ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.
LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY
"And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." Luke 11:1.
There are two ways of receiving instruction; one, by being told; the other, by watching someone else. The latter is the simpler and surer way. How better could the disciples have learned to pray than by watching how Jesus prayed as He was down here surrounded by our same circumstances, trials and temptations for "in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" Heb 5:7-8 We may forget that even Jesus found comfort, consolation, and fellowship with the Father as he prayed; for our text is taken "as he was praying".
And how it seems His heart yearned for this place, this "certain place". It must have been a special place for our Lord; it must have been His "Bower of prayer".
Yes, Jesus prayed! The King of Kings; the Lord of Lords; the creator of all things; prayed to the Father. And who could better teach us to pray than one who could say "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always".
As an obedient son, Jesus was in constant fellowship and communion with His Father. Prayer is communication with God. For us it is a Holy language, ordained of God, for the sole purpose of spanning a gap between the lips of sinners and the ears of Holiness. In one sense, it may be observed as a telephone cable between the corruption of earth to the portals of Glory. But it also should be appreciated as a mode of communication between a righteous and loving Father and His not yet perfected children. Even here, relationships are molded, experienced and enjoyed by proper communication. Without proper communication, the best of efforts produce only marginal relationships. Communication brings minds and hearts together and lives are experienced and shared. How true we observe this as we commune with our heavenly father. When we feel alienated from God, lonely and forsaken we should ask "how has my prayer life been?" It was at these times, that David searched for companionship with God in prayer and would cry "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily." Psalm 102:1,2. Earthly communication gaps are not the only ones we need to concern ourselves with as we observe the necessity of prayer in the life of our Lord.
Prayer is also a mode of worship. As the scriptures teach, it can and should be practiced both collectively and privately, but never for show. Job worshiped in prayer when he received the news of his children's death and the loss of his possessions "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped". This is the proper response to bad news and tribulation. Jacob worshiped in prayer with his son Joseph and his two grandchildren, Ephraim and Manasseh "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff'-Heb11:21 (Gen.48:12-16). What an example of worship for parents and grandparents.
Prayer was an integral part of Jesus' life. The first four books of the New Testament are replete with this testimony: Jesus prayed! We find him praying at his baptism "Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. -Luke 3:21,22.
He prayed in a solitary place after performing many miracles and before preaching "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."- Mark 1:35.
He withdrew himself from the world and prayed for strength as an escape from popularity "But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed." -Luke 5:15,16.
He prayed with his disciples as He does with us today "And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?" Luke 9:18.
He took Peter, John and James to a mountain top for the sole purpose of praying "And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering."-Luke 9:28,29.
He rejoiced in prayer "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." -Luke 10:21. He demonstrated his habit of praying in our text "And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."- Luke 11:1.
He offered prayers of thanks "And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me." John 11:41,42.
He prayed in a mountain "And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray."-Mark 6:46.
He prayed when his soul was troubled, that the Father would be glorified in all that he did, even His death on the cross "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name."- John 12:27,28.
He interceded in prayer for his anointed servant "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." -Luke 22:31-32.
In the 17th chapter of John, He prays the prayer of the great high priest. As one writer put it "We come to the Holy of Holies in the New Testament. This intercessory prayer was offered beneath the shadow of the Cross. As He prays, Jesus thinks of His work as accomplished: "I have finished the work thou gavest me to do" (17:4). Jesus speaks to God about His own life and labors: (v1-8). Jesus prays for His disciples: (v9-18). Jesus prays for the multitudes who down through the ages listen to His word and believe: (v19-26)."
A most earnest prayer was His prayer in Gethsemane. What a lifetime of temptation and anguish were crowded into that Gethsemane hour as He faced the reality of Calvary, His darkest hour. This scene is found in Luke 22:39-46; Matthew 26:36-46; and John 18:1. We take our example for Matthew's narrative "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. -Mat 26:36-44
His closing breath was used to pray as he prays from the Cross. Evan at this hour He prays for his enemies "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do...-Luke 23:34. In His moment of loneliness, He cried for the fellowship of His Father as He becomes our sin "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"-Mat 27:46. And in dying, He committed Himself to the Father "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.- Luke 23:46. May our end be as His!
It becomes obvious that prayer was a habit for Jesus; an intrinsic characteristic of His life. This lifetime example spurred the disciples to ask "Lord, teach us to pray." By reading the scriptures which have been preserved by God, which reveal the prayer life of our Lord, Jesus has taught us, even today. He has taught us how to pray, when to pray, where to pray, and as He answered the request of our text, He even gave his disciples and outline of some of the most important things to pray for. Jesus also taught them the importance of importunity in prayer.
It is here, from the very lips of our Lord, that we find an example of prayer; a body or outline to learn from. A.W. Pink wrote "This intimates that the Lord Jesus was supplying a pattern after which our prayers are to be modelled. So ignorant are we that "we know not what we should pray for as we ought"-Romans 8:26. He has graciously furnished the instruction we so sorely need, revealing the manner in which Christians should approach God, the order in which their requests should be presented, the things they most need to ask for, and the adoration which is due to the One they are supplicating." How wisely our Lord teaches!
The opening clause, "Our Father which art in heaven", presents to us to whom we are to pray: "our Father". The reason is because He is our Father. God is our father by creation "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?"-Malachi 2:10a. God is our Father as a result of our spiritual birth into His family, the royal seed of eternal life "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."-1 Peter 1:23. God is our Father by our kinship to Jesus Christ, our elder brother "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren" - Heb 2:11. God is also our Father by adoption "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" Eph 1:5. By this we are made aware that the relationship supersedes the petition. For this reason we heartily agree with the title A.W. Pink attributes to this model prayer as he refers to it as "the family prayer". Only a child, one born into the family, will be heard. Here is a paramount reason we are to pray to no man "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven"-Mat 23:9. As a child we are to pray to God as: "Our Father".
"Which art in heaven" wings our petitions to a place above and beyond the decaying frailties of earth. As the incense from the alter spiraled upward, so our prayers. Therefore our prayers penetrate a realm unaffordable to mortal flesh; a place of Holiness; a place of power. This lofty place, is a place to distant for the natural voice reach; for prayer is not of the natural, but rather the spiritual. It is spiritual communication. Since God is in heaven, prayer is a communication of the heart. Only the prayer of the heart can span this gap.
We now come to praise in prayer "Hallowed be thy name". Yes, praise before request! God should come first; before our request; before our desires. Self should always come as secondary to our petitions. How can we pray unless we honor God first? Hallowed means "to make holy, purify or consecrate". In this language, God is more that "the man upstairs". He is acknowledged as a Holy one. And by this language it is implied that He is set apart in our lives as such; that He has a special place in our heart. This is the language of praise.
The next segment of this prayer is a very short, but powerful, request. It is placed as the first request by reason of priority. It is the most important thing we can and should pray for "Thy kingdom come". When is the last time you prayed for the kingdom, the church of God? It should be the desire and petition of every child of God to see the kingdom enjoyed and magnified even in their own personal life "for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you"-Luke 17:21. And it should also be our petition for the kingdom to come in power and demonstration of the spirit of God in our country; in our cities; in our families; in our lives. What a difference it would make. Yes, beloved, it is not just the responsibility of your pastor to pray for the spiritual prosperity of the church. According to the language of Jesus it is the privilege and duty of us all. This collective body of people, who join together in the worship of our God, brings such joy in our lives. Please remember to pray "Thy kingdom come".
"Thy will be done" is a constant reminder for us in every prayer, that we are endeavoring to pray the things that God wants us to pray for "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us"-I John 5:14. Yes, it is the desire of Jesus for the Father to hear us as He gives us this example. Selfish prayers do not echo a desire to please our Lord. When we pray "thy will be done" we are rebuked by our own mouth many times as we are, by God, made aware of our foolish requests. Praying "according to his will" incites us to seek out God's will in our lives; to ask "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do". This focuses our attention away from what other people are doing and brings us to our place of service; a personal, vital and living relationship with God. We are brought to the place that we recognize that God has a will for us in our life as we pray "thy will be done". This statement is also an acknowledge of sweet submission to the Father's divine will in our lives; come what may; to say "Father, if this is according to thy will, I humbly submit my life unto thee". This sole purpose is reflected in the prayer of Jesus as He prayed with the Cross ever before Him "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Mat 26:39. Here, as taught by our Lord, we offer our lives to God.
"As in heaven, so in earth" invokes our desire for God's will to be accomplished here on earth as divinely as it is in heaven; not only for ourselves, but for others as well. As the Father's will is carried out in heaven, our desire should be to carry it out in the same way here. As heaven is observed as a place of absolute perfection, every angelic being obeying and carrying out every command to perfection, our desire for earth is the same. Imagine the difference it would make if the leaders of our country, congress, parents, teachers and even children sought the Father's will in their lives. Observe, in this, the magnitude of this prayer! This prayer teaches us how to live "day by day" as we look to God each day for "our daily bread". It reminds us of our daily dependence upon God; that we can not store up our prayers ahead of time; but that we depend up God for every meal, every breath; for shelter, for jobs, for family; for all things we need and enjoy each day. Day by day living focuses our eyes and attention upward, for if we had all that we needed for years to come we would soon forget where and who it came from: "Our Father which art in heaven".
We should ever remember that prayer is also the place that the erring child begs the Father for forgiveness; therefore we pray "And forgive us our sins". The reason is because He is the only one that can forgive sins. Even though we can and should forgive one another, ultimately, only God can put away sin. This should be done every day in a very specific way. Not to just say "Lord please forgive me of my sins" but rather to relate and confess every sin specifically for God already knows all about them. And we should confess our sins knowing "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"-I John 1:9. This is a promise to every child. When we do not confess our sins each day we are saying one of two things. We are either declaring that we have not obeyed by confessing or that we didn't have anything to confess. Therefore we should pray "Forgive us our sins".
As we beg the Father to forgive us of our sins we are also to forgive others. How hypocritical we would be to ask the Father to forgive us and then we did not do the same. By our first acknowledging our sinful condition it reminds us to forgive others on this premise "for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." Since we have sins to confess we are enabled to forgive others who have sinned against us; as God forgives us, we forgive "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you"-Eph 4:32. Read our Lord's example of one not observing this vital principle of forgiveness in Matthew 18:23-35. Therefore this prayer reflects the language of the ten commandments: it reminds us of our duty and relationship with God and man.
"And lead us not into temptation" is an acknowledgement of our frailty and weakness in times of trials and tribulations. Temptation means "a putting of proof by experiment of good". We know that God does not temp His children with evil things to encourage them to sin for "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed"-James 1:13-14. Our own sinful lusts will suffice for that. But here we acknowledge our past failures and fear of forthcoming trials. How would it sound for us to say "Lord lead me to the toughest temptation for I can handle it". This prayer is emptied of vanity and boasting.
As opposed to temptation, we request deliverance from something that is hurtful "but deliver us from evil". Evil even includes malice towards other people or guilt from past sins. This request truly deals with the ups and downs of life, the physical as well as the emotional. We should pray to be delivered from the pernicious ways of Satan.
In the example that Jesus gives of prayer in verses five through eight we are taught the importunity of prayer; to keep on knocking till the Lord arises with healing in His wings. Even Jesus "Prayed the third time, saying the same words."-Mat 26:44. In this example we observe our Lord arising, not giving the friend every thing he requested, but rather "as many as he needeth"-verse 8.
Yes, even the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator of all things, prayed. Therefore prayer is more than a doctrine; it is a way of life. William Law, wrote, "Prayer is the divinest exercise the heart of man can engage in." One's truest and most accurate relationship with God is reflected in their prayer life, which, for the most part, is a relationship hidden from the eyes of the world. "Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?"