“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
If we were to open our Bibles and start reading at Matthew and read through John we would never find an instance where the disciples asked, “Lord teach us how to witness,” or “teach us how to perform miracles,” or “teach us how to teach.” We do find one of the disciples asking, “Lord, teach us to pray . . .” Wow!
Like many of us the disciples had this same experience. They fell short in their prayer life and they felt it deeply, so hence the question.
This was a very wise question, a very needed question, and from the disciples who were at times slow about spiritual values. This question becomes extremely significant. But what was the motivation behind this question, and why is this so important?
The disciples had obviously heard that John had taught His disciples on prayer and they too wanted instruction But, was there not something more, something much deeper that provoked this request?
Let’s take a closer look. Jesus was, once again, at prayer. He was praying, Luke tells us, “in a certain place.” It suggests to me the Lord was taking time out for prayer, as He often did. The disciples had been observing these “seasons of prayer” for some time. Apparently, they had finally realised that just as prayer played a vital role in John the Baptist’s life, and in the life of Jesus, so it should be their own practice as well. One of the disciples, who was never named, asked Jesus to teach His disciples to pray, just as John had done.
Several things strike me about this request.
- The prayers of John’s disciples followed the Jewish pattern. Like those of the Pharisees, prayer was offered three times a day, at the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours, which made up the Jewish pattern of private devotion.
- The Pharisees prayed and so did the disciples. However, I do not know of anywhere in the gospels where the disciples were characterised as men of prayer. Jesus’ prayer life was, at most times, times when He was alone. Even in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed without the help of the disciples. The petition of this one disciple was an open admission that prayer was not only needed but was a deficiency in his life and in the lives of his fellow disciples.
- Jesus prayed aloud which was the common practice of the Jews. And in this certain place, at least one of the disciples heard Him. Yet as they listened, unable to follow, or to record what they had heard, they wished to be able to enter into His spirit and pray as He prayed.
- Prayer saturated Jesus’ whole being. It wasn’t just prayer; it was the way Jesus prayed in relation to all that He was and all that He did in His life on earth. It was His manner and attitude in prayer that saturated His total being and living. His every step and action manifested the intimacy of His relationship with and dependence on the Father. Prayer was never just a religious responsibility nor exercise Jesus engaged in, He desired to commune regularly with His Father. He was totally convinced He could do nothing of own resources.
It is these observation that obviously motivated the question by the disciple. Jesus’ prayer life undoubtedly brought deep conviction and longing in the lives of the disciples. They came to recognise that, while they could be believers in the Lord, they could not be true disciples who became like their teacher unless they learned to pray to the Father like Jesus. Their prayer life had to have the intimacy and dependency that Jesus constantly demonstrated.
Now consider, how precious the prayers of Jesus are, in bringing Him near to us. Here in Luke 11 is a very important passage for learning some of the key issues of prayer that are so crucial to our walk with the Lord and the fulfilment of His purposes. After the question was asked the Lord gave the pattern for prayer today, known as “The Lord’s Prayer”’, but that is for another blog.
In the midst of a busy schedule, when men were clamouring in their need for His attention, Jesus retired to pray and to draw upon the resources of God the Father for He knew that “the Son can do nothing of Himself.” Now if this was true of Jesus, how much more shouldn’t this also be true for us? Indeed, prayer is to be a vital goal of true disciples. “Lord, teach us to pray.”