Luke 11:1-4, NLT
I want to introduce this message with a series of questions. The object of a question is to arouse thought:
- Had the disciples never prayed or was it that they wanted to improve their prayer life?
- Do you think that their observation of Jesus prayer life prompted this request, LORD teach us to pray?
- What was it about Jesus prayer life that impressed them?
- Do you think they associated His prayer with His power?
- Did they see something in Jesus that they didn’t see in themselves?
I heard a preacher say in Seminary chapel one Wednesday night, “Where there is much prayer, there is much power; where there is little prayer, there is little power.” For some reason, that adage lodged in my brain. I did not write it down, it just stuck. I think the disciples made this association: they connected Jesus power to His prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to begin their prayer with “Our Father in heaven”.
- THE BEGINNING OF PRAYER IS A RELATIONSHIP…Note, Jesus taught them to pray, Father or Our Father and that signifies a relationship. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the only prayer you can pray is God be merciful to me a sinner. Leo Tolstoy was a Russian Count born September 9, 1828 and departed this world on November 20, 1910. Tolstoy became a famous writer. He wrote novels, plays, short stories and essays. In 1870 while walking through the country side, he had a spiritual awakening. He came upon a happy peasant toiling in the sun but happy as a lark. Tolstoy was shaken: why was he, an aristocrat with money to burn, unhappy and this peasant, who had practically nothing, happy? Tolstoy began to search, he knew that something was missing and he wanted to find out what or who it was. After a time of contemplation and meditation, he realized that it was a relationship with God. Although Jesus is not mentioned in the story, I feel confident that he is using God as a synonym for Jesus. Later Tolstoy would write, “To know God is to live.” I concur and to know God as Father is the first step in prayer.
- THE SECOND STEP IN PRAYER IS OUR RECEPTIVITY. We would probably use the word “Open” instead of receptive but the key to intimate prayer is to be open to God as a person. To be receptive of HIM. Prayer is worship for the Father and communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This sweet communion which I miss so often is going to be missed when we rush into His presence with our prayer list. Many of us pray like the Prodigal, “Father, give me!” Our whole approach is selfish and disrespectful. We are more concerned about His gifts and His blessings than we are HIM. Prayer will never take on any real meaning until we make it a time to express our love to the Father. I have to be honest. I had given this very little thought until I picked up an old, old book by Charles Allen, the famous Methodist who also believed in tithing. I heard someone say a few days back, “You might be a Methodist is the number of times you have been sprinkled is greater than the number of times you have tithed.” Charles Allen was an old-time Methodist and he preached tithing. As I was reading his book on prayer, I got convicted about my selfishness. I pray like the prodigal, “Father, give me, give me, give me.” To be honest with you, I am ashamed of the way I pray. I thought to myself, this has to be corrected and then the first time I pray, I automatically go into a list of things that I want God to do in my behalf and the thought came to me, this bad habit is not going to be easily broken. I don’t have a doubt in my mind, my prayers are offensive to God, they have to be. I come bounding into His presence asking for things I want and that should never be the first thing on my mind, I should be thinking about HIM and not myself. I feel like a regular jerk and I should, right!
- THE THIRD STEP TO PRAYER IS TO GET OUT OF THE AGGRESSIVE MOOD AND GET INTO A RECEPTIVE MOOD. This is a difficult thing for a Type A personality to do. We are aggressive my nature. We have trouble waiting on anything. Where normal people ease into the water, we plunge. Others drive 10 miles below the speed limit and we go 10 above. We are always late and always in a hurry. This creates a major problem because you cannot pray effectively or at all if you are in a hurry. Randy Sharp was leading the praise and worship for us in a revival with Junior Hill was doing the preaching: I had the audacity to tell Randy to move it along, keep it short and get it to Junior 20 minutes into the service. He looked at me like a calf looking at a new gate and said, “Bro. Jack, Jesus never got into a hurry and I’m not either.” It is an insult for a music man to correct a preacher but I didn’t have an answer. I could not remember Jesus getting in a hurry, not even for the sick or for a funeral which of course He would break up anyway. We treat prayer like a formality and Jesus treated it like a force. We have the tendency to pray so we can get on with the business but prayer is the business. The poet said:
David said in Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.” Literally, the Hebrew word means to stop striving. That is easier said than done for a Type A. June and I were taking an anniversary trip some few years ago. I had to make some hospital visits in Huntsville so I decided to go on to Chattanooga and hit I-75. We were going to Cleveland to see the Indians play and to see my friend Phillip Carol. We got up into the mountains of Kentucky and got tired so we stopped for the night. That is when we realized that we had forgotten to pack our DAILY BREAD devotional. The next morning as we sat in the car for our prayer time and devotion, I turned and read Psalm 46 and then I said to June, that verse BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD really means, “Relax and experience God” and then I said, “That is our goal for today, to relax, enjoy the trip and experience God.” She said immediately, “Who can relax with you behind the wheel.” It is a challenge at times but the key to prayer is to relax, get out of the aggressive mood and get into the receptive mood. If you are like me and I hope not, we need to work on this aspect of our prayer life.