"Lord, teach us to pray"

"Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation." -- Luke 11:2-4

Luke 11:1-13

Week 10 (March)

     The Lord's prayer is more -- much more -- than something to be memorized for points in vacation Bible school. Jesus gave it to His disciples when they realized how inadequate their prayer lives were in comparison to His.
     For us, these few short phrases recorded by both Matthew and Luke are a gold mine of spiritual truth. Among other things, Jesus in this prayer says absolutely nothing about a special "prayer language." When Jesus' disciples came to Him asking to be taught to pray, Jesus did not give them a lesson in unknown tongues. He did not say, "begin repeating over and over again some word of praise."   [ more on tongues speaking ]
     What did Jesus hold up to His followers as the perfect type of prayer? His response is a model of simplicity, brevity, and directness. It is clear from the passage in Luke that God wants us to communicate with Him in words that most naturally express our feelings: This model prayer -- the Lord's Prayer, we call it -- is clear and concise. There is no staccato, hollow repetition, nor any unintelligible syllables.
     It is clear from Jesus' teaching that He doesn't want us to come thoughtlessly into God's presence. Any praying based on Jesus' model will include expressions of reverence to God. It will acknowledge the coming Kingdom.
     Jesus taught us how to present to God our daily needs. And He models for us a prayer for forgiveness-both the receiving and the giving. He also shows us that we have the privilege of asking for divine guidance.
     Then our Lord follows up this model prayer, with an emphasis on the need for perseverance in prayer.
     He assures us that God is good to them that wait upon Him, that our prayers will be answered.
     In all of this, there is no hint of a secret, heavenly language. Surely, if there was a better way to pray than the intelligent use of our own native language, Jesus would have told us.
     One of the most delightful books on prayer I've ever seen is based on the premise that God wants us to pray in our own language and dialect. It is titled God Is No Stranger. I first saw a copy of it in 1970 at the missionary editor's home in the mountains of Haiti.
     The book is a collection of prayers by Haitian Christians, illustrated with black and white photographs of Haitian life. The prayers are colorful, simple, brief, and direct. They obviously flow right out of the daily lives of those believers. They are exactly the kind of prayers Jesus taught us to pray in Luke 11. [ e-book on Haiti ]
     I have often heard the same kind of praying in Italy. Freed from the fetters of an over-ritualized religion, Italian evangelicals have a refreshing prayer life. Having realized that they don't have to drone on and on through memorized prayers, they pray right out of their hearts. That type of praying is the kind of natural expression which the Lord taught His disciples. [ Missionary stories from Italy ]
     It's the kind of free, open communication with the Creator that our hearts long for. It is the type of relationship that He wants us to have with Him.

These devotional thoughts by Howard Culbertson appeared in the March 9, 1980 edition of Standard

How to pray for missionaries

NextUse the fingers of your hand to remind you of how to pray for missionaries. [ read more ]

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