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August 05, 2005

Teach Us To Pray

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."
(Luke 11:1 ESV)

We often don't know how to pray -- that much is obvious from our prayers. Usually, we throw up a quick "God please get me through this" or a "God please let this happen" or something like that. At meals, it's a quick "Thanks for the food" prayer. At bedtime, we teach our kids to do their "God Blesses."

The apostles were men of prayer -- read the book of Acts and that will become obvious to you.

It's interesting that Jesus taught both personal and corporate prayer. He clearly taught private prayer in Matthew 6:6 (But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.) We should never pray just to be heard -- that is what the Pharisees were doing (Matthew 6:5).

But in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus is also teaching us corporate prayer. "Our father in heaven." There is value in corporate prayer, when we do it for the right reasons. Particular Baptists in England joined together in corporate prayer for revival at the end of the 18th century. The results of that prayer extended even across the ocean to North America.

Jesus also taught us what to pray for. Not to pray for stuff, but to pray "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." Our desire should be to see the will of God done as perfectly on Earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus followed His own example at Gethsemane when He prayed "Not My will but Thine be done."

I think this is where we often miss out in prayer. We get wrapped up in ourselves, and forget about what our goal should be. We're so worried about that test tomorrow, or getting a better job, or things like that, that we miss out on the better things God has for us. When we put God's will first, there's no telling what He will do through us.

Once we have our priorities established, Jesus teaches us to ask God to supply our needs. Physically (our daily bread) and spiritually (deliver us from evil), we are taught to depend on God fully and completely.

One thing I noticed when studying this passage recently is in verse 12 -- "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Forgive us when we fall short of your expectations just as we forgive those who fall short of our expectations. Debts don't just refer to a monetary value, after all. When I looked at the verse that way, I started to get worried. Do we do this? Do we REALLY want God to show forgiveness to us in the same way we show it to others?

Then the closing, reminding us that God has the right to rule, the ability to do what He has promised us, and that all that we do must be ultimately to His glory.

The Lord's Prayer is something that we all know. How often have we really thought about what it says? I know that I'm approaching prayer a LOT differently now.

{edited: one sentence made absolutely no sense after I published this. Sorry!}

Posted by Warren Kelly at August 5, 2005 05:49 PM | TrackBack
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