Last Sunday I shared part one of a seminar on prayer that I facilitated in the spring. I began the series with some thoughts about what prayer is and when we should pray by looking at Jesus and verses that tell us about His prayer life, coming to the conclusion that Jesus prayed about pretty much everything all the time because He was in a dependent relationship with God the Father, just like us.
In short, we should pray!
To which your response might be, Great, thanks, Heather. I already knew that!
We know we should pray. Yet we often find ourselves thinking, it sure it helpful to have some instruction, because I think I'm pretty bad at this prayer thing. Thankfully, Jesus also thought His people needed some direction in this arena; He knows what we need! So today we're going to take a quick peek (meaning I will not exhaust the topic, but give you some food for thought) at what Jesus taught about prayer.
There are two big passages that come to mind when I think of Jesus' teaching about prayer: Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 18:1-17. The Matthew passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount and includes what is commonly called The Lord's Prayer. The Luke passage consists of two parables, one about a persistent widow, the other about a Pharisee and a tax collector. I imagine these are familiar words for many of you. If you want to refresh your memory, click on the references above to read the passages. All I will do here is offer short observations and brief summaries of what I think the main point of each passage or story is.
Let's begin with Matthew 6:5-15.
- Prayer is neither about impressing people nor about the content and delivery of the prayer. (v. 5-8)
- Prayer submits to God's Fatherhood, holiness, and rule. (v. 9-10)
- Prayer trusts in God's provision, forgiveness, and protection. (v. 11-15)
Summary Thought: "Good prayer" submits and trusts.
Now, how about Luke 18:1-17.
- Keep praying, Jesus says, because God actually cares about you! (v. 1-8)
- The posture of prayer is humility, because the prayer recognizes their dependency on God's mercy. (v. 9-17)
Summary thought: "Good prayer" is ceaseless and submissive.
What I'm trying to draw out from the Word are overarching principles to guide us when we come to God in prayer. What is it that we are supposed to do? Jesus didn't give specifics about physical posture or exact wordings. These teachings, instead, guide us to look to God, to consider Him, to surrender to Him, and to talk with Him. Prayer is part of a relationship where God is the compassionate and trustworthy parent and we are His children. We are not to concern ourselves with what others might think of our prayer or even what God might think of our prayer and how it's delivered. We also are not to concern ourselves with how everything will work out or try to appeal to our own goodness to get God to listen. To become a "good pray-er" we simply need to submit, to trust, and to keep on praying, yep, even those faltering, confused, I-don't-have-the-words kinds of prayers.
The bedrock for this faith is found in the story God is unfolding in human history. We read our Bibles which recount His consistent and reliable fulfillment of promises from leading Israel into the promised land, to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the one who teaches us to pray by the words He spoke and the life He lived. We can trust God because He is faithful.
Breathe the Gospel in deep, friends, for it testifies to God's faithfulness, to God's mercy, to God's love for His people. Remembering that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life, encourages us to "bend the knee" of our hearts and open our lips to talk with our God. If God went that far to rescue you, will He not hear your prayers when you talk with Him today?
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There's some food for thought for this week; tune back in next Sunday for the final installment of "On Prayer"!