Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” [Luke 11:1 (NLT)]
While asking one’s teacher how to pray was a typical request in Jesus’ day, Jesus was anything but a typical teacher. He’d walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead, and turned water into wine, but His disciples didn’t ask how to do those impressive miracles. Instead, they asked Him how to pray.
Even though they didn’t completely recognize the divinity of Jesus, the disciples understood that His power seemed to come from prayer. Jesus prayed at his baptism and before choosing his disciples; He prayed before heading to Galilee and both before and after feeding the 5,000. He said a prayer of thanksgiving before offering His rest and yoke to the people and prayed with Peter, John, and James before His transfiguration. He prayed after healing people in Capernaum and before raising Lazarus from the dead. He prayed for the disciples and “all who will ever believe in me through their message.” [John 17:20] He prayed when blessing the little children, for Peter’s faith, in Gethsemane, and when He was nailed to the cross. When He wasn’t teaching or sleeping, Jesus seemed to be praying. In fact, he’d been praying when the disciples asked him how to pray!
Jesus didn’t conduct a seminar, preach a three-point sermon, categorize types of prayers, or set special requirements like those found in the Torah. He said nothing about the wearing of phylacteries, putting fringe on a prayer shawl, or the number of times to pray in a day. Instead of talking about prayer, Jesus simply prayed. This uncomplicated prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer gave them (and us) the guidelines for all prayer. In simple everyday language Jesus offered praise, thanksgiving, petition, and asked for forgiveness and protection from evil.
Yet, for some reason, we Christians aren’t satisfied with such a straightforward process. Surely something as powerful as prayer should be more complicated! Convinced there must be a secret technique to mastering the art of prayer, we wonder if there are special words or phrases we should say. There aren’t. Prayer simply is an intimate interaction with God and isn’t supposed to be difficult. In fact, God really gave us only one rule: “You must not have any other god but me.” [Exodus 20:3]
Other than the Lord’s Prayer, which is just a blueprint for prayer, we haven’t been given a specific prayer to recite. In fact, the only prayer Jesus commends is perhaps the simplest one—that of the repentant tax collector who just said, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” [Luke 18:13] It’s a plainly expressed sincere prayer, offered with a humble and repentant heart, and Jesus assures us that it will be heard.
We already know all we really need to know about prayer to pray and praying is far easier (and safer) than riding a bike. We just need to do it. Just like bike riding, however, we’ll get better at praying the more we do of it!
Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. [Josh McDowell]