Monday, February 23, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 1: Why?

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1 NASB)

We move today to Luke 11, to begin a section on prayer.  

John the Baptizer had previously taught his disciples about prayer and, according to this passage, had taught them "how to pray". One of Jesus' disciples asked Him to do the same for them. Every Jewish boy is taught the Shema, which is a vital part of their daily prayers. Every Jewish girl is taught the Psalms, which includes many of David's prayers. The disciples knew how to recite the prayers of others. What they wanted was to know was how to talk to God personally, as Jesus did, and how to pray the kind of prayers that "get results". 

When Jesus prayed, He was talking to someone He knew intimately, because He was talking to His Father. The disciples certainly wanted to know how to have that kind of intimacy with God, but there was likely something else that they wanted, as well. They may have also wanted the power that Jesus seemed to derive from time spent in prayer. 

Jesus had wonder-working power, and there was no doubt about it. Throughout his ministry, He spent a considerable amount of time in prayer. He went to the mountain or the wilderness to pray, and would spend hours alone with His Father. He considered this time vital and certainly conveyed the importance, the priority, of His prayer time to the disciples. 

Jesus didn't have to tell them there was something different about His prayers, because they could see it for themselves. When Jesus  prayed over a few loaves and fishes, he was able to take a meal meant for a child and feed thousands. When the disciples failed to heal a child, Jesus told them that some things could only come out by prayer and fasting. The disciples likely wanted to be able to pray prayers that resulted in answers they could see, as well. 

As we begin this study on prayer, let us begin by asking one important question. "Why do I want to learn to pray?" If what we want is simply power, we may be in for a surprise. The power of Jesus' prayers did not come as a result of a good choice of words, a large number of words, or the amount of time spent on His knees. The power of His prayers was a result of His intimacy with His Father and His complete submission to His Father's will. 

I have prayed many prayers and seen many incredible answers to my prayers. I've seen God do incredible wonders. All those answers have been exciting and have taught me that the first place I should take my need, my hurt, my fear is to my Heavenly Father. The best part of learning to pray, however, is not the tangible answers that come from that time in prayer. The best part of prayer is the intimacy with our loving Heavenly Father that I find in His presence. It is the place of greatest joy, greatest comfort, greatest peace and is, most often, the reason I go to God in prayer. 

Do we desire that kind of intimacy with God? Are we willing for that kind of submission to the Father's will? Let us ask ourselves these questions before we turn to Christ and ask Him to teach us to pray. There are exciting days ahead, so let's draw close to our Lord. When we do, we will find that He will draw near to us, as well, and what a glorious time that will be!

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you... (James 4:8 NASB)