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Teach us to Pray

Teach us to Pray "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." Luke 11:1 This may seem like the request of a child or a simpleton. In days gone by, people grew up saying prayers before meals and before bed. To see full grown men asking for help praying looks a bit absurd. Don't they know how to pray already? But to others, this question peaks interest and the answer is eagerly anticipated because they didn't grow up praying and they honestly have no clue as to what constitutes a legitimate prayer. Where do you start? Prayer is a central part of our vocation as image-bearing human beings. We are called to be priests of God, gathering the praises of creation and bringing them to God and carrying out the will and purposes of God on earth. And it is because of this that John the Baptist taught his followers how to pray. We tend to think of prayer as personal piety or petition, but prayer is much bigger than that. Prayer is standing in the gap as a bridge between heaven and earth. Prayer is the means by which God accomplishes His purposes through us and for us, on earth as it is in Heaven. The big question is, what exactly does God want? Answering that question is why John taught his disciples to pray rather than simply letting them pray whatever came into their heads. We have a goal, a purpose in our prayers and when we understand that goal and purpose, we will pray prayers of genuine faith and conviction and we will acquire persistence as we come to know the will of God. There are also such things as prayers which do not measure up to the plan and purposes of God. The Psalmist in Psalm 137 prays this prayer against his enemies: "Remember O Lord, against the sons of Edom, the day of Jerusalem, who said, 'Raze it, raze it to its very foundation.' O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock." Psalm 137:7-9 I cringe just to copy down such brutal and vindictive words as most of us modern westerners might. But this is because we have grown used to the way that Jesus taught us to pray whether we know it or not. I don't know how John taught his disciples to pray, but the way that Jesus taught His disciples to pray was in stark contrast to this psalm/prayer of vengeance. Jesus didn't teach His followers to pray for vengeance but for forgiveness. "And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us." Luke 11:4 This is a remarkably different spirit than that which animated the prayer of the Psalmist. This is why the disciples asked Jesus that they might be taught how to pray. They didn't need lessons on how to close their eyes or fold their hands. They needed to know the will of God. How could they speed up the coming of God's Kingdom? How could they cooperate with what God was doing? The answer Jesus gave is what we have come to call "The Lord's Prayer". This prayer is a compact vision of how Jesus saw the human vocation and how He wanted the disciples to understand that vocation. One of the awesome things about this whole topic is the fact that God has made us to play a vital role in His work and that He has given us prayer as a means by which we might accomplish that work. And through prayer we get to know Him better. And as we get to know God better, we also learn to pray better prayers. We begin to groan with the Holy Spirit as we ache for the world to be reconciled to God. Maybe this is also why Jesus assumes that when we are in prayer, we will be asking for the Holy Spirit? Jesus assures us that God is more than willing to grant that desire. Would you like to know why you are here on earth? Begin with the request: "Lord, teach me to pray." And buckle up for the adventure that will come your way. Prayer is where we learn to be genuine humans.

Teach Us to Pray

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