While doing some research on prayer, I came across the story of the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray!” Jesus had been praying to His heavenly Father in front of the disciples, and when he finished, they asked him for help in their prayer life. I was intrigued! What was it about Jesus’ prayers that caused the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them to pray?
Teach Us to Pray Scripture
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’...” Luke 11:1a.
The disciples had observed Jesus praying many times. They could see the importance of prayer in His life.
They must have noticed something about the prayer life of Jesus that was different. It made them want to learn how to pray as He did.
We receive a clue about how Jesus prayed in the previous chapter in Luke. We see Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” praying “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” Luke 10:21a.
What a beautiful picture of the power of prayer! No wonder Jesus’ disciples wanted to learn to pray as Jesus did! He prayed in a way that was altogether Spirit-filled and new to them.
The apostle Paul reminds us: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6:18.
Prayers of Jesus
Sometimes I forget that Jesus and the disciples were faithful and devoted Jewish men. They would have prayed many Jewish prayers.
By custom, the Jews had a daily prayer at sunrise, 3 pm (coordinating with the daily afternoon sacrifice in the temple), and at nightfall. They included the Jewish creed (taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-7), blessings, and prayers sung as hymns.
Traditional Jewish prayers were also said before and after each meal, at Sabbath and Passover, and during worship. They recited these prayers word for word as given by God through their ancestors.
The disciples already had a very full prayer life! But they heard Jesus praying and wanted more.
They wanted to pray as He did- with a power, passion and an intimacy they had never seen before.
What Jesus Taught about Prayer
In response to the disciple’s request, Jesus begins his instructions with “When you pray…” Luke 11:2.
Notice he said not IF you pray, but when you pray.
Jesus knew the obstacles that lay ahead for the prayer lives of His disciples (and us!)
He knew they would need a powerful connection with Him and the Father to make their way through the world. They would need a strong prayer life to keep them in a close, ongoing personal relationship with Him!
Bible Verses that Teach us How to Pray
Jesus explained that He wants our motives in prayer to be pure and humble. We are cultivating an intimate relationship with our Father when we pray.
In Matthew 6:6a He tells his disciples to “go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”
He wasn’t forbidding public or group prayer. He was speaking of one’s motives for praying.
Jesus saw right through those who would pray more in public than in private. It revealed their true desire in prayer- human praise.
“And 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.” Matthew 6:5.
Our prayer “audience” has only one member- Jesus. Our prayers should reflect our relationship with Him.
In verse 7 Jesus tells us “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
Jesus wasn’t forbidding lengthy prayer either. We know there were times he prayed all night long!
He told the disciples a Parable in Luke 18 (the Parable of the Persistent Widow) to show them “they should always pray and not give up.” v1.
Why We Pray
•His point was to avoid meaningless, impersonal, lengthy prayer. Length does not give more authenticity to our prayers.
•Our purpose in prayer is not to convince God of anything. Prayer is a way to communicate with him in a sincere, loving, genuine way.
•Remember- heartfelt prayer laid at the feet of Jesus are like sweet incense (Rev 5:8)♥ He loves to hear from us!
Teach Us How to Pray
Matthew 6:9- “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”
Jesus Calls God “Father”
The prayers of Jesus recorded in the Bible almost exclusively have Him calling God “Father.”
What did the disciples think of this new wrinkle in prayer?? The Jewish people would never have dared to address God as “Father” – Abba– the word meant Daddy.
They would have felt it was disrespectful. It was the name the disciples would have called their own human fathers.
Calling God their Father was a radical way for them to pray!
It shocked and angered the religious leaders that Jesus claimed he had a Father/Son relationship with the divine God. They considered it blasphemy.
“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:18 (ESV)
But Jesus is telling us directly that the creator of Heaven and earth is also our tender, loving and compassionate “Daddy.” He has given us the green light to come before the King of the Universe and call him our Father.
Yes, He is majestic and Holy, and we are to respect his name, but He is also our personal and loving Father.♥
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Breaking Down the Lord’s Prayer
I’m using the Matthew 6:9-13 version to show the many different aspects Jesus wants us to learn about prayer.
What I found fascinating is that this model prayer has its roots in the ceremonial Jewish traditions of Jesus’ day.
I love how Jesus wove threads of ancient Jewish prayers into one of the most well-known Christian prayers. The disciples would have noticed it’s similarities.
Jesus wasn’t telling his disciples to memorize and mindlessly repeat this prayer daily (as we see from his prior teaching.)
Prayer is a time to connect and draw close to Him. He gave them the Lord’s prayer as a pattern or guideline.
This is not to say this prayer can’t be prayed in a Spirit-filled way. There have been times in my life where this was the only prayer I could pray… Jesus sees and understands our hearts and emotions.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”
Begin your prayer with praise to our holy and majestic God who not only sits on the throne but calls us His dear children and invites us to see him as our “Abba”- our Daddy. To worship Him is the purpose of prayer! It helps us focus on who God is and what He has done in our lives.
“Your kingdom come”
Jesus brought a bit of the heavenly kingdom down with him when he came to earth: the Good News of salvation for all who desire it, lifting up the poor and oppressed, healing the sick, and performing miracles that displayed his glory and power.
He knew his Father’s kingdom plan wouldn’t be truly fulfilled, however, until He returns in glory.
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
Pray with surrender and trust in the Father’s perfect will. Jesus surrendered and prayed this prayer hours before His death in the garden of Gethsemane. He proclaimed “not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42.
“Give us today our daily bread”
Pray for a complete reliance on God and all his good gifts. His daily bread is not only our physical food but His love, healing, direction, and peace which nourishes our souls with spiritual food.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
Pray an ongoing confession of sins and seek forgiveness. While our salvation is secure in Jesus’ sacrifice, our daily sins continue to grieve Him. Repenting and asking for forgiveness is a heart attitude of growing in faith and becoming more and more like Him.
When we forgive others, we are acknowledging that we understand and fully receive God’s forgiveness for our own personal sins. To refuse to forgive others is to refuse and deny how much it cost God to forgive us in the first place.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”
The Greek word for temptation here meant “trial” or temptations from our own desires or circumstances. God doesn’t lead us into temptation, we go there of our own free will. He does allow temptations and trials into our lives, however.
Pray to recognize temptations that cross our paths and ask him to grant us the discernment recognize and steer clear of them.
We pray for rescue from the power of the Enemy.
We Need to Pray
Prayer can be one of our biggest struggles and our greatest source of comfort and joy. My own prayer life has had its share of difficulties! Prayer doesn’t involve learning new “techniques” or “mastering” a script.
God doesn’t grade our heartfelt prayers, expect perfection, or brush any prayer away as too trivial! Prayer is simply spending time talking to God, listening for his love and guidance, and growing our relationship.
When we struggle with prayer, we can always ask Jesus- as the disciples did- “Lord, teach us to pray!
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