“Lord, Teach Us To Pray”

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“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…'” (Luke 11:1). The disciple probably asked better than he understood, but it was the best request (prayer!) a new disciple could make. They saw that Jesus knew how to pray, and they wanted to learn from him. Disciples see that Jesus has a relationship with God, and they ask to share in it. In response, Jesus teaches the paradigmatic prayer that has come to be known as “the Lord’s Prayer” (Luke 11:2-4; Matthew 6:9-13), welcoming his disciples into his own prayer, into his own relationship and conversation with God.

Prayer is—first, essentially, and eternally—an activity of the Triune God. Prayer is the Son’s communication with the Father in the Spirit. Prayer is a reality because God is who he is, this God who prays. Prayer didn’t become a reality after God created human beings who could talk to him. In fact, the first recorded prayer of the Bible is God’s own dialogue which resulted in the creation of humanity (Genesis 1:26-27). Our life in God’s image is God’s answer to God’s prayer! And we are made for prayer, for relationship with this praying God, in all we do. So, prayer encompasses the whole of God’s intention for human reality.

It is no wonder, then, that Jesus knows how to pray. His prayerfulness as a human reveals and reflects his prayerfulness as God. His eternal life means prayer, and he incarnated as a human to restore humanity to prayer. He prayed as one of us, for us, in our place. He shares his life of prayer with us. And it is no wonder that we must ask him to teach us to pray. Apart from him, we cannot pray. By definition, sinners don’t pray, not really. We must get into God’s own life before we can truly pray, and Jesus is the only way into God’s life. We must be taken along with him in his prayer, and learn to pray as he does. “Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him… No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Do you believe that God prays? Does that matter to you? How would you describe your need for Jesus to teach you to pray? Have you prayed that Jesus would teach you to pray? What has that meant for your relationship with God? Do you think people can instinctively pray apart from faith in Jesus, apart from learning to pray from Jesus? Why or why not? Have you ever considered teaching others to pray the Lord’s Prayer as evangelism? If the Lord’s Prayer is paradigmatic for us, what place does it take among the prayers recorded in the Bible? What are some other prayers recorded in the Bible that help you to pray? What relationship do these prayers have to the Lord’s Prayer? What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name” (John 16:24)? To pray “in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20)?

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