Summary: Herein lies the greatest lesson Jesus ever taught about Prayer!
GOD OF THE HOW MUCH MORE
Illustr. Some years back, during a family dinner, my mum swallowed a fish bone. My younger daughter, who was then three years old, walked over to her grandma and spontaneously prayed, “Lord Jesus, please help grandma’s fishbone…bless it to her body in Jesus name. Amen”. Kids say the darnest thing. Glad that grandma was alright!
Illustr. On another occasion, Ann and I were babysitting two young boys, aged three and five. As we tucked them in bed, we led the boys in prayer and the younger one prayed with great contriteness, “Dear Lord, forgive our bad sins; and give us good ones”! We took the opportunity to gently remind the boys that there are no “good sins”.
Illustr. Kids are not the only ones who make bloopers in prayer. A hilarious blooper was made at a Youth Camp. The Camp Commandant called for a leaders’ prayer meeting, just before the rest of the campers arrived. As the camp speaker, I was delighted to join them in their prayer meeting. They walked through every room and hall in the whole camp site to pray for the Lord’s blessings there, praying things like “Dear Lord, we consecrate the hall for your use” and “we consecrate the rooms for your use” etc. Then we came to the toilet area and one of the young leaders prayed with mindless sincerity, “Dear Lord, we consecrate this toilet for your use”! The group burst out laughing. Someone got to teach us to pray!
There is no better way to learn about prayer than to pray…Prayer is not merely what we say to God but what the Holy Spirit inspires in our hearts to lift up before the throne of God. That is why I often begin my prayers with “Lord, lay upon my heart the things that are upon yours”.
Illustr. In early 1994 while I was on sabbatical in the States, Rev Marty Voltz, the Senior Pastor of North Suburban EFC in Deerfield, Illinois, invited me to share at his Church Board meeting about prayer. At the end of that evening, three of the deacons came up to me with a request: “Pastor Chan, could you teach us to pray?” Together, we represented four different decadal generations. I was then in my mid-thirties, there was one in his forties, the other in his fifties and another in his sixties. They all said most sincerely: “we want to learn to pray”. As there is no better way to learn about prayer than to pray, I invited them to meet me for an hour each week for prayer. At our very first meeting, without any introduction whatsoever, I just entered into prayer. And they followed along. At the end of the hour, when we concluded our prayers, one of them exclaimed to the affirmation of all the others, “I can’t believe it, the hour passed so quickly!”. They learnt the first lesson on prayer. There is a supernatural naturalness to prayer. When we are in the presence of God, we are borne along by the Holy Spirit in our prayers. Prayer is not merely what we say to God but what the Holy Spirit inspires in our hearts to lift up before the throne of God. That is why I often begin my prayers with “Lord, lay upon my heart the things that are upon yours”.
Teach Us To Pray
There was a time when time stood still for the disciples when they were watching the Master Himself praying. And by the time Jesus finished, they went up to Him and said, “Lord, would you teach us to pray”. And Jesus gave them a mastery lesson on prayer , that is such a foundational building block to a deeper prayer life, that none of us should ever forget it. Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 11.
The introductory verse in Luke 11 is most interesting: “And it came about while He was praying in a certain place, after he had finished, one of his disciple said to him ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciple’” (v1). I want to point out that biblical narratives are historical records with a theological purpose. And in recounting history for a spiritual lesson, the Bible does not waste words. Then why the apparent redundancy? Why did the Bible write, “And it came about while He was praying in a certain place, after he had finished , one of his disciple said to him ‘Lord, teach us to pray’”. This introductory verse could simply be written as, “And it came about after Jesus finished praying, one of his disciple came to him and say ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’”. That would have been accurate.
Why add those superfluous words, “And it came about while He was praying in a certain place, after he had finished…?” I surmise that it was emphasising the fact that the disciples were waiting patiently for Jesus to finish His prayer. We are now drawn to the significance of the moment. Something happened to the disciples while Jesus was praying. Something stirred deeply in their hearts. As they stood there watching the Master praying, it was deeply impressed upon their hearts how important the agenda of prayer is in the life of their Master. Prayer must be eminently important to Jesus for it was eminently prominent in His life. How important prayer must be that even the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, came praying. And while He was praying, something stirred within their souls so deeply that they asked Him to teach them to pray. When you see a man of God praying, you feel that you stand on holy ground. So when they saw the Son of God praying, they must have stood riveted, waiting until the Master had finished and they burst came forth with their urgent request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” What a request!