Summary: Prayer needs to be the primary way we encounter God and grow in our relationship with Him. Jesus modeled and taught on prayer, particularly through the model of “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Last week I shared our need to get connected to God, the only way to experience an abundant, fruitful life is to get connected to God. We get connected to God through Jesus. The Scripture passage we used last week was Jesus’ words, “you cannot bear fruit unless you remain (abide) in me.” The first step of getting connected with Jesus is to overcome the barrier between us, which is sin. Through Jesus God has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins, but being forgiven doesn’t mean we are connected to God or Jesus. There are means God has provided for us to stay connected to Him. One way we stay connected to God (which I focused on last week) is to be connected with God’s family, the church. God expects us to live out our Christian faith within our church family. We stay connected to God by learning about God’s word, reading and studying the Bible. We stay connected to God by obeying God’s commands, Jesus said, “you are my friends if you do what I command.” We also stay connected to God through prayer.
What is prayer? This may seem like a pretty obvious answer for most of us here, but I don’t take anything for granted anymore. One time I was interviewing people in a local shopping mall in Lexington, KY for my evangelism class in seminary. One of the many questions I asked was, “what are your thoughts about prayer?” One particular gentleman I interviewed responded first that prayer was talking with God, but after thinking about it, he changed his mind and said “actually, prayer was more like reflecting, thinking about, or meditating upon the day ahead.” Prayer had nothing to do with God, it was more of a way to focus. This way alarming to me since this guy I was interviewing was the son of a pastor and seminary professor. So I don’t take anything for granted anymore.
Biblically speaking, prayer is simply having a conversation with God, or spending time in God’s presence. If we are going to remain connected to God, and enjoy a fruitful life from this relationship with Jesus (God), we must communicate with him. Could you imagine claiming to have a best friend that you haven’t communicated with in 20 years? How can someone have a close relationship with you if they don’t know what is going on in your life, your joys, your hurts, your struggles? Although God knows every detail of our life, he wants to talk with us, and the way we relate to God is through prayer. Typically we think of prayer as asking God to do something, but prayer is first and foremost a conversation with God.
Most of us probably realize the importance of prayer and yet prayer seems to be one of the easiest areas to overlook in our life. I don’t know about you, but even as a pastor I find prayer difficult sometimes. I can get easily distracted. I find it difficult to make the time. I sometimes wonder if I am doing it the right way, am I getting the words right. Perhaps we don’t know what to say (Rom. 8:26). Sometimes prayer feels like more of a chore, one more thing on my schedule, than a joy of being with God. Take out the trash, do the dishes, and oh yeah pray. It is easy to get discouraged with prayer because we have not seen any answers. Perhaps praying feels more like talking to the ceiling than to God. This week I came across a quote from one of the great writers on prayer in the 20th century, Thomas Merton. Merton writes:
“But let us be convinced of the fact that (when it comes to prayer) we will never be anything else but beginners all our life!”
- Thomas Merton
I find comfort in knowing a guy who was considered to be an expert on prayer even admits to being a beginner. Rather than feeling guilty about our inadequacies in prayer, we should be courageous like Jesus’ disciples and boldly ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Let us learn from the Master. After being with Jesus and witnessing his prayer life, his disciples realized that they were missing something. Can you imagine being one of Jesus’ disciples, and comparing your own prayers with Jesus? Talk about feeling inadequate. On one particular occasion after being with Jesus while he was praying, one of the disciples finally gathered the courage enough to ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John [the Baptist] taught his disciples.”
Beginning today and over the next six weeks we are asking Jesus the same thing, in fact that can be our first prayer to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We recognize that we are all just beginners in prayer, and we need to learn from Jesus how to connect to God in a deeper way through prayer. We need to learn how to delight in spending time with God, so we can see God work in our life and in the lives of those we pray for.