Teach Us to Pray
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray … " (Luke 11:1)
We often find ourselves encouraged by Jesus’ disciples – especially by their mistakes and slowness to understand! We can certainly identify with how they felt when they came to Jesus, having seen Him praying, and said, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). It wasn’t that they hadn’t prayed before or didn’t know how to; as Jews they would often have prayed. But Jesus seemed to have a completely different way of praying. He made it look so easy, so desirable, so enjoyable! And they wanted that for themselves. Jesus’ response to them has become perhaps the most famous prayer in history, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.
The prayer is found twice in the New Testament (in Matthew and Luke) in slightly different forms, perhaps reflecting different occasions when Jesus taught it. Matthew presents it as a model to be followed ("This, then, is how you should pray" -- Matthew 6:9), whereas Luke presents it as more of a prayer to be repeated ("When you pray, say …" -- Luke 11:2). It seems, therefore, that this prayer was used flexibly in the early church. If we do use it as a prayer in its own right, individually or corporately (as many Christians do), we need to take care that we don’t recite it in such a way, or at such a speed, that it becomes little more than a "mantra," especially since Jesus teaches it in the context of not falling into mindless repetition of prayers (Matthew 6:5-8)! As a pattern for prayer, it can be tremendously helpful, especially when we’ve got rather "stuck in a rut" in praying.
If you have been finding prayer difficult recently, don’t be discouraged. Rather, see it as an opportunity for Jesus to teach you afresh how to pray and what to pray for. Remember: prayer is a journey, not a destination! Ask him to take you on that journey over these next few days.
God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us. (Romans 8:26, The Message)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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