Have you ever wondered about prayer? Are there rules? Is there a right way or a wrong way? When should we pray? What’s OK to ask God for — and what’s not? If these are questions you’ve had, you’re in very good company.
This Sunday in the Sanctuary we’ll look together at the passage from Luke that contains a unique request from Jesus’ first disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray…”
This request is actually unique to all the gospels — even though Jesus taught them all the time, nowhere else do the disciples request that he teach them something.
Those first disciples weren’t the last ones to sense this need in their lives. Don’t we all feel the need to learn more about prayer — and how to do it better?
Now, notice the exact wording of this request: “teach us to pray.”
I think the disciples’ need — and ours today — was not so much about learning how to pray as simply developing the discipline to do it.
Perhaps this request is actually more along the lines of, “Lord, teach us how to consciously to set aside the time and the place and make it a habit in our lives. We’ve got enough bad habits, Lord, teach us some Holy habits, including prayer!”
And, of course, the disciples also wanted to know how to pray. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:26 that we don’t know how to pray as we ought — that sometimes we treat prayer almost as if it were magical — and we may even try to manipulate God to get God to do what we want done.
This idea always reminds me of the story of a mother who sent her fifth-grade boy upstairs to bed. In a few minutes, she went up to make sure he was indeed getting into bed, and when she stuck her head into his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer.
Pausing to listen to his prayers, she heard her son praying over and over again, “Let it be Tokyo! Please, dear God, let it be Tokyo!”
After the boy finished his prayers, she asked, “Son, what did you mean, ‘Let it be Tokyo’?”
“Oh,” the boy said, sheepish, “we had our geography exam today, and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.”
Have you ever caught yourself in prayers where you were just trying get God to do what you want? Asking for the “perfect” solution of your own design?
That’s not really prayer. Rather than some magical means of getting our way, prayer is our intentionally creating an inner openness to God that allows the Divine power to be released within us.
See the difference?
Ultimately, the true power of prayer is not that we succeed in changing God, but that we so open ourselves to God that God succeeds in changing us.
So, when the disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus’ answer was giving them a model for prayer — along with a story about prayer that teaches something about the nature of prayer, too.
This week, as you prepare for Sunday’s worship, read the passage below and then pray the Lord’s Prayer. Taking your time. Let these words become your words. Allow them to resonate for a moment within your own heart.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday in the Sanctuary as we think together about prayer and explore a model for how to pray for others.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Luke 11:1-13 Common English Bible (CEB)
11: 1 Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 Jesus told them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom.
3 Give us the bread we need for today.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation.’”
5 He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. 9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.
11 “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? 12 If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? 13 If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”