For three years, Peter, James, John and the others were enrolled in the Master’s school of prayer where Jesus regularly modeled prayer, illustrating its amazing power.
“He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Whenever you pray, say, Father, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. And do not bring us into temptation’ ” (Luke 11:1–4 (CSB). Matthew records a similar model prayer. “Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9–13). This has been called the Lord’s Prayer, but more accurately, it should be called the Disciple’s Prayer. It was a pattern prayer. Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray. He wasn’t giving them a script, but an outline.
Notice two important things about the Disciple’s Prayer. First, Jesus taught us that prayer is based upon a family relationship. We don’t pray to an unknowable deity far away. We pray to our Father. It is because of this intimate relationship that we can enter His company. He hears us because we are His beloved children.
One more thing. Jesus clearly teaches that prayer is not motivated by selfish personal gain but to honor and glorify the name of Jesus, and a longing to see God’s purpose and plan come to fruition.
Jesus also taught that effective praying is always offered by a humble heart. The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector teaches this. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9–14). Jesus is the King! We don’t stroll into the throne room and make demands, nor do we rub the golden lamp and demand that our wishes come true!
And the Lord taught that prayer isn’t a religious task for which we earn spiritual brownie points. The Pharisees were guilty of this. Jesus declared, “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5–8).
Jesus beckons us. He invites us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7) “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28–30). Come to the Father. Come with a humble and faithful heart. Come to Jesus in prayer.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.