Summary: Since God universally speaks prayer as His common language, if we wish to talk with God we must speak His own language.
What Jesus Said About Prayer
Someone has said, "Prayer is the language God speaks and listens to attentively." Some of you here speak Spanish, some speak Mandarin, some speak Indonesian, some speak Tagalog, some speak Japanese and others speak dialects of English with accents varying from posh and proper English, Scottish, American and Fair Dinkum Aussie. Since God universally speaks prayer as His common language, if we wish to talk with God we must speak His own language.
It is significant that this is the Lord's Model Prayer. It is not a prayer He prayed specifically nor do the words form a prayer He said we should pray. Although I do not object to the passage being respectfully read, recited or repeated individually or collectively in a prayer like manner, we should al- ways remember that such rote repetition does not necessarily constitute prayer.
A survey of the gospels will reveal that Jesus often prayed. After His baptism He began His public ministry by being led into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and prayer. Surely we can see that through prayer to the Father He received the strength needed to meet the tests and temptations Satan would thrust upon Him. Again and again, when pressed by the cumstances of a busy and hectic ministry, he sought a quiet place to speak to and hear from His Father, God. When momentary popularity moved the masses to seek to make Him King and He faced the crisis of a choice between a crown and a cross, He slipped away to pray. When the masses then rejected Him because of His stern stand for the truth and He turned His face to the garden and Golgotha, He sought solace of the Father in prayer. He prayed early before His disciples rose and all night while they slept.
He prayed in moments of great decision and crisis. Before choosing and sending out His followers, He prayed. Before raising Lazarus, He prayed. We all know He prayed in the garden as He faced the greatest transaction of time and eternity, the cross. It is consistent that His last public prayer re- corded in the Word of God is His prayer for His people in John 17, the night before He offered Himself a sinless sacrifice for our sins.. This prayer could truly be called the Lord's Prayer. Of course, He did prayer again from that cross. He cried out, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.." And again, "It is finished. Into thy hands I commend my spirit.."
As His followers observed His consistent and constant prayer life, it is significant they would approach Him as He was praying and say, "Lord teach us to pray.." Notice they did not ask Him to teach them to preach; even as important as the proclamation of the Word might be. They did not beg Him to teach them to worship and praise; even as beautiful and glorifying to God as good music is and as fulfilling as real worship and praise to God can be. They simply said, "Teach us to pray.." That simple request implies they wished to learn to pray as He prayed and commune with the Father as openly and effectively as their Master.
In our crisis prone world we too need to learn to commune in a Christ- like way with our Father. We need to establish an easy rapport with our Redeemer. As we are dropped into the test tube of trials and trained in the school of hard knocks and then move on into the college of crisis and end up in the university of adversity, we should not delay in seeking the most vital training of all in the school of prayer. It is dangerous to live like the one who, being overwhelmed by a looming crisis cried out to God, "God you know I have not bothered you for ten years now. If you will answer my prayer and get out of the mess, I will not bother you for ten more."
Constant and consistent communication with God through prayer can open the door to God's presence and power in our lives. God will not force Himself upon us. Our refusal to approach Him daily deprives us and dimin- ishes our potential in life. When we pray we are getting in touch with God's potential. We are fixing our frailty with His fullness. Someone has said, "Prayer is linking our free will to the wisdom, love and power of God."
But do we, as the disciples, need to learn to pray? Is prayer not a natural exercise something like breathing? Is it not in our genes? Are we not born, or born again, with the inherent ability to pray powerfully? Evidently not or our Savior would not have taught His disciples to pray. Prayer seems to be a learned exercise. Since prayer is the language God speaks it seems we too must learn to speak it. Let us look at the principles our Saviour shared about speaking God's language of prayer.