It was part of Jesus’s discipleship program to teach his disciples to pray.
So it should be ours.
Why did the disciples wanted to learn to pray? Because they saw Jesus praying. His model made them want to learn to pray.
With this request the disciples confess that they don’t know how to pray. It also means that we are not born with the ability of prayer. We need to acquire it. To acquire something means you need to take an effort to have it. Reading, writing, calculating are acquired abilities. We were not born with them. We had to make efforts to have those abilities.
For a long time I thought that the highest ability of language to acquire is poetry. Poetry is the tool to express the depth of your heart, pour out your pain, express your love and joy. Poetry communicates something that is deeply in you using the ability of language.
But later I realized that the highest ability of language is not poetry, but prayer. Not because it’s a better way to express what’s in our heart, or to describe our pain. That’s not the ultimate goal of prayer. Prayer is not another tool through which we can pour out our hearts, desires, wishes, wants, longings or pains to God. Prayer has a different purpose. Prayer connects us to God. It takes our fallen, broken realities into the perfect presence of God. It connects our world with his transcendent world. It brings his reality into our reality. That’s why there is no higher ability of language then prayer.
The miraculous ability of prayer is that we can discover what’s in Him and not just share what’s in us. The power of prayer is not me sharing what my problems are but Him sharing what his powers are. He knows well what is in us even before we would say it. But through the struggle of prayer we discover what is in God, we bring down to Earth what He wants to accomplish, we bring down to Earth the resources He has. How we mess up prayer! We are just listing our wishes, wants, problems, desires, goals, strategies. How rarely we use prayer to discover who He is and what He wants! How rarely we use prayer to connect His reality to ours!
Lord, Teach us to pray!
That’s a dangerous request. The prayers Jesus answered were not the kind of prayers we want to say. Those were prayers of people who were in misery. “Lord, heal my son, he is demon possessed.” “Lord, save me, I’m sinking!” “Lord, come and heal my daughter, she is dying!” These people learned to pray. Their misery forced them on their knees. They were so lost that they had only one option: crying out to God.
Majority of my prayers are reciting my prayer-lists to God assuming that He can’t read. By doing this we treat him like we treat a child who has not acquired yet the ability to understand the semiotic meanings.
We are encouraged to ask, seek and knock. Luke 11:9. That asking, seeking, knocking needs to come not from a list, but from the depth of a needy heart. That’s the ask of the beggar. That’s the cry of the hopeless. That’s the seeking of the one who relentlessly is trying to figure out his will. That’s the knocking of the one who is in danger outside and needs to be let in. But how do we knock, how do we ask, how do we seek is enveloped in the prayers Jesus has approved and encouraged us to pray.
We want God to hear and answer our prayers. We want listening ears from him. But God turns with listening ears only to the worshipper and obedient. _”If anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.“_ John 9:31. If you are neither, don’t have any expectations regarding your prayers. Why would God answer to someone who is not honoring Him with worship and with joyful submission?
The 7 prayers Jesus approved reflect that truth. That 7 prayers should envelope all of our prayers.
1. Hollowed be thy name
In every prayer we are commanded to ask and seek that His name would be glorified: “Lord, I want your name to be glorified in everything I’m asking from you! I want your name to be glorified in my sickness, in my financial challenges, in my children’s schooling issues, in my conflicts with others, in my goals, desires, purposes!”
2. Your kingdom come!
In our prayers we need to ask that His Lordship, rulership, authority to become more and more obvious by fulfilling our request. In our prayers we need to seek how his kingdom will become a reality.
3. Your will be done!
We need to express a joyful and willing submission to his will. In our requests, asks, wants, knockings and seeking we should pursue one desire: his will be done through meeting those needs. Especially when we are praying for our plans, for our ministry desires and ideas we need to ask that we would dream his plans. We think sometimes that by asking God, we can force him to bring revival. We can’t. We can only build the altar. He can send the fire. We have dreams. He has plans.
4. Give us this day our daily bread.
90% of our asks are around our physical needs. Jesus legitimize those prayers. But, that’s only 14% of all the requests in His prayers and it’s greatly limited by two factors: it’s about our daily need and it’s about bread – meaning basic needs. Note this: he has encouraged us to pray for something that he has promised to provide: daily bread. Ask what he has promised to give.
5. Forgive us our debts.
Confession of sins should be part of our regular prayer. Prayer is the means through which we experience Jesus’ forgiveness. Prayer by faith appropriates the reality of forgiveness. It needs to be asked. Another example of something that we need to ask what has been promised to give. It’s the prayer for spiritual purity and community with God.
6. Lead us not into temptation.
7. Deliver us from evil.
The last two requests are prayers for spiritual protection acknowledging that there is a spiritual battle. Asking God to give protection acknowledges the fact that there is a war against us. There is an enemy who wants to take us down.
The 1-3 asks are prayers asking God to rule and be glorified in everything we are asking for.
The 5-7 asks are dealing with our spiritual purity and protection.
These two envelopes one physical request in the middle. 86% of the prayer taught by Jesus deals with our spiritual well-being, being in the center of the will of God in everything we do.
The majority of prayer is bringing God’s glory, kingdom and will into the situation and separating ourselves from the evil, sinful, tempting impacts of the devil. That’s what prayer for.