“And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples (Luke 11:1).
It has been rightly said, “the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.” Not just my failure to pray, but my failure in prayer. In the story of the Pharisee and the publican the Pharisee is one who prayed long and often, but he was a miserable failure. His prayers were never heard by God because neither he nor his prayers were ever right with God.
I like what Oswald Smith said, “when we work, we work, when we pray, God works.”
Throughout history, the men and women that God has used mightily have been people who knew how to pray and for whom prayer was both a priority and a necessity.
Praying for answers to perplexing life issues can result in life changing answers if we accept the truth of His Word and offer a heart of willing obedience as a response.
John 14:12-13 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. and whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Greater works don’t always mean that large things God is doing in us are seen but instead the deeds we are doing that often time is looked upon as a kindhearted response, a gentle smile. Just knowing that believing Him is enough.
John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.”
Most of us recognize and accept, at least intellectually, the need and importance of prayer. We read books on prayer, we talk about it, we ask for prayer from time to time, but somehow, the church today is anything but a praying church.
We may have a few real prayer warriors, but the vision and discipline of prayer requires a commitment from each of us, that means we set aside the things we do..that have empty results and instead make prayer the priority.
The disciples had this same experience. They too fell short in their prayer life and they felt it deeply…….they had obviously heard that John had taught His disciples on prayer and they too wanted instruction (11:1). But was there not something more, something much deeper that provoked this request?
There was a great Christian speaker named Howard Hendricks who, called attention to the fact that if we were to open our Bibles and read starting with Matthew and were to read through John we would never find an instance where the disciples asked, “Lord teach us how to witness,” or “teach us how to perform miracles,” or “teach us how to teach.” But in this passage, we do find one of the disciples asking, “Lord, teach us to pray . . .” Wow! How significant!
This was a very wise question, a very needed question, and from these disciples who were sometimes so slow about spiritual values, this question becomes extremely significant. What was the motivation behind this question, and why is this so important?
One can only imagine what life with Jesus Christ was like during His ministry on earth….One amazing experience after another! He was forever a source of joy and bewilderment, and I am sure people were constantly trying to explain Him to their own satisfaction with their own kinds of answers.
For a long time I can imagine they tried to explain Christ with typical human explanations. At least at first. They regularly saw demonstrations of His power. They both heard His wise words and saw His wonderful works. They saw the lame walk, the blind see, the sick healed, the deaf hear, and the demon possessed dispossessed. Furthermore, they had all experienced the emptiness of the religion of their day and so, through all of this, you know they were watching the Lord and seeking answers to the miracle of His life.
As they studied His life one of their conclusions was that He was God incarnate (John 1:14). But is that conclusion what evoked this question? I don’t believe so……. I believe it was something else they constantly saw in the man Jesus that they began to suspect was part of the answer to His life. What was it? Our immediate response is of course, “It was prayer.” Right? Not exactly! It was not just prayer.
The Pharisees prayed and so did the disciples. It wasn’t just prayer; it was the way He prayed in relation to all that He was and all that He did in His life on earth. It was His manner and attitude in prayer that saturated His total being and living, His every step and action, and that manifested the intimacy of His relationship with and dependence on the Father. Prayer was never just a religious responsibility nor exercise Christ engaged in because He was obligated to do so.
Prayer for the Lord proceeded out of a basic attitude of deep dependence that resulted in a very intimate fellowship. Jesus was totally convinced that He could do nothing of own resources. It is this that undoubtedly brought deep conviction and longing in the lives of the disciples. They came to recognize that, while they could be believers in the Lord, they could not be true disciples who became like their teacher (Luke 6:40) unless they learned to pray to the Father like the Lord Jesus in the intimacy and dependency that Jesus constantly demonstrated.
Prayer is not for emergency use only, when we get in a pinch and need someone to bail us out. Prayer is not an “Aladdin’s Lamp” or a trip to the wishing well for our wants. Prayer is a means of intimate communion, fellowship, and dependence upon God the Father who has promised to work in and through us through His Son, just as God worked through Him. Prayer is for everyday living, moment by moment. Prayer is a means of claiming God’s promises and knowing and becoming abandoned to God’s will.
John 14:10-14 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.’
Prayer is something that can be learned, but learned best through practice. The more you pray, the better you become in it. I remember when I begin to learn how to pray during Home prayer nights when we would gather together in a designated home and exercise the art of praying. It was amazing to hear the prayers of others. There seemed to be always one or two in the group who had engaged in prayer often, it just seemed to show in their prayers. Prayer is definitely something everyone can do. One may not feel confident in teaching, and yet content in a prayer circle. Prayer is a skill that can be developed through practice.
And the disciples, one of them said, “Lord, just teach us to pray.” It was important enough for them to ask, and see a need to add into their walks. I believe prayer is something we all can, and need to learn. I need to learn to pray more effectively.
When I first came into the Ministry, God saw to it that I learn to develop a life of prayer. I was able to gain experience while praying during services. Intercession, or praying for the needs of others, while they were actively listening to the Word preached was very powerful for me. Being involved at a level where God was fully engaged with people I didn’t even know, and seeing people come up later and thank you for your prayers was indeed moving, and enriching in my learning prayer life.
Like John 3:16, almost everyone has at one time in their lives either heard, read, memorized this prayer in Luke 11.
Jesus’ Apostles had watched Him often go into secluded areas and pray alone. The Scriptures show us one of three instances when Jesus prayed to the Father in their presence; once at the Mount of Olives, again, in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized in prayer the night before His crucifixion. and here, after spending time with Mary and Martha and their family, where the Apostles ask Him for guidance how they might prayer.