Praying Like Jesus
Praying Like Jesus
March 7, 2010
by Rev. William “Buck” Day
Well as God’s faithful people, let’s turn to our scripture today. It continues in kind of a reflective mode today. Words from Luke, beginning of Chapter 11: (Luke 11: 1)
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Let’s do that. Let’s go to prayer.
Lord, your faithfulness knows no bounds. So Lord in this moment we ask that in your faithfulness you would meet us around your word and, by the power of your Spirit, may you speak to our hearts as we seek you and give our hearts to you in worship. Amen.
Well, Lois Main had just returned home after a three day spiritual retreat and, as she got home, she was anxious to share her experiences and what she had learned about prayer with her friends at church. But that night she woke up in the middle of the night kind of with this strange uneasiness, almost feeling depressed. She kind of passed it off as saying, “well maybe it is just that idea of coming off a retreat high.” If you have ever been on a retreat you know that after you get back and get back into the routine, sometimes you can have a little bit of a let down. That was what she was thinking.
Well the next day as she went to church, there were other ladies in the church that felt the same way. One woman even said, “I feel like we should be praying for our children.” The feeling stayed with them through that day; and after their evening services (they had services in the evening at this church) the ladies decided they would continue to pray all through that evening. There was an increasing sense of urgency that was overtaking them. They stayed at church all the way through midnight that night and prayed. Well, when Lois got home, she wasn’t able to sleep. She wondered, what was God trying to tell her? This uneasiness seemed to grow stronger. She seemed to hear God say, “Pray for your people. Go out and pray for the children of this town.” So Lois got up and she began to walk the streets of this little town and to pray. She prayed that God would protect the people; that he would watch over the children. She walked through every street in the town. She finished just as the sun was coming up and she went home thinking that she had done what the Lord had asked her. Little did she know what was ahead of her.
In the little town of Coalinga, California in 1983 in the afternoon, there was an earthquake, an earthquake so strong that it destroyed the vast majority of the buildings in that town. The Guideposts article that relates the story talked about how the hospital had geared up for the onslaught of victims because of the devastation but 25 people showed up, most of them with minor injuries—not one person had been killed. Lois learned later that two other ladies had received the same message that night and they too got up and walked the town and prayed for that town. “Pray for my people.” So that is what they did for that little town of Coalinga.
Prayer is one of those things, isn’t it, that all too often we look at as an obligation as something that we should do; and, truth be told, probably many of us feel guilty that maybe we don’t pray enough, maybe. We haven’t seen the kind of results from our prayers that we hear in stories like Lois Main’s. Yet, in the midst of that we do desire to pray prayers that make a difference, that have significance, that move God to act, don’t we? Yet many times we feel like our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. Well the good news for us today is that God, in fact, does want us to pray those kinds of prayers, those kinds of prayers he wants to answer, as well.
On a bit of a side note, I heard a quote from Dallas Willard. You know that I am a big fan of Dallas Willard and he had a quote that I think is very important for us today. He said, “Prayer and giving are the two primary ways that we interact with God.” Well, you could say, O.K. I could understand the prayer piece. But I just want to lay that out there for you— Giving. Have you ever thought of giving as a way we interact with God? I think that is a great quote.
Well I don’t think that we are alone in that desire to live powerful prayer lives. We are not the only ones that are feeling a little inadequate. I think our text points to that, that the disciples were no different than you or me. They felt those same kinds of shortcomings as you and I do. And in that we don’t see them asking Jesus to teach them how to fish, or how to teach, or how to preach, what are they asking for? They are asking, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They saw something in Jesus’ life that they wanted for their own; and who better to teach them than the one that was living it out. So the natural question is, well what was it that they saw in Jesus’ life? I think one of the things we can say is that they saw the relationship that Jesus enjoyed with the Father. We see Jesus calling the Father “Abba” as he prays in the garden—a term of relationship between a Father and a Son. And Jesus says, “If you know me, you know the Father,” again a statement of the intimacy that was going on between Jesus and the Father. In John 8, Jesus said “If you know me, you know the Father” and later he said, “As the Father has loved me, so I love you.” There was this deep relationship that overflowed as Jesus speaks of the Father. That was just how it was. And the result, I think, was a relationship that was built with confidence and peace and security that allowed Jesus to live faithfully during his time on earth.
We know that any good relationship is built on communication, don’t we? Communication is a two-way street. As a pastor, when I sit down with a young couple that want to get married, I spend the bulk of my time in counseling with them talking about communication; because the truth is, as those who are married know, the quality of your marriage will rise or fall on the quality of your communication. Prayer is a two-way communication. It is not only about bringing requests to God but it is also listening to what God has to say to us. That is what I wanted to tell the children. Imagine what might of happened if Lois Main had not been listening to God. Jesus says, “I only do what the Father tells me.” He had a listening ear for the Father.
I came across this quote this week, it’s great. It is from Virginia Mollenkott and it says this: “During the past decade I have come to believe that prayer is not a matter of my calling in attempt to get God’s attention, but of my finally listening to the call of God which has been constant, patient and insistent in my inner being. In relationship to God I am not the seeker, the initiator, the one who loves more greatly. In prayer as in the whole salvation story unfolded in Scripture, God is reaching out to me.” And I love this ending, “He is speaking to me and it is up to me to learn to be polite enough to pay attention.” Isn’t that great?
Jesus had this deep intimate relationship with the Father as a result of his prayer life. The disciples saw that and they wanted that, they wanted that same kind of relationship. So they saw the relationship as a result of his prayer life, they also saw that prayer was a way of life for Jesus. In numerous places in Scripture it speaks of Jesus praying alone or going away for a time of prayer. There was a centrality to Jesus’ prayer life. When there was a need like more food, what did Jesus do? He prayed. Jesus tells a parable about the need for persistent prayer to live in concert with God in prayer everyday. When Jesus was weary and beaten down, as in the garden, what does he do? He prays in a very authentic way, going, “God if there is any other way, let this cup pass.” In his high priestly prayer of John 17, where he prays first for the disciples and then those who would follow him, and eventually he even prays for you and me. Did you know Jesus prayed for you? John 17. Read it. It shows that that is just part of Jesus’ life. He lived a life of prayer. Prayer for Jesus wasn’t an add-on; it was who he was and it was what he did. Prayer was a priority for him. It was a way of life and it intersected every area of his life. The disciples saw that and they wanted that, as well.
The disciples also saw the results of Jesus’ prayers, didn’t they? They were the witnesses who were there when they saw the food being multiplied, when they saw people being healed miraculously, when storms were heeled just by speaking a word. As Jesus was calling Lazarus out of the grave, what was he doing? He was praying a prayer of thanksgiving that the people would believe in God. Jesus lived a life of prayer and the results of that life were desirable to all who witnessed it, being the disciples, and it drew people to Jesus. Maybe that is part of why he had such a multitude following him. The disciples believed that prayer was the most important thing they could learn from Jesus. So Jesus’ life was enriched and it was sustained by prayer. The disciples saw that and they wanted that. As we look down the road in history, we see that the disciples learned their lesson well from Jesus. As we look into the book of Acts, they became powerful people, transformed lives. Yes, they had the Holy Spirit and there was great power in the early Church; but I think it was due in large success to being rooted and grounded in prayer. Think about the story in Acts, Chapter 6 of the calling of the first deacons. There was a need for food to be served and so they came to the disciples and the disciples said, “Pick some men who are godly men, who are filled with the Spirit and let them do it.” Why? Because, they said, “We must devote ourselves (notice the order) to prayer and the serving of the word.” That is not unintentional. Prayer and then the serving of the word.
So when I think about my prayer life and I get really honest, my relationship with the Father is probably more one-way than two-way. I don’t “take everything to God in prayer” as the old hymn says. It is not as central as it should be. I don’t see the kind of results I see in Scripture or I see from stories like Lois’s. The truth be told, I need Jesus to teach me to pray, too, and I don’t think I am any different than the rest of you. I am just an average guy trying to be faithful the best I can. I want to live a life where prayer makes a difference, not just in the world but, first and foremost, here in me.
One of the truths I think I want us to walk away with today is that prayer is an invitation. Prayer is an invitation to God to do something in us before he does something through us. Let me say that again. Prayer is an invitation to God to do something in us before he does something through us. Prayer is not first and foremost about getting God to move on our behalf; rather it is about letting God get inside of us and changing us, changing our hearts. Prayer is foundational for the expansion of the kingdom of God. It always plays a role in the growth of the kingdom of God, and if you remember we have talked about the kingdom of God as being that area of influence where God’s will gets done. That is where the kingdom of God is. Our role as the Church is to make that area larger, where God’s will gets done, and every time the kingdom of God expands, prayer plays an important part in making that happen. If you look through the history of Christianity, the great movements and the revivals of God always are preceded by prayer. Before Paul and Barnabas set out on their missionary journeys, what are they doing? They are praying with the Church in Antioch. The great awakening that is a part of our country’s history started with a prayer of dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s outpouring. Even more recently, in Jim Cymbala’s book, Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, it is the story of a revival in a church in New York City that began with just a few people praying a prayer of faith. Prayer individually and corporately is a prerequisite for spiritual renewal.
One of the great books that speak to this is Richard Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life. In it he lays out two keys for this relationship between prayer and spiritual renewal. He says, one, “It starts with a prayer of faith and it is used by God as an instrument to release the mighty acts of God in history.” A prayer of faith. And then, secondly, “Prayer is one of the main agencies through which we are brought to understand the mind of Christ” (Think of Philippians, we are to have the mind of Christ) “Prayer is the place where we are brought to understand the mind of Christ towards his particular mission and the work of the kingdom in general.” I am looking at Don, and as I look around here, we are on a particular mission right now to figure where we are going long term in our planning. This is a place where prayer is absolutely fundamental to understand the mind of Christ for us.
So my heart for us is that God would teach us to pray. God would teach us to pray that our lives might reflect Christ’s life, that our lives might reflect Christ’s heart, and the result would be God working in our hearts so that they would be renewed, so that we can be a church that actually makes a difference in this world. So I want to invite you to join me, saying, “Lord, teach us to pray. Lord do something in may heart before you do something through me.” That’s my prayer for me and that’s my prayer for us as God’s people of Faith Church.
Mighty Lord, we do come before you humbly because we know how easily we are distracted and yet we know how much we need to pray. So Lord we ask that we would be able to listen, that we would take time of quiet, unplugged from busy lives to find that secret closet that Scripture speaks of where we can just be with you that we might hear what you have for us. And Lord, we ask that you would change our hearts; change our hearts so that we might be the people you want us to be bringing forth your work in the kingdom. Lord, hear our prayers as we hear you. Amen.