With Jesus in the School of Prayer #1
By Chris Jordan
Jesus wants to teach us how to pray. When we spend time with Jesus in the secret place, prayer becomes an exciting adventure.
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24).
Prayer is an interesting topic. It’s unfortunate that many people see prayer simply as one of those religious duties that they have to do. If prayer is something that you find to be more of a chore than a joy in your life, then this message is for you. My desire is to change your thinking about prayer, so that you can see it as an exciting adventure to look forward to.
I love listening to children pray. Children are great. When they pray, they don’t put on any kind of pretense and they don’t start speaking in King James English. Kids are real, and they’ll say whatever’s on their heart, and that’s refreshing. Here are some actual children’s prayers…
- Dear God: I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I have a hard time loving all of them.
- Dear God: I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.
- Dear God: Did You mean for the Giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?
- Dear God: Thank You for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Christians don’t pray more than they do is because they don’t know how to pray, or maybe they didn’t realize that prayer really changes things. I read a story once about a small town that had one church and one bar. Members of the church complained that the bar was giving the community a bad image. To make matters worse, the owner of the bar was an outspoken atheist. The church had tried for years to shut down the bar and finally decided to hold a prayer meeting. The church folks gathered one night and there was a horrible thunderstorm raging outside and to the delight of the church members, lightning hit that old bar and it burned to the ground. The next morning the sermon in the church was on the power of prayer. The insurance adjusters promptly notified the bar owner that they were not going to pay for the damages because the fire was an act of God, and that was an exclusion in the policy. The bar owner was furious and he sued the church, claiming that they had conspired with God to destroy his business. The church denied that they had anything to do with the cause of the fire. The presiding judge opened the trial with these words: “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The atheist believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”
I believe prayer changes things. “Prayer is the detonator to the dynamite of God’s power.” (Dave Koop). Prayer is not just something we do out of a religious duty – it really changes things. If that’s true, then why don’t Christians pray more than they do? And when they do pray, why don’t they see more answers to their prayers? Maybe they simply don’t know how to pray.
If we’re not getting answers to our prayers, it could be that we’re praying wrong. Some people would say, “Wait a minute. How can we be praying wrong? Prayer is just talking with God, and we should be able to pray anyway we want to!” Yes it’s true that prayer is talking with God, but we need to remember that prayer is not just talking to your buddy, you’re talking with God. Because He is God, then we would be wise to approach Him the way He told us to in the Bible. If we don’t approach Him on His terms, how can we expect Him to answer?
If we want to learn how to pray, who should we look to? One of the greatest prayer warriors of all time was Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus prayed powerful prayers. When He spoke, mountains moved, storms were calmed, blind eyes were opened, demon possessed people were set free, people were raised from the dead, and lives were changed. If we want to learn how to pray, we should go to Jesus.
The Bible says, “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1). There was something that the disciples recognized about Jesus and His power in prayer. One of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray. Teach us how to pray powerful prayers like You do.” Jesus responded to this request by giving them something we call the Lord’s Prayer.
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, pray…” (Matt. 6:6-9).
One of the first things we notice about Jesus’ teachings on prayer are the words, “When you pray.” He didn’t say, “If you pray.” He didn’t see prayer as a side-issue, something you can take or leave in the Christian life. Jesus assumed that every true child of God, at one time or another in their spiritual journey would be drawn to the place of prayer.
Jesus said, “Go into your room, and shut the door.” Why did Jesus tell us to shut the door? He is saying, “Shut the door to all of the distractions in your life.” Sometimes our lives are so busy going, going, going, that we don’t have time to be still and to go into the secret place of prayer. We need to shut off our cell phones, iPods, televisions, computers, and anything else that is distracting us. Then, when we get into the secret place of prayer, we need to get alone until we’re not alone anymore. Where it’s no longer just me talking with God, but God shows up and we have fellowship with one another. Prayer is about abiding in the secret place of prayer with Jesus.
THE LORD’S PRAYER:
The Lord’s Prayer isn’t just a prayer for us to repeat over and over; rather it is a guideline for how to pray. Let’s examine this prayer more closely, and learn how to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer is divided up into two different parts. The first part is for God’s Glory, and the second part is for Our Good. Take a look at how many times you see the words Your and our / us.
- Hallowed be Your name,
- Your kingdom come, Your will be done.
- Our Father in Heaven,
- Give us this day our daily bread.
- Forgive us our trespasses.
- Lead us not into temptation.
- Deliver us from evil.
The first part of the prayer is about things that are important to God – that His name would be hallowed, that His kingdom would come, and His will would be done. Here we are praying about things that concern God’s Glory. Then in the next part of the prayer, we pray for things that pertain to Our Good – for our provision, our pardon (forgiveness), and our protection.
Christians get out of balance when they overemphasize one of these two elements of the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes they will pray, “Lord, we just want your will to be done. I won’t ask for anything for myself, I’m an insignificant nobody, and I don’t want to trouble the Master with the things that concern me.” They pray, “Lord, whatever you want to do, you do it. If you want to make my life miserable, go ahead, because it’s all about you!” This is not God’s desire for us as we pray. Jesus told us that we could pray about things that are important to us. We can pray that God would provide for us, forgive us, and protect us. Some people will overemphasize this aspect of their prayers and say, “Lord, gimme, gimme, gimme, ‘cause my name’s Jimmy!” Those people only care about their own good, and not about God’s glory. There must be a balance in our praying.
1. Paternal Relationship: Our Father in Heaven:
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9).
The first thing Jesus teaches us about prayer, in the simple words, “Our Father in Heaven,” is that prayer is a love relationship with our heavenly Father. Some people treat God as a cosmic vending machine, the great big Santa Claus in the sky, and whenever they want something they pray, “Lord Jesus, do this right now!” and they start giving God orders. They treat God like a magic genie – just rub the lamp and get your three wishes. That’s not what prayer is.
Prayer is a love relationship with God. He is our Father in Heaven. One of the reasons many Christians have a hard time with prayer is because of those two simple words: “Our Father.” We’re living in a fatherless society where many young people are growing up without a dad. That was my story. My parents were divorced before I was five years old. My biological dad was an alcoholic promise-breaker who was never there for us. My mom remarried when I was ten years old, and my step-dad was a strict parent. When I became a Christian, hearing that God was my heavenly Father didn’t bring the best images to my mind. I had to strip away my imperfect, human ideas of what a father was, and realize how much better and perfect my heavenly Father was. If people haven’t had a good earthly dad, they will have a hard time relating to God as their heavenly Father.
I used to host an annual youth conference in Surrey, BC, called The Filling Station. I got up to speak in one of the afternoon sessions, and I stood on the stage in front of this crowd of hundreds of young people from across Canada. As I stared out at this sea of youth, I started weeping uncontrollably. I thought, “Here is a generation of young people who don’t know the love of the Father, because they don’t have earthly dads who are modeling the Father’s love for them.” As I stood there weeping, I started praying, “O God, reveal your Father’s heart of love to these young people. Help them to know that you’re a good God. Help them to know that you’re there for them, and that you’re not a promise-breaker. Help them to know that you’ll never leave them, you’ll never give up on them, and that you’ll never stop loving them.” I invited Pastor Steve Witmer to come and pray the Father’s blessing over these young people. This was one of the most powerful times of ministry I had ever experienced in my life, as God revealed His Father’s heart of love to this fatherless generation.
The Father’s love is the most important lesson that we can learn in the school of prayer. If we can’t relate to God as Father, we will have a hard time having confidence in prayer. As a father, I try to model a generous, approachable nature with my children. I want my kids to know they can ask their dad for anything, and that I would do anything within my power to provide for all of their needs. Humanly speaking, I am limited by natural resources, by time, and different things, but our Heavenly Father isn’t limited by anything. He is always available to His children. The first thing that Jesus teaches us about prayer is that it is a love relationship with God as Father.
“The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer. Prayer begins in a personal relationship with the living God as well as a personal, conscious fellowship of love with Him.” (Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer). This is the starting place to learning how to pray.
This is a sample chapter from The Beausejour Pulpit.
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