Summary: Prayer seems to be a struggle for many people. It can seem stale and lifeless. But is also seems that Jesus KNEW how to pray. So what can we learn from his teaching to his disicles about refreshing our prayer life?
There’s a well known hymn that starts off with these words.
Sweet Hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer
that calls me from a world of care….
It is a well known hymn for many people. The idea of the hymn is that prayer is sweet. And the words encourage us to spend much time in prayer. It has appeal. The words wouldn’t resonate if it didn’t. But if I am honest, I struggle with the song. We know we should pray.
A 2001 Barna Research poll bears this out.
When asked about prayer, 89% of teens and 80% of adults surveyed said they prayed on a daily basis. Those numbers sound encouraging don’t they? But listen to the follow up question. How long on average do you pray? This same poll indicates that the average amount of time spent on daily prayer is less than 3 minutes.
Most of those prayers were said at meal times, a minute or two before going to bed, or were brief words whispered to God in times of confusion or suffering. Is that where prayer should be relegated? To the dinner table, or a few minutes before drifting off to sleep? That sounds less than fulfilling as far as any conversation goes; and it seems less than satisfying for prayer. It sounds less than sweet.
The struggles are not just among laity. In another poll done by Lifeway Research, church pastors were asked how satisfied they were with their prayer life.
Only 16% of pastors said they were VERY satisfied. 16% would say prayer tastes sweet to them. The rest of church leaders think of their prayer life as less than completely satisfying.
Let me ask you “are you satisfied with your prayer life?” I imagine there are many here who would say, “Not really!” And if you asked me, I would say there have been points in my life where if I answered honestly, I would have answered, “What prayer life?”
If you struggle with prayer, you are probably not alone. My goal is not to shame or embarrass you today. I know the struggle with prayer is real. What do we do with this?
We begin a new series of messages and what I hope we can do is discover ways to make our prayer life fresh again; to make that hour of prayer sweet again.
If you brought your Bibles would you turn them to Luke 11:1-13. And as you turn there, I need to ask a question. Have you ever met someone who KNEW how to pray? I’m not talking about someone who knows the churchy words. I’m not referring to people who know how to include the word “bless” in their prayers; I’m not really talking about people who useth many “thees” and “thous.”; I don’t want us to picture the preacher whose public prayers could be effectively timed on a sundial.
If we are honest those prayers can seem stale and out of touch; not sweet. The person I’m talking about is that person who when he or she prays, you feel moved to the core. Have you ever met a person who knew how to pray? As we enter our text, we meet one such person.
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Do you get the feeling that Jesus KNEW how to pray? Do you see the story? Jesus prays and when he says, “Amen” his disciples ask “Will you teach us how to do that?” “Will you teach us how to pray?” It is pretty clear that Jesus’ disciples had never heard anyone pray quite like Jesus before.
Now Understand, this is different time and a different culture from today. It likely might be a natural question today. Not for Jesus disciples. It wasn’t as if Jesus’ disciples had never heard anyone pray before. They had grown up in a Jewish culture where prayer played an integral part of daily life. They would have heard people praying. They would have been taught from a very young age HOW to pray. They learned through a liturgy of prayer. They would have likely known proper form.
When they heard Jesus, there was something refreshing; something real about the way He prayed.
Jesus prayed different. And Jesus seems to be happy to teach his eager disciples how to pray. Because he says
“When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
It’s the cliff notes version of what we commonly hear called the Lord’s Prayer.