I Want To Follow Christ!
“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.””Luke 11:1
I grew up in a Christian home. We went to church religiously. My grandfather was a pastor. My mother was the church secretary. I placed my faith in Christ when I was a child. Yet with all of this being true, I have to confess that I didn’t really know how to pray. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had “said my prayers” religiously, praying before meals or before bedtime as part of the regular routine of life in the Christian home in which I was raised, but I didn’t really know how to pray.
I’m sure that was how the disciples felt. They had grown up in religious homes. They had learned their prayers. This was the Jewish culture in which they were raised. Yet they quickly recognized there was something remarkably different about the way that Jesus prayed. When they listened to Jesus pray, it wasn’t religious. It was relational!
Rich had been discipling me for a while. We always ended our Bible studies together with prayer. Really, though, it was Rich closing our time in prayer. Then, one day, everything changed. Rich and I were driving to his parents lake house to spend the day together sailing, and as we drove, he said, “Hey Doug, let’s pray! I’ll dial and you can hang up.” (His way of saying he would start and I could finish.) As Rich began to pray, eyes open as he drove, he just began talking out loud to God, as if He were sitting there in the car with us. Rich was having a conversation with God. His prayer wasn’t religious. It was relational. When it was my turn to pray, I followed RIch’s lead and just began talking out loud to God, as if He were sitting in the car with us as we drove. It was my first real, conversational prayer with God.
As we consider what it means to TALK to God, we’re continuing our five part series that examines some of the basic concepts a new believer must grasp to establish a strong foundation for their new spiritual life. As we disciple them, we want to help them understand their spiritual IDENTITY, learn how to WALK with God, learn how to TALK to God and about God, learn how to FEED themselves spiritually, and learn how to CLEAN up after they make a mess of their life spiritually. Sonlife has developed disciple-making conversation tools for each of these five foundational concepts: IDENTITY, WALK, TALK, FEED, CLEAN. Over five weeks, we are introduce these basic discipling concepts. We have already covered IDENTITY, WALK. This week we are looking at TALK.
Jesus modeled for His disciples and for us how to TALK to God. When Jesus prayed, the disciples saw intimacy and passion and purpose and joy. Jesus was talking to His Father. They were hungry to learn. “Lord, teach us to pray!”
What followed, what we now call The Lord’s Prayer, was not meant to be memorized and recited as a religious exercise. This model prayer was meant to be a pattern for the disciples. Remember, Jesus was not teaching them WHAT to pray, but rather HOW to pray.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His disciples on the PRIORITY, PLACE, POSTURE and PATTERN of Prayer.
“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.”
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matthew 6:5-15
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.”
Prayer is to be taken seriously. It’s not a matter of IF we pray, but rather WHEN we pray. The hypocrites looked at prayer as something to use to get what they wanted. They did not understand it as a privileged opportunity to speak with their heavenly Father. They used prayer as a means to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. They wanted to show how religious they were. They wanted the admiration and respect of others for their religious pedigree and practices. Jesus wanted His followers to understand that prayer was a privilege available to all that should not be taken lightly.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret”
There is a time for public prayer. Jesus is not saying that we are not to pray with others. What He is saying is that the substance of our prayer life should primarily be private. Get alone with God. Talk to Him. Commune with Him. Share your heart with Him. Prayer is the primary means for cultivating a personal relationship with God. If the only time we pray is when we are with others, we haven’t recognized the true privilege that prayer is, and we haven’t prioritized cultivating our personal relationship with God.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do,”
What is the posture of prayer? Are we to pray on our knees? Are we to pray with our head bowed, eyes closed and hands folded? Jesus doesn’t specify any of this. The posture of prayer is more a heart posture than a body posture. The heart posture that honors God in prayer is one of authenticity, humility and gratitude. If being on your knees, or lying prostrate, reflects the posture of your heart in that moment as you come to God in prayer, then get on your knees or lay prostrate. Often, my best times of prayer come when I am taking a walk with God. When my body is moving, my mind can be still and focus. When my body is still, my mind is moving, drifting, distracted.
P.R.A.Y. is a simple acronym to remember the pattern for prayer that Jesus gave His disciples.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.Matthew 6:9
Jesus begins His prayer with praise of the Father, recognizing His holiness. When we come to God in prayer, praise and thanksgiving is a great place to start.
What are some of the things about God’s character, who He is, that you are grateful for today? Praise God for His character, His nature, when you come to Him in prayer. What are some of the things God has done for you that you are grateful for today? Thank God for His activity, His blessings, His presence and provision in your life.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”Matthew 6:11
Jesus asks the Father to meet their needs. In praying for “us,” He is bringing both His needs and the disciples’ needs before the Father, trusting that He will provide.
What are some of the personal needs you would like to bring before the Father today? What are some of the needs of friends and family you would like to bring before the Father?
“…and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”Matthew 6:12-13
Confession of sin is a critical aspect of prayer. We are to bring out sin before a holy God, asking for His forgiveness that we might be restored to fellowship with Him. Jesus, though, doesn’t just pray a reactionary prayer, where sin is dealt with after the fact. His prayer is a preemptive strike against sin, asking for God’s strength and leading to avoid the pitfalls of temptation.
What are some sins that you need to confess to the Father today? Sins of commission, and sins of omission. In other words, both sinful action, and sinful inaction. Disobedience in willfully choosing other than God’s best, God’s will for our life. And what are the temptations you’re currently facing that you need the Father’s help to battle?
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”Matthew 6:10
Some manuscripts have Jesus closing His prayer with “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This reflects the mindset that God is sovereign. He is the King, and the King reigns. He gets His way. We are to submit to Him. Jesus reflected this kind of submission to the Father’s will throughout His life. He obeyed all the way to the cross, where He prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
What are some areas of your life that you need to yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? He is the Sovereign One, the KING of Kings, and He wants to be put first in everything. Are there any decisions or choices you sense God wanting you to make, but you are hesitant, or even hesitant in saying “yes” to Him? To yield is to give an unconditional “yes,” regardless of what is asked. The answer is “Yes, Lord!”
Ultimately, prayer is something that is more caught than taught. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray because they had seen Him pray. He had modeled it for them. Jesus’ instructions on prayer were pretty simple. He didn’t need to teach a six week class on the principles of prayer to His disciples. He invited them into the prayer laboratory, His daily interaction with the Father, for them to see first hand how to pray. As we disciple others, we’d do well to follow Jesus’ pattern here. That’s how Rich taught me to pray. He prayed with me, and then he nudged me to pray on my own. What’s important is not that we learn to pray beautifully, eloquently, or perfectly, but rather that we learn to pray authentically, consistently and fervently.