Teach Us to Pray

*   (Luke 11:1-4 NIV)  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." {2} He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. {3} Give us each day our daily bread. {4} Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

There is a magnificent simplicity in this instruction. It consists of seven parts that might be deemed essential. Here they are.

1.      Father

2.      Hallowed be your name

3.      Your kingdom come

4.      Give us each day our daily bread

5.      Forgive us our sins

6.      For we also forgive everyone who sins against us

7.      And lead us not into temptation

This probably was not what the disciples were expecting. In that day as now men were known for their ability to offer eloquent and overlong prayers. And there certainly is a place for long prayers. We know Jesus prayed all night on occasion. But those prayers were private conversations with God and not something to impress bystanders! And, the prayer was His own.

 

You may remember the story of Captain Myles Standish, the captain of the Mayflower, who asked his friend John Alden to propose on his behalf to Priscilla Mullin. When John approached Priscilla with the proposal her reply was, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”  There are entire books of prayers but how useful are such prayers. Are they your prayers? Certainly not! I believe God would rather hear from you personally than from someone you don’t even know sending a prayer through you.  Perhaps He would paraphrase Priscilla Mullin and say, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, dear child?”

 

Prayer is communication with God! It can be public or most often private. Let’s look at each type of prayer.

 

Public prayer is common when we offer thanks for our food with our family and friends. Jesus gave us an example when he fed the multitude.

*   (Mat 14:17-20 NIV)  "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. {18} "Bring them here to me," he said. {19} And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. {20} They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

*   (Mat 15:36 NIV)  Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.

*    (Acts 27:35 NIV)  After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

 

 

We also often have public prayer when we gather together for a shared event on which we want God’s presence made manifest. Examples are graduations, convening of a court, or a meeting of a church. Public prayers are usually offered on behalf of the group gathered together. But in the case of Jesus on the cross he simply offered a public prayer for the people that persecuted Him.

*   (Luke 23:34 NIV)  Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Public prayer can be good and proper but private prayer is perhaps the prayer most important to us as individuals. It is in private prayer that we can have the best communications. In private prayer we have no time restrictions: We have no imperative to be eloquent or smooth: We have less reason to be careful about what we say and how we say it. God knows our heart and is not looking to pick at what we say or how we say it. God wants us to be real. Here are a few tips from Jesus Himself.

*   (Mat 6:5-13 NIV)  "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. {6} But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. {7} And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. {8} Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. {9} "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, {10} your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. {11} Give us today our daily bread. {12} Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. {13} And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'

So what kinds of things are appropriate to talk with God about? Notice the word I used is, “With” not, “To.” Prayer should not be a one-way street. We have a mouth to speak and ears to hear, we should use them both especially when talking with God.

*    Enemies and people you don’t like (Luke 6:27-28 NIV)  "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

*   Children  (Mat 19:13-15 NIV)  Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. {14} Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." {15} When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

*   Fellow Christians (John 17:3-9 NIV)  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. {4} I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. {5} And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. {6} "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. {7} Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. {8} For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. {9} I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

*   Intercessory prayer (Col 1:3-4 NIV)  We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, {4} because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—

*   (1 Th 5:25 NIV)  Brothers, pray for us.

*   (2 Th 1:11-12 NIV)  With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. {12} We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

*   (2 Th 3:1-2 NIV)  Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. {2} And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.

In fact there are no restrictions on what we talk about in prayer but we should certainly keep in mind that we are talking with God

*   (James 5:13-16 NIV)  Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. {14} Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. {15} And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. {16} Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

A most important aspect of prayer is faith and trust.

*   (James 1:5-8 NIV)  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. {6} But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. {7} That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; {8} he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Pray that God will help us to pray well.

*   (Rom 8:26-27 NIV)  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. {27} And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

So perhaps we should study the answer the Lord gave His disciples. It was not a formula but it was an outline of some essentials. The Lord’s Prayer was not intended to be an exhaustive discourse on prayer but a starter course on prayer. The Lord’s Prayer contains essentials that will lead us into a full-blown conversation. The Lord’s Prayer is more like the starting blocks in a race. It is intended to give us a great start. Above all, prayer should be a sacred communication between you and your God with Jesus as your mediator.

*   (1 Tim 2:5-6 NIV)  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, {6} who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

 

In conclusion: Don’t worry so much about how you pray. The important thing is not how you pray but rather that you do in fact pray and pray continually!