Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1
“Is there something more? Am I missing something?” Came the question from a young man, whose name I will keep for my own treasure chest. The reference was for what most people refer to as, “The Lord’s Prayer”. This young man asked a very serious question, much like the disciples did of Jesus. In 1st Thessalonians it tells us that we should pray without ceasing. How can we indeed pray without ceasing is we do not know how to pray. How do we talk to God? What does a proper prayer life look like? Is there some secret formula?
I hear all of these kinds of thoughts in the questions that I receive. Is God listening? Does God even care? How do I talk to God and get an answer? Do I offend God with the way that I pray? Does God love me? I told him yes, there is more to it, than it just being a model for prayer.
The significance of the teaching to pray itself is proof of the importance of prayer. Especially if you take in consideration that it is God, himself that is giving the lesson. Imagine that, the creator of the universe wants to communicate with us. In the “Lord’s Prayer” we can see the benevolence of God towards man. The Almighty God came down to earth and gave a special class on prayer. We should probably study what Jesus was trying to tell us about the Father and how we should address the One Living God.
We as a people, who claim Christ as our Lord, have no idea how to talk to him. I think that in the Lord’s Prayer we can find the answer to these questions. We can not only use this model for how to pray, if we look closer, but also get an understanding of God in a very personal manner.
Examination of this model shows us the importance of prayer. Looking at this model also gives us an attitude in prayer that expects results. We can be confident in God’s hearing of our prayer and his timely answers. Jesus said in John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Then again, Jesus told Peter as they passed a withered fig tree, “Therefor I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].”(Mark 11:24) As we see we are to pray expecting results, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.
Now let us move into our verses with an open eye; considering what Jesus is trying to tell us, and how we should apply it to our lives.
1 And it came to pass, that , as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as john also taught his disciples.
How important is prayer? Jesus, the Son of God, who was the Word in the flesh prayed on a regular basis. Jewish custom is to pray a minimum of three times a day, although I don’t know of any commandment to do so, it would seem that the custom comes from the Book of Daniel. Daniel was one of the Hebrews that were taken to serve in the king Darius’ palace when the Persians overtook Jerusalem.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10)
Something that might also catch our attention here that will lend to our latter discussion is that Daniel was kneeling. Later in the New Testament, we see that Jesus also knelt. Tradition has it that James the brother of Jesus knelt when he prayed, and prayed so often; that he developed callouses on his knees. This is of great significance. The posture of kneeling is unique in the world of religion at his time. Pagan religious practices involved prayers that were offered while standing with the palms facing upward. Pagan prayers were done in public and associated with sacrifices made to idols.[i] Here in our model, we see that they were kneeling, and in private. Showing a level of humility and respect. This also shows an intimacy with God, that others do not have. Notice that no sacrifice was necessary, even at this time, to speak with Jehovah.
King David in his Psalm 119:164 exclaims, “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgements.” This gives us another reference to frequency, motivation, and purpose
Some times when scripture noted Jesus prayed:
- Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
- Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
- Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
- Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
- John 17:1-26 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
- Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
- Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
- Luke 22:41-44 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
- Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
- Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
- Luke 9:29 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This may be a direct reference to 1 Chronicles 16:11 – “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”
Note the phrase “he was praying in a certain place”. “He” is in reference to Jesus. Jesus was praying in a certain place. This would give the idea that it was a specific place. Whether it was a common spot for prayer, or not in not clear, but it is clear that the location was picked specifically to pray. Jesus taught that prayer should be a time spent alone with the God the Father. We should not seek to be seen by others, so that they can “see how holier than thou” we are. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6). Jesus often would withdraw to be by himself to pray. He separated himself from the crowds and even his disciples.
When I was a youth, I use to have a closet that I would pray in. My closet was a walk-in closet that was in our 2-room apartment that my dad and I shared. I put all my clothing on one side, moved a desk into the closet along the other side. I had a stool that I would sit upon and there I would read scripture and journal my prayers. Now, I have an office in my home that I use for study, and for prayer. I get up early in the morning, read my scriptures, and I journal and pray. God Himself proclaims, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (Proverbs 8:17). Praying the first thing in the morning demonstrates love and affection towards God.
Imagine if you were to get up in the morning, and your spouse gets up with you. You both go about your morning routine to get ready for work. You shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and grab the keys to go to work. Then you realize, hey, I don’t have my lunch. So the first thing you say to your spouse is, “would you make me lunch for work?” No- “good morning”, no- “I love you”, no- “I will miss you today”… Does this show that you value your spouse? Does it show that you love your spouse? No, it only shows your selfishness, arrogance, and lack of consideration. Your love of God should not be second hand either. I mean after all, he did sustain your life while you slept…
Sometimes I will burn frankincense oil or incents. Yes, I know that we are not required to offer up sacrifices, but I just like the smell of frankincense and apparently, God does not mind it either. It is just something that helps me address my mood in prayers, in addition, when I walk by the room later and smell the incense; it reminds me to pray. Let’s face it, we all get busy and mismanage our time every now and then. Having a reminder to just be still and know the Lord IS, is a great way to say, Thanks Lord.
when he ceased…
Do not overlook this phrase, “when he ceased”. Prayer with the Lord should be our highest priority. I mean this is Old Testament kind of stuff. Take a look at Deuteronomy, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”(v. 4:29). When we speak with God, He should have our attention. Isn’t it frustrating when you are trying to talk to someone, and as you talk, you notice that whatever is on his or her phone is more important than what you are saying? Therefore, when we pray we should not have other distractions. This is probably the best reason for a “certain place” to pray. Having as much as possible a place to be quiet and alone with the Father shows honor and respect. Turn off the phone, the TV, and the radio. Give the Lord your full attention; he deserves at least that much. Now the flip side, notice the disciples waited. They understood how important prayer is to Jesus. They did not barge in and interrupt His communion with the Father. Do others know the importance of prayer in your life? If they do not, then you demonstrate that by prayer being important in your life, it should be a priority. You do not need to tell everyone that it is important; they can observe it by our life of prayer. Our prayer life can actually teach others the importance and manner of prayer.
That leads us to the last point in this verse, teaching others. Discipleship is of utmost importance. The primary thing a new disciple needs to know, is how to pray. In Alcoholics Anonymous and new person getting sober is assigned a sponsor to help them I there new life of sobriety. Unfortunately, this step is missing from Christianity. We expect the new Christian to immediately be able to stand on their own, and be able to know how to talk to God. What a terrible situation, we tell them that God will supply all their needs, and walk out of their lives without showing them how to talk with God. That is like handing the keys to your car over to a 5 year old and telling them, “I will see you when you get there.” No one in his or her right mind would so such an irresponsible thing. It is dangerous to the child, and anyone else along the way.
The problem is that, most of us have been treated the same way. We were given the keys to the car with no instruction on how to drive it. Now we have a generation of disciples trying to disciple the next generation without proper experience or training themselves. We should be teaching one another and encouraging one another. Scripture says that the devil has come to seek and destroy. We need to look out for one another. Teaching how to study the scriptures and how to pray should be discipleship 101.
2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
1 Peter 4:10 – As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
John 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
In evidence of the few items we have covered, I believe it is safe to say that we should pray on a consistent and frequent basis. With a primary motivation of praising God. Prayer should in private, as both evidenced and commanded by Jesus. Prayer should have priority in our lives. Prayer is so important to our walk with God that we should spend time in prayer throughout the day. We must also bring up the new convert in this crucial instruction on communicating with God.
“Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.
[i] Why does Daniel get down on his knees to pray three times a day with his windows opened toward Jerusalem (Dan 6:10)? The reason is that prayerful bodies matter in the book of Daniel. Though supposedly serving in the Persian king Darius’s government, in this tale Daniel disobeys the king’s law to worship him. Instead, Daniel follows his own religious law, developing habitual practices that involve his body. His posture of kneeling is unique in the book and offers a strong contrast to pagan religious practice in the Babylonian and Persian Empires, as well as the Greek Seleucid Empire, which threatened the Jerusalem temple at the time of the book’s composition. In Greek religion, praying individuals stood with hands outstretched, palms facing upward. Prayers were recited aloud in public accompanied by a sacrifice. In contrast, Daniel prays in isolation in an upper room, kneeling down in “service.” Daniel’s prayer signals his resistance to empire and his radically alternative allegiance. Rather than offer honor and praise to King Darius in a public space, he seeks mercy by confessing sin, praying, and praising his own God. “Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.