Have you ever asked God to teach you how to pray? I have. The disciples also asked Jesus how to pray. Jesus’ response, which we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” is recorded in Luke 11 and Matthew 6. Over the next three days we will examine these two passages.
Today, we will consider the general principles Jesus gave about how to pray and how not to pray that are found in the passages immediately surrounding this model prayer. Then tomorrow and the next day we will break down the prayer itself as a guide for our own prayer life.
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
The timing of the disciples’ request is not insignificant. Luke 11:1 tells us that Jesus Himself had been praying. When He finished, one disciple, acting as spokesman for the group, asked Jesus to teach them to pray like He prayed. Jesus’ example and His relationship with the Father had fostered a desire for the same within the disciples. (This truth made me ask myself: “Does my prayer life foster a desire in my children, friends, and family to pray?”)
Jesus’ teaching on the proper attitude regarding prayer is similar to His teaching about giving to those in need, which is found in Matthew 6:1-4. In a nutshell, He tells us to examine our motives. Are we praying to bring glory and honor to ourselves or to God? Spiritual “hypocrites” pray to gain respect for themselves and admiration from others. They want others to know how “righteous” they are.
Jesus also told the disciples not to “keep babbling” when they pray. I love the KJV’s translation of “vain repetitions” in Matthew 6:7. Jesus did not mean we shouldn’t ever repeat requests or specific prayers to God. Instead, He wanted us to understand that reciting prayers without meaning or using flowery speech to call attention to ourselves does not bring glory to God.
Prayer done with the right motives is all about God. This kind of praying is sincere and heartfelt. We will not attempt to hide anything from God because we realize He knows it all anyway. We will be focused on God alone and not distracted by other people or things around us.
Boldness & Persistence
Jesus told a parable immediately following His model prayer. (See Luke 11:5-8.) While we should not equate God with the irritated neighbor we can learn principles for prayer from Jesus’ story. First, we can approach God with boldness in prayer. We do not have to hang back or fear His reaction. Jesus’ work on the cross makes it possible for us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 5:16). Second, we should be persistent in our prayers. Not voicing “vain repetitions” without meaning, but faithfully sharing your heart and needs with your heavenly Father, knowing He has the power and resources to answer.
Trust in the character of God
Finally, in Luke 11:11-13, Jesus reminds us of the character of the One to whom we pray. If earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, how much more will our heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him? Brothers and sisters, we can fully trust that our heavenly Father has our best interests at heart. He does not hesitate to give us what we need and pour out His blessings on those who ask. Let’s ask!
Do you trust Him? Does your prayer life reflect that trust?
Come back tomorrow for Part Two of The Lord’s Prayer.