Principles of Prayer
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to walk beside Jesus daily during his ministry here on earth?
It must have been exhilarating for the disciples as they discovered week-by-week and month-by-month the depth, the power, and the spiritual insights that radiated from this man, Jesus.
It took a long time, but it finally became clear, this was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
It had been clear from the beginning that Jesus’ whole life was different: his words, his personality, his vision, his control over demons, his miraculous acts.
Surely, this man could give them anything they wanted, but Luke does not record any such requests from the disciples up to the time of this passage in Luke 11. “Lord, teach us to pray” is their request.
Why would the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray at this particular time in their journey with him?
I would suggest that over the long journey they had come to realize that prayer literally saturated Jesus’ whole life.
Every significant decision, every miraculous event, every movement in his ministry was preceded with prayer.
In the midst of a busy schedule, he always found time to retire for prayer. He sought the Father’s direction in choosing his disciples.
He demonstrated prayerful dependence on the Father by “looking up toward heaven” before he fed the five thousand or raised Lazarus from the grave.
Prayer had made a difference, and they wanted to learn how to pray the way Jesus did.
It seems worth noting that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus to show them how to pray; they knew how.
There was something more about Jesus’ prayer life they need to emulate. His prayer life was so endowed by the very spirit of God that it stood apart from anything they had experienced before.
They knew by now that if Jesus could “teach” them to pray, they could become true disciples.
Jesus’ answer to his disciples’ request gives us a guide to true spiritual depth.
It directs us to a life centered in God.
I. A pattern for prayer.
It would appear that Jesus did not mean for his words to become a rote prayer that the disciples should learn and repeat continuously; rather, he gave them a pattern for prayer.
First, begin with God, not ourselves.
Prayer should be centred on God.
How often do we begin our prayers with our thoughts centred on ourselves?
I think Jesus is saying, “If you start with your thoughts and mind centred on God, everything will be in the right perspective.”
Second, pray as a child.
By praying to God as Father, we place ourselves in our born-again relationship to him.
We proclaim our dependence on him as our Heavenly Father.
The heavenly family relationship is affirmed.
Third, pray to honour God’s name: “Hallowed be thy name.”
Hallowed means “to make holy.”
Far too often we take the commandment that forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain to mean that we should not to curse or swear.
I don’t think that is what it means.
Rather, it means don’t claim to follow God and then fail to act accordingly. In some ways, “hallowed be thy name” is the same idea.
May my life proclaim the holiness of God.
Pray for God’s will on earth.
Pray that the Kingdom of God will come to earth and, as Matthew puts it, “thy will be done.”
Maybe it goes a little further and says let the Kingdom live in me.
Pray for physical needs.
God created us whole persons. He is concerned about us as whole persons. He knows we have physical needs, and it is not wrong to take those needs to him.
Pray for spiritual needs.
Pray for our own spiritual needs.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
We all need forgiveness.
Pray for our relationship to others.
Pray that we will reflect the forgiveness of God in our relationships to others.
Finally, pray that we will not be overcome by temptation.
Temptation is real, and only with the power of God can we overcome the evil one.
11 The purpose of prayer.
Jesus is not explicit in teaching his disciples about the purpose of prayer, but it is implicit throughout the prayer.
Prayer is about relationships.
We have a family relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Families need to communicate.
This communication can take place as the individual lifts up his or her prayer to heaven, and it can take place as a congregation lifts up its corporate prayer.
Our Heavenly Father is ready to give us good gifts if we are willing to ask for them.
If an earthly father will not give a scorpion to a child who asks for an egg or a serpent when he asks for a fish, how much more does God want to give his good gifts to his children.
And the greatest gift would be the gift of the Holy Spirit.
111 Persistence in prayer
Too often we take the parable in Luke 11:5–8 to indicate that we need to keep pounding on the door of heaven until we receive what we want.
This is not what Jesus is teaching his disciples.
He is teaching them that one who is consistent in prayer will find God’s answer.
He follows the parable with these words: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
In other words, “pray.” James reminds us, “You have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2).
If the disciples could only pray like Jesus, they knew they would be the kind of disciples he had called them to be.
The same applies to us.
If we can pray like Jesus, we can be the disciples he has called us to be.