Prayer

If a friend ask you what is prayer?  How will you answer?  The answers will depend on what you think prayer is.  Many people think prayer is talking with God and listening to Him. For others, prayer is like talking to a very close friend or it’s so holy that they need a specific place to pray.  Let’s look at what Jesus teaches us about prayer and how He has set an example in the Gospel of Luke.

Rev Edmund Chan stated, “Prayer is not merely what we say to God but what the Holy Spirit inspires in our hearts to lift up before the throne of God.”[1]  Prayer is a channel to communicate with God and it is the great resource of the Church and our spiritual growth. Prayer nourishes a spiritual life that is deep in God and enriched in Him.  John Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer.  Martin Luther said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day.”[2] The recorded prayers of Moses may be short, but Moses prayed to God with fasting and tears forty days and nights.  The words of Elijah may be condensed to a few brief paragraphs, but it is no doubt that he spent many hours of fiery struggle and lofty communion with God before he could say to King Ahab, “there shall not be dew nor rain these years”.

The Gospel of Luke records nine accounts of Jesus’ prayers.  The first account of Jesus’ prayer was at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22).  Luke told us in Luke 5:16, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  We see Jesus withdrawing Himself from people to spend time with the Father.  The withdrawal Luke mentions suggests not a single act, but rather a habit of action.  He showed us by His life the importance of drawing near to God through prayer and points to us the fact that we need to have persistence in our prayer life.

Luke 6:12 says, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”  This event happened before he had chosen the twelve disciples.  He spent the entire night praying.  Jesus humbly asked for God’s guidance and committed Himself to understand God’s instructions as He is going to select the disciples who would later carry on His work.  He set a good example for us to follow, i.e. to pray earnestly before we make decisions concerning both for the ministry and personal life.  Luke goes on tell us that Jesus “lifted up His eyes” upon those He had chosen (6:21).  Then Jesus went on to exhort His disciples to pray for those who would persecute them (6:28).  In Luke 9:28-29, we are told Jesus took Peter, James and John up to the mountain to pray.  Jesus went to a specific place where He could spend time with the Father in a special way.  He took his disciples so that they too would follow His steps.

The teaching on prayer in Luke 11:1-13 is known as the Lord’s Prayer.  The Lord’s Prayer begins by addressing God as Father.  Jesus taught His disciples to regard God as their Father.  Then it moves on to two declarations: “Hallowed be Your name” highlights the attitude of reverence while “Your kingdom come” highlights the submission to the reign of God (11:2).  To revere the name of God is to show reverence to God Himself.  We may pray in the confidence of a child-father relationship, but we also pray with the reverence of a man-God – a worshiper-worshiped – relationship.  As a commentator, Darrell L. Bock, said, “As Jesus’ model prayer begins, God’s greatness and the desire that He manifest Himself through His kingdom program set a tone of worship and awe.”[3] After establishing God’s character and authority, Jesus moves on to three requests as the provision of our daily needs (11:3), forgiveness of our sins, and spiritual protection (11:4).  In Luke 11:3, asking for our daily bread means requests for the basic necessities of life and expression of our gratitude to God.  It reminds us that we should be dependent on God because God is our provider.  The next petition is to request for God’s forgiveness for our sins (11:4).  It means forgiveness comes from the grace of God, but not from human merit.  God, a merciful God, is the only one who can forgive our sins.  “Do not lead us into temptation” describes a petition that Christians recognize our weaknesses and easily fall into the temptations of the world.  Therefore, we request God’s spiritual protection and help.  Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger said, “The request is clearly for the Father to keep His children from falling away in the hour of trial, with a possible allusion to the temptation and fidelity of Christ.”[4]

The subsequent parable in Luke 11:5-8 teaches us that God is more ready to hear than we are to pray.  If we get what we need from a human friend who does not want to give it, how much more can we be sure that we will receive what we need from God, who does want to give what is best.  Luke 11:9-10 underlines the idea of confidence in prayer.  Three imperatives in verse 9 – ask, seek and knock – are followed by words of promise that it will be given, you will find, it will be opened.  If a human father wants to give good gifts to his children, how much more it is to be expected that our heavenly Father will give His children what they need.  Therefore, Luke 11:1-13 teaches us much about the importance of seeking God and approaching Him with confidence.

The parable of the unjust judge and a just God in Luke 18:1-8 was told by Jesus so that His disciples might see the importance of prayer and faith in opposition to losing heart in prolonged difficulty.  The two parables suggest the duty of persistence and importance in prayer.  The intention of the parables is to inculcate perseverance in prayer even though they seem to appear unanswered.

Last but not least, Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup form me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  These words indicate Jesus keeping Himself completely within the center of the Father’s will and reminding us of the need of how we are to depend on the will of God and subject to God just like our Lord did. Robert H. Stein said, “Jesus’ prayer clearly reveals that despite his own personal desire, he submitted himself to the divine will, which involved the necessity of his death.”[5]  Jesus, thou He is both God and human like you and me, surrendered to the will of the Father in His prayers.  It is my prayer that as we follow the Lord’s steps, our prayers will not just be talking and listening to God but it is who we are in Christ.  It is a relationship.  It is not just asking to receive things but it is a communication.  Just like the song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55, let our prayers be songs of worship that come from our hearts.

[1] Edmund Chan, Growing Deep in God (Covenant Evangelical Free Church, 2002), 26.

[2] E.M.Bounds, Prayer through power (Christian library,1984)

[3] Darrell L, Bock, Luke (Bakers Book, 1994), 1053.

[4] Baker and Kohlenberger, 252.

[5] Robert H. Stein, The New American Commentary (Broadman Press, 1992), 559.

 

Author Name: