Teach Us to Pray: The Gospel Accounts: A Chronological Harmony

Teach Us to Pray

Sample Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)

            At some point in their travels, after Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples approached him and ask that Jesus teach the disciples how to pray like John had done with his disciples.

            Jesus gives a sample prayer that is similar to the one he used during the Sermon on the Mount. The prayer is not long or complex, but it illustrates the essential things which should be expressed in a prayer. It is not meant to be recited word-for-word, but to teach what makes an effective prayer.

            First, the prayer is directed to the Father. There are a few examples of prayers directed toward Jesus (Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60; 8:24; II Corinthians 12:7-9; I John 5:11-15; Revelation 22:20), but the greater majority are directed to the Father. Addressing God as the Father puts the prayer in a proper perspective. We are approaching God with a request that is likely to be granted because of His love for us as His children.

            A part of prayer is an expression of our respect and reverence for who God is (Psalm 57:11; II Kings 19:19; Revelation 15:4). Prayer is a worship of God. Along with acknowledging God superiority should be a desire to submit to God’s will.

            Prayer is also an opportunity to make requests of God (Philippians 4:6). There can be requests regarding physical matters, such as our basic necessities, as well as spiritual matters, such as our need for forgiveness (I John 1:9) and a desire to avoid temptation. Along with it is an admission that we are accountable for our deeds.

Persistence (Luke 11:5-8)

            We understand that in our relationships with one another that persistence in pursuing something that we really want is necessary to getting it. Jesus illustrates this with a man knocking on a friend’s door at the inconvenient hour of midnight to borrow three loaves of bread. Even though his friend won’t give him the loaves because of the hour, or his friendship, or his insistence that he leave, he will give him the loaves because he persists in asking.

            The point isn’t that God doesn’t answer prayers unless we constantly bother Him, but that God doesn’t want us to come to Him unless we truly and sincerely want His aid. I’m sure we have all seen the young person on their first sale’s job who says, “You don’t really want to buy this do you?” Such is double-minded talk. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8; see also Mark 11:24; I Timothy 2:8).

Ask, Seek, Knock (Luke 11:9-10)

            There are three aspects of prayer. We must ask, seek, and knock. We cannot expect something from God without first asking for it. God will watch and care for us, but He also desires that we approach Him for the things that we desire (James 4:2; I John 5:14). Yet we cannot just ask and then sit back expecting it to happen. If we want something strong enough we will also search for it (Jeremiah 29:12-13; Proverbs 8:17; I John 3:22). However, not everything we desire is out in the open. Sometimes we have to make opportunities. We have to persist at it and give effort. This is why we pray to God for our daily food and yet are told to work for our living (II Thessalonians 3:10). For the same reason we depend upon God for our salvation, but we are told to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Confidence (Luke 11:11-13)

            When we approach God in prayer, we should have confidence that God will give to us what is best. We know that fathers don’t give their children something harmful or worthless in response to their requests. If we expect that from our earthly parents, how much more will our heavenly Father care for us? (Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:32). Faith in God means confidence that He rewards (Hebrews 11:6).