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Teach Us To Pray

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


It is great to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The lesson is entitled, “Teach us to Pray,” and the text in the New Testament the gospel of Luke chapter 11 and the first four verses.  Listen to the Word of God.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one his disciples said to him: Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples. He said to them: When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. This is the Word of God.

Let’s imagine that we were on a jet airliner at about 10,000 feet high. And suddenly you hear a loud crack. The plane shakes violently and there is a big thunk and a large lump in your throat. And the captain announces in the PA system emergency procedures. Sound scary?  Immanent danger tends to really energize our prayers.  Oh God, times like these we usually don’t need anyone to teach us to pray.  We start praying quickly. Even Atheists and Agnostics somehow learn to pray sometimes. Oh God, help us. Spare us. Save us.  Please get us back on the ground safely. Please. I don’t want to die. Help, we cry out to the Lord, perhaps in our minds deep within us or even audibly. This actually happened to a friend of mine who wrote me a letter about it, testifying to the power of prayer while crippled in an airliner high above Nashville, Tennessee. He wrote these words, quote:  They made us stow away all sharp objects: eyeglasses, pens, as they proceeded to burn off fuel.  And the aircraft continued to jolt and shake violently.  We all had time to think, to worry and to pray, to cry out, end quote.

I often hear people claim: Well, I don’t know how to pray. Usually they mean they don’t know how because they don’t know the fancy or even the, quote, right spiritual words in order to address God. But you should know that God is not impressed with our vocabulary or our eloquence. God desires that we simply connect, communicate with him the genuine outpourings of our hearts and our minds heavenward. Immanent disaster usually brings this out of us, plain and simple, with genuine urgency and feelings, our emotions sometimes raw.  No posturing, no elegant talk. But, instead, we connect with God right from the gut.

Let’s consider again Luke chapter 11 and verses one through four and notice the pattern of prayer that Jesus taught his first century disciples as well as us today as 21st century followers, learners, disciples of Christ.

In verse one it says in part: They asked him: Lord, teach us to pray.  Notice carefully that in this text they did not ask how to pray, but, instead, the text emphasizes that their question was: Teach us to pray.  Because usually it is not a problem about how to pray regularly, consistently, persistently, not just when danger strikes out, but to pray at all times, communicating with almighty God audibly, inaudibly, that is in our minds, focused, engaged with our heart in it in plain language. Of course, when a real crisis hits, we learn real quickly how to pray. That is not to say that sometimes, of course, regarding an especially difficult decision, for example, which has more than one good choice, we sometimes do struggle as to how to pray.  For example, when we have more than one good choice concerning  a job opportunity or a job change or buying a car or health options for ourselves and for others, we do sometimes struggle as to how to pray, not sure, as believers, of God’s will in a particular matter. And even as unbelievers, seeking, reaching out to God.  We don’t know whether to pray sometimes to heel or to take us home. We leave that to God. We trust God or, at least, we should. But in our text it is the disciples who asked Jesus to teach us to pray, having witnessed Jesus’ often prayer, getting away to pray and praying not only often but fervently to his Father, to God.

Prayer should not be just reciting words, certainly not worn out repetition done thoughtlessly. We don’t talk to our human fathers in that way, much less should we approach our heavenly Father with thoughtless repetition and reciting of words.

Jesus’ disciples noticed his love and his need for prayer in his humanity.  How much more do we need to practice a genuine love of God and fervency and frequency in prayer? Because we certainly need God’s guidance. We need God’s help. We need God’s comfort. We need God’s involvement in our every day life.  We need to learn to talk it out with God.
Our problem usually is we try to figure it out, to fix it ourselves, to be independent. But we learn we need God eventually and that we are all dependent on the Lord in so very many ways.  And God specializes what is to us the impossible.  Nothing is impossible to God that does not deny himself.
In our feeble minds we certainly don’t know the beginning to the end or even in the middle and we sometimes grope in the dark, as it were, with so many things. And so we need the light. We need to turn to God and we need to understand that he knows that he is omniscient. He knows it all. That he is omnipotent. That he is all powerful.  He is ever present, omnipresent and so he is certainly a source of our comfort if we trust in him, seeking his will, because our attitude regarding prayer determines our altitude with God as we draw closer to him through prayer, as we boldly seek the throne room of heaven seeking his face not only in petition, but in praise, in worship, in thanksgiving, in communicating with our Father God.  And we often stay in the pit, in the hole of our worries and troubles when we need to elevate our minds, our hearts heavenward to get God involved. That is prayer.

In Luke chapter 11 and verses two through four we find Jesus’ model prayer. Only 34 words in the New International Version, but jam packed with meaning, with power and so Jesus prayed.  Father, because this is actually a believer’s prayer whom already has a personal relationship with God. It is a family prayer for disciples as sons and daughters of our Father God.  We bring it to God. It is a family prayer. Hallowed be your name. Hallowed means holy be your name, because it is appropriate to begin all of our prayers with praise, with worship, with honoring, with venerating our God. And so hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come. Here probably it has to do with God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, submitting, yielding to God’s will, not our will. So it is our surrender to God’s kingdom, not our worldly wants and desires. Father God especially wants to meet our needs, but not necessarily our wants and desires. And his kingdom, his rule needs to come into our lives, his will, because Father always knows best.

And then give us each day our daily bread.  Here we do have a need, a physical petition. It is a daily need, not a greed that we ask for.  It is a daily sustaining, physically from God that we should never take for granted. There are so many people around this world that really pray even for their daily bread because they go hungry. There are shortages. There are famines. We in the more advanced nations like America should never take for granted even our daily bread, a legitimate request for a need, not greed.

And then forgive us our sins.  A spiritual petition as we confess and repent. We ask for forgiveness of our sins, past and present. And according to 1 John chapter one and verse nine a family prayer once again he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. This is the daily prayer concern that we should all have as we fall short as believers, as Christians for our daily cleansing beyond our conversion, beyond our wholesale cleansing when we come to Christ in repentant faith for the first time and are born again.  And yet we still sin.  And we need to ask God to forgive us of our sins.

Jesus adds: For we also forgive everyone who sins against us. As we are forgiven, our mindset should be to forgive others with the same mercy and grace, because to remain unforgiving shows that we have not understood that we ourselves deeply need to be forgiven. Grudges, an unforgiving attitude can actually block our forgiveness, our ongoing forgiveness, our daily forgiveness. How would God deal with you and me if God were to treat us as we unfairly treat others? And lead us not into temptation deals with our petition for future potential sins.

Now, of course, we need to understand that according to James, the epistle of James chapter one and verse 13, he, God does not tempt anyone. So here the meaning is a petition asking God not to allow us to be in places or with people that test us or that tempt us as we are exposed to Satan’s temptations or the world or our own flesh’s temptations to sin.  So the petition is to avoid sin, to be delivered by God from situations, from circumstances that could cause us to sin, asking God, in effect, to live righteously. Notice that most of this grief pattern for prayer focuses primarily on not sinning, or for forgiveness of sin, because when we pray we need to understand that the spiritual petition is eternal, has eternal consequences and so it is the spiritual over the physical which is temporal.  When we pray we should bare our soul, come clean. When we mess up, we fess up and elevate our problems heavenward, but not without also raising our worship and praise with much thanksgiving to the Father.  Our mindset should be: I must talk to Father about this, but reverently, honestly and simply.

Someone has written, quote: If the request is wrong, God says no.  IF the timing is wrong, God says slow. If you are wrong, God says grow. But if the request is right, the timing right and you are right, God says go. And so we have God’s four answers to prayers. No, slow, grow and go, end of quote.

Always remember also the words of the great preacher Charles Spurgeon who said, quote:  Praying will make you leave off sinning or sinning will make you leave off praying, end of quote. May we always stay connected to the Father.


David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8