And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
In his class on the four gospels at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Mark Bailey once made a point that I’ve never forgotten. Referencing Luke 11:1, he stated that one of the only times recorded in the gospels when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to do something, it is to teach them how to pray. According to this verse, this request came right after they observed him praying. They could have asked the eternal, all-powerful, all-wise Son of God to teach them to do anything, and they asked him to instruct them in prayer. This is profound because it indicates that in watching Jesus live, they saw a connection between his attractive Kingdom life of love, joy, peace, power, and impact and his prayer life. Thus, they wanted to learn how to pray like him.
In the following verses in Luke 11, Jesus proceeds to give them a lesson on prayer (which is the same lesson on prayer that he gives in Matthew 6:5-13). Jesus, the Master Teacher and smartest man who ever lived, did not just give the disciples academic information on prayer, but an example of prayer that they never forgot and that has lived on through the centuries. It is so simple that a child can do it, yet so profound that a lifelong, mature follower of Jesus can never get to the bottom of its riches.
In his book, With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murray comments on the Lord’s Prayer and calls attention to how the prayer begins with the words, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Murray writes, “The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer.” He means that the knowledge that God is our loving, powerful, and wise Father is the soil in which our prayer lives grow, deepen, and yield the type of fruit that the disciples witnessed in Jesus.
There are two problems I see immediately for us today in regards to this: First, for those of us who have been in church a long time, we are way too familiar with the idea that God is our Heavenly Father that it doesn’t shock us and cause us to live with awe. We might even think we’re pretty good people who don’t need the gospel that badly. Let this sink in: solely because of what Jesus did for us (and nothing at all that we did for ourselves), the King and Creator of all things is also our loving Father Who cares for us every minute of every day and longs to live in a relationship with us. That is a life-changing reality that fuels our desire to talk to God and shapes how we talk to Him.
Second, by nature, we are addicted to our own morality, religion, and performance, so we wrongly believe that God sees us how we see ourselves and that He is just waiting to catch us doing something bad. That’s not a God we would want to pray to! However, that’s not how the Bible presents Him. In Jesus, God is the Friend of sinners Who knows everything about us and died for us anyway out of love. It is that loving God Who we get to live in a conversational relationship with each day. What a privilege and invitation!
So, let us soak in the truth that because of the gospel, the King and Creator of all things is now our loving, wise, and powerful Father Who wants to live in a conversational relationship with us. This knowledge is the foundation and fuel of all prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray” as we begin another season.