirit who has access to our hearts and minds. He will teach us to pray by showing us the sins that hinder our prayer life. He teaches us by giving us the assurance that our prayers are pleasing and acceptable to God. He will teach us by giving us thoughts of what to ask for in prayer, and how to ask for them. He will teach us by breathing within us the spirit of prayer. He will teach us by living with us as our great intercessor. Indeed, who teaches like Jesus? None! Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, but only how to pray. Jesus did not teach them how to be good speakers, or excellent evangelists, but he spoke to them about praying. Knowing how to speak to God, is so much more important than how to speak to man. What’s important is not power with man or speaking with man, but power with God and speaking with God. That’s what’s important in our lives. Jesus would love to teach us how to pray. So isn’t this what we need, to ask the Master for a month to give us a course of special lessons on the art of prayer?
When we are convinced of our need to learn to pray, and dedicated to it, we can have the confidence to give ourselves fully to his teaching, and then earnestly pray for the Teacher to teach us to pray. He will breath his own life into us and guide us step by step until he has made us fellow prayer servants with himself. We will devote ourselves to prayer for the next few weeks, until God has blessed us by raising in us and among us a powerful and effective spirit of prayer. “Lord,” please, “teach us to pray.”
 *Intangible— because you cannot put your finger on it, what it is; It’s a mystery. *Misinterpreted— because prayer does not always bear results we expect and we have a tendency to engage our own interpretation. *Neglected— because those who should pray (or could pray) do not. *Difficult— because it engages the most intense of battles.
 I thank God for the inspiration and assistance I received through the beautiful writings of Andrew Murray on the subject of prayer.