Teach Us To Pray

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading


 Learning From Jesus: Praying Like Jesus   

The disciples were not pagans. They were deeply religious Jewish boys. They knew what God wanted and how to pray to him. They knew the Jewish law and they knew how to pray. They had set prayers that they prayed each day. But there was something about the way Jesus prayed that was different. Maybe it was more natural. Maybe it was more spontaneous. Maybe it felt more powerful. Maybe it was more personal. Maybe it covered different issues. Whatever the attraction, the disciples wanted to pray like Jesus, and they asked him how to do it. Jesus's response was important for them and it is equally important for us. We need to know how Jesus wants his followers to pray.

Reading: Luke 11:1-4

When I was growing up, we prayed the “Lord’s Prayer” very regularly. We prayed it on school parade. We prayed it in church services. We prayed it at Sunday school. We knew it off by heart and could repeat it easily. It was so deeply imprinted on my brain that 60 years later, I can still say the King James version of the “Lord’s Prayer.” We figured back then that if Jesus taught his disciples to pray this prayer, we should be praying it too. And we did. And it was helpful.

But maybe Jesus meant this prayer to be more a pattern of prayer rather than a model prayer. He was not giving his disciples words to repeat like they repeated their Jewish prayers but was outlining the direction and design of his prayers so that they could follow this pattern themselves. If this is the case, the Lord’s Prayer becomes more foundational. It’s not something that we pray and then we are done and can move on to other prayer points. It’s a prayer shape that pervades our prayer life. I’m not saying don’t repeat this prayer. By all means thoughtfully pray these Scriptures. But more importantly, let Jesus’s prayer pattern pervade your prayer life. 

What does this look like? Well first we pray for what blesses God (11:2). We desperately pray for him to be honoured. We ask for his rule to expand. We appeal to God for people and communities to please him and follow him. We ask for his grace and power to be seen and his work to increase. We’re praying for God to do what he wants to do. It’s all about what pleases him. In doing this, we align our prayers with God’s heart. We grasp his deepest longings and we yearn for his glory. In this phase, our own concerns and needs become less important as we focus on what blesses God. 

Then we pray for what blesses us (11:3). The three personal blessings Jesus mentions are our daily provision, our complete forgiveness, and our protection from temptation. That’s a start. This is the phase of prayer when we cry out to God for our personal needs and the needs of those we care for. We search for our deepest desires and humbly ask God for them, claiming his promises. 

Of course, these two phases of prayer overlap, but distinguishing them ensures that we focus on both. They are mutually important aspects of prayer.

Prayer Practice

Have a go at this Jesus pattern of prayer yourself. Focus on God’s heart first and pray for all the things that you know will please him. Don’t hesitate to praise him as you pray for his honour and rule to grow. Try to focus on this for 5 minutes. Then spend the next 5 minutes praying fervently for your own desires and needs. Let them flow from your heart. Cover personal needs like forgiveness and protection as well as the needs of others. (If this approach to prayer is too challenging for you at this stage, pray the Lord’s Prayer, pausing between each phrase to reflect and intercede.)