It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”
Every day, before and after every conceivable situation, the followers of Jesus saw Him pray. Sometimes when they were cooking breakfast, He wandered in from the hillside, where He’d been praying all night. At other times, they saw Him burst out in spontaneous praise to God, and they watched Jesus labor as He prayed about pressing needs. As they observed Him, they saw something about His time with the Father that captured their hearts and made them thirsty to learn from Him.
In the ancient Jewish culture, famous rabbis and teachers often composed prayers for their followers. The disciples now asked Jesus to compose one for them. He didn’t miss a beat. Communication with the Father was such an integral part of His life that He was ready to give them a model of prayer before they even asked. We know it as the Lord’s Prayer, but it could be accurately called the Disciples Prayer because it was the pattern for them to follow (Luke 11: 2-4).
The prayer is elegant in its simplicity. It begins with the affirmation of the majesty of God the Father and the desire that His will be done on earth. The requests are for daily sustenance, forgiveness, protection, and direction.
How do we pray? Do we focus on the Father and ask for the things Jesus recommended in His prayer? Jesus gave us a wonderful pattern, not a straitjacket. The Lord’s Prayer is a template and a jumping-off point to explore each element in more depth. Consider using it for the next week to shape your prayers.
I asked Him to give me the prayers He wants me to pray and to give or withhold anything according to His plan for me. Nothing is too big to ask of Him, not even an ocean lot. It is God’s business to decide if it’s good for me. It’s my business to obey Him.
Jesus made prayer the most important part of His life and time after time encouraged the disciples and us to do so, too. Let me share a few verses of scripture concerning this fact:
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
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.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
These are but a few places we read about the prayer life and instructions of Jesus to pray. Careful reading reveals that Christ moved from place of prayer to place of prayer and the work of God was accomplished in between prayers. As we read Acts, we discover that the disciples instituted the same model with incredible success.
Many Christians today explain that they’re too busy, too tired, or otherwise occupied to pray. Yet we find ourselves having meeting after meeting trying to plot a course of success, trying to address challenges and find solutions, or going from place and person to place and person seeking help. All the while, help is a bent knee away.
I have no doubt that the disciples learned the lesson of failing to meet situations with prayer on the night Jesus was arrested. They had made great boasts about their commitment to Christ but in the crucible of testing, they failed. We only have to look in the Garden of Gethsemane to discover why they failed and Jesus, facing a more extreme test, succeeded. That evening Jesus gathered with them in the garden to pray. We read that on three occasions He Himself bent His knee in prayer to the Father. We also read that after each session of prayer He went back to the disciples and encouraged them to pray. Instead they slept and when the test came they had no strength to pass it. Fast forward to the Acts church and you will find that the disciples had discovered the secret to meeting life successfully was rooted in prayer. As a matter of fact it was so important that they insisted it be given first priority. I think Peter in particular understood the value of prayer after his colossal failure by the fire barrel. When ministry needs increased as the church grew, he and the apostles gathered the congregation together. Here are the words:
“So the Twelve called the disciples together and said, “It is not appropriate for us to neglect [teaching] the word of God in order to serve tables and manage the distribution of food. Therefore, brothers, choose from among you seven men with good reputations [men of godly character and moral integrity], full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will [continue to] devote ourselves [steadfastly] to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
They had learned from Jesus the importance of prayer being a priority. I believe that if we were to choose that path as well perhaps we might experience something of the power and presence of God working in our midst. Make the decision today. Say to yourself, “Yes, I’m busy. As a matter of fact I’m so busy that I won’t begin my day until I’ve spent time in prayer with God for I know if I listen to Him first everything will fall into place for me.” I challenge us to test this for at least a week and then evaluate. I dare say we will continue this model.