A pilot was flying a single-engine airplane when the engine suddenly quit. He tried everything he could think of to restart the engine, but he wasn’t successful. He radioed the nearest airport, which was 100 miles away, and explained the situation. He asked the air traffic controller for advice. The reply he got was, “Repeat after me. Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Jesus often prayed. For example, He prayed at His baptism, in the wilderness, before the appointment of the apostles and at His transfiguration. The disciples were impressed by the excellence and fervor of His prayers. John the Baptist taught His disciples to pray, and Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus’ answer became known as the Lord’s Prayer. It teaches us three things:
- The gifts and graces of others should lead us to want them as well.
- The true method of praying can be learned only by being properly taught by God.
- It’s proper for us to think beforehand what we are to ask for.
Jesus did not say that the disciples should use His exact words whenever they prayed. He was suggesting a pattern. This pattern has six separate ingredients. This pattern can be easily remembered by thinking of the six letters in the author’s name-CHRIST.
- C-Concentrate on the person you are praying to, and not on the prayer.
- H-Hallelujah. Jesus says, “Hallowed be thy name,” meaning, “Holy be thy name.” The word hallowed defines the person of God.
- R-Ruler.” Thy Kingdom Come.” God is the ruler of the kingdom that will come some day.
- I- “I need and I feed.” When we ask God to give us our daily bread, we are asking Him to give us what we need.
- S-Saviour. Our prayer affirms that God is our Saviour. He will forgive our sins.
- T-Triumph. “Lead us not into temptation.” We are asking God to try to keep us from sinning so often. We don’t have the strength to face our temptations. That’s why we pray to God and ask Him to deliver us from evil.
So why is prayer important? In his book, A Call to Prayer, scholar J.C. Ryle gave the following reasons:
- A habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian. The greatest people in the Bible were people of prayer. They took their problems, challenges, hopes and dreams to God regularly, and so can we.
- A habit of prayer brings great encouragement to the one who prays.
- A habit of prayer creates holy men and women. The more we seek out God, the more our hearts are aligned with what God desires for us and we become holier people in the process.
- If we do not pray, we run the risk of backsliding in our faith.
- A habit of prayer brings peace and contentment. We live in a sin-filled world where sorrows and troubles are plenty. How do we fight this? When we cry out to God, He offers peace that transcends our understanding.
The Lord’s Prayer should be called “The Disciples’ Prayer” because it provides a pattern for all disciples to follow: honour God, submit to His will, depend on Him to meet needs and forgive sins, and ask for strength to forgive others and to resist the devil. At the heart of it all is Jesus’ distinctive vision of God as Father.
The prayer teaches us to forgive others if we expect God to forgive us. It doesn’t mean that by forgiving others we deserve forgiveness ourselves, but that it is a state of mind without which God can’t consistently pardon us. We are to forgive everyone who has hurt us.
It’s also proper to persevere in prayer. God will answer our prayers after long and frequent requests. A good example is the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. God doesn’t promise to give blessings at once. He only promises that He will do what we ask or that He will answer our prayer in His own time and in His own way. He leaves people to persevere in prayer until they feel their dependence on Him. Sometimes we need to know the depths of our own desires, and we need to cry out to God with an enduring persistence. We have to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. Persistence is the key. When we see God answer those prayers, we are encouraged to continue praying for other things as well. Our persistence will be rewarded. God will give us what we need. All we have to do is ask. Sometimes we don’t even have to ask and it’s still ours to receive.
Prayer produces in us the character of waiting-the kind of waiting that brings us the answer and not the answer to us. Prayer reshapes us and our understanding. God brings good even from those prayers that have a different result than what we had hoped for.
God is almighty and He works mightily, but He will not and cannot work if we do not labour together with Him in prayer for His will and pray “with all prayer and supplication” (as written in Ephesians 6:18) to grant Him the maneuverability to work in our lives. God wants to do many things, but He can’t because we do not sympathize with Him and we have not prayed so as to prepare ways for Him.
Just like the man persevered in asking his neighbour for a loaf of bread late at night, Jesus challenges us to ask, seek and knock. God is always there, ready to help when we ask, seek or knock-unlike our friends. He wants to help us because we are His children and we ask Him for what we need. Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking. Jesus was not speaking of the forgiveness of sins or of faith. He was speaking of knowing God in a real and personal way. As we pray to God and get to know Him, we will be changed. God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us that way. He wants us to be just like Jesus, and one way we can be like Jesus is to pray like Jesus did.
One of our big problems with prayer is that we do not see God answer our prayers as fast as we would like, so we give up. Could the reason we have not seen answers be due to the fact that we have not persisted in prayer? God will answer our prayers at the right time. He will provide for our needs. He wants to show Himself mighty and strong in our lives. The greater the problem we are facing, the greater the glory when He comes through.
Prayer is not a special activity reserved for special times, special places or special people. Prayer is not the private property; prayer is mercifully ordinary. Prayer is what we’re wired for. Prayer is what we as God’s children do. If we stop and think about it for a minute, prayer is a reason to relax and rejoice.
Getting to know God is the key to understanding the heart of God, which is the source of the abundance of blessings He pours out on our lives, unworthy as we are. While some are more interested in the help God provides, knowing Him is the key to understanding the nature of prayer and how this brings us into harmony with the will of God.
God is one friend who will never let us down. He is the friend who is always there, who never puts us on hold, and who never turns us away. Even though He doesn’t always give us what we want, or what we think we need, there is one gift He always gives: The Holy Spirit. In the words of that famous hymn:
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Showing hospitality was a moral obligation in the ancient world, and the man in the second part of Luke’s Gospel passage faced a responsibility he could not meet unless he received help. Likewise, believers should see themselves as people in desperate need before the only One who can meet that need. Those who come to God with persistence, as this man did with his neighbour, will know the power of prayer in their lives.
All of us have a hunger for God, including one person who wrote to Billy Graham a few years ago. He wrote,” My parents were atheists, and I’ve never believed in God. But I’m older now, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m right. How can I know if God exists?” In his reply, Billy Graham wrote the following words:
“I can tell from your letter that you honestly want to know if God exists, and I commend you for this. All too often people say they want to know if God exists—but in reality they don’t, because they know He’d make them change their way of living. “
“But I also sense that you aren’t simply curious about God. You have within you a hunger for God—a hunger that God Himself has placed within you (even if you don’t see it this way right now). God made us, and our lives are only complete when we give Him His rightful place. Don’t suppress that hunger He has placed in your soul, and don’t try to fill it with anything less than God. Put Jesus’ words into action: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’”
The idea that prayer is a passive activity has no place in the word of God. Prayer is persistence, conflict and spiritual warfare. Prayer is at the very heart of the life of faith. Prayer is simply talking to God and listening to Him. It’s like falling in love. Suddenly your life takes on a whole new meaning. You’ve got a new centre, a new relationship with a person that gives you excitement and joy. You are talking to the person you love, and you can talk to him or her all through the day, driving, showering, walking down the aisles of the supermarket, going to sleep or waking up.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil while He was in the desert, He was able to defeat the devil by quoting Scripture. When we as Christians understand that we can pray directly to God, when we can take a passage of Scripture and understand it under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we are on the road to surviving victoriously in whatever set of hostile circumstances that may come along. One discovery will lead to another. We will let the Holy Spirit use us to touch the lives of others and minister to their needs.
Prayer is a matter of faith-taking God at His word and trusting His promise to work on His people’s behalf-even when His work is invisible, when the answers are long in coming, and when He seems to be withholding His blessings. The act of persistent prayer proclaims a believer’s commitment to Him.
In the Holy Spirit we partake of God’s friendship. Through His Spirit, God comes to be in us and with us, to talk to us and listen to us, and we to Him. It’s a sign of His friendship. God gives His Spirit to us if we ask, and then the dialogue begins.
We pray because Jesus wants us to. We pray because it’s what we as God’s children do. We pray because we want to and our yearning is precious to God. We pray because what we need the most is God’s Spirit in us. With or without words, and regardless of our circumstances, our prayers usher in God’s Spirit and remind us that we are not alone in this hurting world. God’s Spirit will be with us if we accept Christ as our Saviour and let Him into our hearts and lives.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp.1408-1409)
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 192-200)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1417-1419)
- “Day 22 These: Facing Temptation.” Retrieved from Onceplace@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Dick Woodward, “The Pursuit of God.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Paul Estabrooks, “Led by the Spirit.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- “Pray with Persistence.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Jack Hibbs, “Persistent Prayer.” retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Os Hillman, “A Remnant That Prays.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- “Are We Asking?” Retrieved from www.forthright.net
- Rev. Billy Graham, “How Can I Know If God Exists?” Retrieved from https://www.arcamax.com/healthandspirit/religion/billygraham
- Arthur Schoonveld, “A Friend at Midnight.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Harold Sala, “God’s Pockets.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Kelly Givens, “Do You Pray?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Jeff Schreve, “When Prayer Has Power.” Retrieved from www.christianity.com/devotionals/from-his-heart-jeff-schreve/
- The Rev. Janet Hunt, “A Young Man, His Dog and How Much More Will the Father Give….” Retrieved from www.dancingwiththeword.com
- Debie Thomas, “When You Pray.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net