In Luke 11:1, Jesus’ disciples saw Him pray and then they turned to Jesus and said “Lord, teach us to pray.” They didn’t say “teach us how to pray.” Think about that for a minute–they weren’t asking for how to’s, they were asking for the ability to pray. To pray instead of doing it ourselves, or to pray instead of fretting, or asking others for help.
So when that struck me it seemed profound. Learning to pray like Jesus prayed isn’t so much about five easy steps of “do this” or “don’t do this.” It’s more about getting to know Jesus more intimately and having a more accurate perception of what little I can really do on my own.
Lord, Teach Me to Pray
- in solitude: early and often
Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning while it was still dark Jesus went to a desolate (lonely, quiet, isolated) place and there He prayed.”
Luke 6:12 “In these days He went out to the mountain to pray and all night He continued in prayer to God. And when day came, He chose twelve disciples.”
In Mark 1, it tells us that Simon and others were searching for Him and when they found Jesus, they said “everyone is looking for You.” That’s the way it is when we try to pray and get alone with God. It’s hard enough for us to get that alone time to fight against our own flesh’s desires to sit at Jesus’ feet. But when we get there, others try to find us and pull us away, back to the frenzy of busyness.
- at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication
That’s what Ephesians 6:18 instructs. It finishes with “being alert with all perseverance.” That’s how I should pray. “In the Spirit” indicates that I should ask God to tell me what to pray for and how to pray in certain situations. When people say things like “please pray that I get this job,” I think “what if that isn’t what God wants?” If I’m praying in the Spirit, I would ask how to pray for that person according to God’s will. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit intercedes with groanings that can’t be expressed “according to the will of God.”
We should pray all types of ways–publicly, in the prayer closet, for others and for myself. In Mark 9:28-29, the disciples had tried to drive out a spirit that made a boy convulse. Jesus took over and drove it out. They asked Him why they couldn’t and He responded “This kind cannot be driven out without much prayer and fasting.” So add fasting to your arsenal.
Colossians 4:12 tells about how Epaphras prayed for the Colossians. Paul wrote that he wrestled in prayer for them, that they would be mature, fully assured in all the will of God. The Greek word for wrestle is agonizo, which is the root for agony. Prayer is a wrestling match, not just to see peoples’ physical ailments fixed or traveling mercies, but that we would have a spiritual appetite to seek after God and to fight off the things that keep us from becoming mature.
James 5:16 “The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.” The better I get to know God, the more effective my prayers become. If I pray “bless the missionaries,” I may not be as effective as if I think of one specific person that I know that is out on the battle field. I can then pray for them, thinking of specific things I would need if I was in a remote place, like: friends, encouragement, victory, perseverance, finances, wisdom, strategies to reach the people, resources…If all else fails, I can pray the prayers that Paul prays in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.
If God puts something on my heart to pray for something or someone, then if I pray until it gets off my heart, I am apt to be more effective. Psalm 37:4 relays “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That means if I lean up against His heart, as the apostle John did, I’m going to have God’s eyes and heart for things that I would normally miss. In other words, the more time I spend in those lonely places, the more I’m going to pray for things and people outside of my daily circumstances.
- instead of me just doing it
When Gideon was called by God to take on the Midianites, God trimmed the army down from 32,000 to 300 “Lest Israel boast over Me, saying ‘My own hand has saved me.'” (Judges 7:2)
I am at my weakest when I am at my strongest, and I am at my strongest when I am at my weakest.
That’s an oxymoron, but so are a lot of things with God. So rather than running from my weaknesses, hiding them, or cursing them, I should see them as opportunities for God to show up.