Lord, teach us to pray!
What a dangerous request!
It was part of Jesus’s discipleship program to teach his disciples to pray. So it should be ours. Why did the disciples wanted to learn to pray? Because they saw Jesus praying — Luke 11:1. His model made them want to learn to pray.
- Do our disciples see us praying?
- Is our prayer life makes them want to learn to pray?
- Would our prayer life make prayer desirable?
With this request the disciples admit that they don’t know how to pray. It also means that we are not born with the ability of pray. We need to acquire it. To acquire something means you need to take an effort to have it. Reading, writing, calculating are acquired abilities. We were not born with the. We had to make efforts to have those abilities.
For a long time I thought that the highest ability of language is poetry. Poetry is the tool to express the depth of your heart, pour out your pain, express your love and joy. Poetry communicates something that is deeply in you using the ability of language.
But later I realized that the highest ability of language is not poetry, but prayer.
Not because it’s a better way to express what’s in our heart, or to describe your pain. That’s not the ultimate goal of prayer. Prayer is not another tool through which you can pour out our hearts, desires, wishes, wants, longing or pains to God. Prayer has a different purpose. Prayerconnects us to God.
It takes our fallen, broken reality into His perfect presence.
It connects our world with his transcendent world. It brings his reality into our reality. That’s why the ultimate and highest ability of language is prayer, and not poetry.
The miraculous ability of prayer is that we can discover what’s in Him and not just share what’s in us. The power of prayer is not me sharing what my problems are but Him sharing what his powers are.
He knows well what is in us even before we would say it. But through the struggle of prayer we need to discover what is in God, we need to bring down to Earth what He wants to accomplish, we need to bring down to Earth the resources He has. How we mess up prayer! We are just listing our wishes, wants, problems, desires, goals, strategies. How rarely we use prayer to discover who He is and what He wants! How rarely we use prayer to connect His reality to ours!
Teach us to pray!
A dangerous request. The prayers Jesus answered were not the kind we want to say. Those were prayers of people who were in misery. “Lord, heal my son, he is demon possessed.” “Lord, save me, I’m sinking!” “Lord, come and heal my daughter, she is dying!” These people learned to pray. Their misery forced them on their knees. They were so lost that they had only one weapon: crying out to God.
Majority of my prayers are reciting my prayer-lists to God assuming that He can’t read. By doing this we treat him like we treat a child who has not acquired yet the ability to understand the semiotic meanings.
We are encouraged to ask, seek and knock. Luke 11:9. That asking, seeking, knocking needs to come not from a list, but from the depth of a needy heart. That’s the ask of the beggar. That’s the cry of the hopeless. That’s the seeking of the one who relentlessly is trying to figure out his will. That’s the knocking of the one who is in danger outside and needs to be let in. But how do we knock, how do we ask, how do we seek is enveloped in the prayers Jesus has approved and encouraged us to pray.
Jesus approved 7 prayers. That 7 prayers should envelope all of our prayers.
1. Hollowed be Thy name!
In every prayer we are commanded to ask and seek that His name would be glorified: “Lord, I want your name to be glorified in everything I’m asking from you! I want your name to be glorified in my sickness, in my financial challenges, in my children’s schooling issues, in my conflicts with others, in my goals, desires, purposes!”
2. Your kingdom come!
In our prayers we need to ask that His Lordship, rulership, authority to become more and more obvious by fulfilling our request. In our prayers we need to seek how his kingdom will become a reality.
3. Your will be done!
In our requests, asks, wants, knockings and seeking we should pursue one desire: his will be done through meeting those needs. Especially when we are praying for our plans, for our ministry desires and ideas we need to ask that we would dream his plans. We think sometimes that by asking God, we can force him to bring revival. We can’t. We can only build the altar. He can send the fire. He has plans. We have dreams.
4. Give us this day our daily bread.
90% of our asks are around our physical needs. Jesus legitimize those prayers. But, that’s only 14% of all the requests in His prayers and it’s greatly limited by two factors: it’s about our daily need and it’s about bread — meaning basic needs. Note this: he has encouraged us to pray for something that he has promised to provide: daily bread. Ask what he has promised to give.
5. Forgive us our debts.
Confession of sins should be part of our regular prayer. Prayer is the means through which we experience Jesus’ forgiveness. Prayer by faith appropriates the reality of forgiveness. It needs to be asked. I know that there is a popular teaching among us that we don’t need to ask for forgiveness, because it is forgiven already. We just need to appropriate it, claim it, thanking for it. But Jesus indeed commands us to say: forgive us our trespasses! Another example of something that we need to ask what has been promised to us. It’s the prayer for spiritual purity and community with God.
6. Lead us not into temptation.
7. Deliver us from evil.
The last two requests are prayers for spiritual protection acknowledging that there is a spiritual battle. Asking God to give protection acknowledges the fact that there is a war against us. There is an enemy who wants to take us down.
The 1–3 asks are prayers asking God to rule and be glorified in everything we are asking for.
The 5–7 asks are dealing with our spiritual purity and protection.
These two envelopes one physical request in the middle. 86% of the prayer taught by Jesus deals with our spiritual well-being, being in the center of the will of God in everything we do.
The majority of prayer is bringing God’s glory, kingdom and will into the situation and separating ourselves from the evil, sinful, tempting impacts of the devil.
That’s what prayer for.