Summary: Principles of prayer that the Bible teaches us.
Lord, Teach Us To Pray
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One of the greatest privileges that God has given us as believers is the ability to come to Him in prayer. It is also one of the most misunderstood and abused aspects of Christianity. People pray for things that are not the will of God. They ask for things that God has provided to us in other ways, such as through study of the Bible. They think that God doesn’t always answer their prayers, when in fact, God may be answering them by saying "No!".
I once heard a pastor tell a congregation that "the best way to learn how to pray, is to just pray!". Let’s think about that for a minute. Suppose we apply that logic to other things.
I want to learn how to shoot a gun, so I ask an expert marksman to teach me, and he replies, "Why Frank, the best way to learn how to shoot a gun is to just shoot!"
My daughter Sara comes to me when she’s 16 years old and asks me to teach her how to drive the car. Would I answer her by saying, "You know Sara, the best way to learn how to drive a car is to just drive!", and then I merely hand her the keys and send her on her way? Of course not! That would be ridiculous!
So why is it that when a pastor or another believer says something ridiculous like that about prayer, that we often just accept it, and sometimes even view such a statement as something profound and spiritual?
One of the funniest stories I heard that combine my shooting and driving examples was told to me by a coworker. He knew of a teenage boy who went to his father and asked his dad for a car. The father didn’t think his son was very responsible, to put it mildly, and he told his son, "I’d rather give you a gun. You’ll kill less people!"
The point is that despite what some pastors and believers may say and believe, the Bible does teach us that there is a right and wrong way to pray. In Luke 11, verse 1, we read,
Lu 11:1 "And it came about that while He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples". (NAS)
In response to this question, Jesus does not say, "If you want to learn how to pray, just pray!". He does not tell His disciple the kind of nonsense that some emotional denominations believe, such as to "just share your heart with God", or "just go with your feelings", or "just tell God how you feel and what you want".
Jesus also does not correct the disciple about what he said about John. Instead, Jesus by His words and actions affirms that John did teach his disciples how to pray, and Jesus proceeds to do likewise. Jesus goes on in Luke 11, verses 2-4, to teach His disciples the correct way to pray. He gives them a sample prayer in those verses that we Christians today know and sometimes recite as, "The Lord’s Prayer". This prayer that Jesus shares shows us just how He wants us as His disciples to pray.
In Luke 11, verse 2, Jesus begins His prayer with the words, "Our Father", and this is important. This verse shows us that prayer is for believers only, because only believers can address God as "our Father".
But this verse in the Bible also teaches us that all prayer should be addressed to God the Father, and that’s my first point today. Whenever Jesus prays, He addresses Himself to only the Father. He never prays to the Holy Spirit, nor of course to His own Deity. Likewise, throughout the Bible, we see other instances of believers praying, and they address their prayers to God the Father.
The reason for this is that, although there are three members of the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), each member reveals Himself to mankind in a different way. God the Father is the author of the divine plan for mankind; God the Son, Jesus Christ, is the instrument for carrying out the plan; and God the Holy Spirit is the revealer of that plan to mankind.
Even though all three members of the Trinity are God, they act towards us in different ways. It was Jesus who died for our sins, not the Father or Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to us as our Counselor after He departed from this world, not Himself or the Father. Likewise, it is the Father whose will Jesus came to earth to fulfill, and it is to the Father that we should address our prayers as Jesus and the disciples did.