Teach Us How to Pray

Jesus often pulled aside by Himself to pray. (Matthew 14:23, Matthew 26:36, Mark 1:35) The disciples observed Him and saw the power He exhibited when He healed the sick and set the demonized free. They saw the connection between prayer and power. So, in Luke 11:1 we hear their plea.  Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Before He told them what to pray, He began by telling them where and how to pray. 

Matthew 6:5 “…when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

The disciples knew about praying while standing because three times a day Jews prayed what they called the Amidah (Ah Me Dah) or the standing prayer. Still, the “hypocrites,” as Jesus called them – prayed to be heard. They were the ones wanting attention for their holiness.

Then, He went on. Matthew 6:6-8 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

Let’s break this down some. People today pray Psalm 91 over their family and friends. Here is the first verse out of the Amplified Bible:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. Psalm 91:1 

For practicing Jews, their tallit or prayer shawl is their closet. They pull it up over their heads, wrap it around them and pray. (picture) Someone standing next to them may hear them. But they are not praying like this for attention but to draw apart with God alone. 

I cannot remember the name of the minister, but I once heard one say that his mother loved to pray. He had several siblings. Rather than go into another room to pray, his mother pulled her apron up over her head. This was her prayer closet. The children knew that if momma had her apron over her head, she was talking to Jesus, and they must not bother her. 

Rather than miss the opportunity to pray, she found a way to be alone with God in the midst of life. She knew that He was the One she needed for counsel and strength. She didn’t let the circumstances around her stop her. 

“When you pray, do not use vain repetitions…” Again, He is speaking of not going on and on about a subject to be heard for their many words. 

Have you noticed that Jesus’ prayers are all very much to the point? He does not cover a subject over and over or goes on and on with words that don’t pertain to the subject at hand. When praying for others He doesn’t try to talk His Father into answering a prayer by telling Him all the reasons this person deserves an answer. (Read over John 17. This is real Lord’s Prayer.)

“For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”  If the Father knows our needs before we ask Him, why do we need to pray at all?

It gets back to the fact that God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to realize that He is the source of all our blessings and if we need help, He wants us to come to Him. Then, when the answer comes, we know where it came from and don’t give credit to someone else or take credit ourselves. 

David wrote in Psalm 121:1-2— I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

And John wrote in 1 John 5:14-15  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Asking, praying, builds our relationship and confidence in God. We are not praying to someone who doesn’t hear us. He knows us intimately and loves to supply all that we need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) We don’t have to ask Him with flowery words and long-winded prayers. He answers prayers of faith. He answers prayers in line with His will. And the only way to know His will is to know Him and His word. Prayer is part of that process. 

One more thing, before we go on. People often say, “I don’t pray out loud because the enemy will hear me. He will know what I want and attack me or try to stop the answers from coming.” Again, Psalm 91:1 answers that question. Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].

When we are in Christ (Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:3) we are hidden from the enemy. Jesus has already triumphed over him, making a spectacle of him. (Colossians 2:15) The enemy doesn’t want to be anywhere near Jesus. We have no reason to fear the enemy. And what’s more, the angels are listening. 

What we pray out loud in line with God’s word, is often exactly what the angels are waiting on to give them the signal to act on our behalf. Psalm 103:20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word.

Now, I will give you a taste of where we are headed. Matthew 6:9-13 is what many call, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Some believe it is an outline of what needs to be prayed. Others believe that it is a prayer for memorization and prayed exactly. 

In the times of Jesus, different rabbis taught the Torah with their twist of interpretation, called their ‘yoke’. The goal of the disciples was to be like their rabbi. So, they would memorize the scripture and the rabbi’s interpretations by repeating them over and over. They didn’t have Bibles or scrolls of their own. Speaking the words out loud over and over was called meditating on the Word. 

When the disciples heard the prayer spoken here by Jesus, they likely believed they were to memorize it and repeat it.

There is a cadence in Hebrew for easy memorization. The short sentences help the learners. The Amidah, mentioned earlier is a prayer made up of 18 short prayers on various subjects. It is repeated at 9 am (3rd hour), at noon (the sixth hour), and 3 pm (the ninth hour). We will look a little more at this prayer when we get into the body of The Lord’s Prayer, next time. 

I would suggest you re-read some of these scriptures, go into your secret place and pour your heart out to Abba. He is waiting.

Until next time…

Shalom 

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