Friday, May 31, 2013

Teach Us To Pray

praying-manOne day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ Luke 11:1

I wonder how you learned to pray.

If you were brought up in a Christian home perhaps your formative experience of prayer was within your family. Or perhaps you floundered your way to prayer within a cell group or church prayer meeting.

The disciples, being first century Jews would have been taught from childhood how to make the ritual prayers of their faith and would have read the prayers recorded in the Tanakh - the Hebrew Bible. Yet when they saw Jesus praying they recognised something they had not seen before. There was a quality in the prayer life of Jesus which was unfamiliar yet attractive and they wanted to experience it for themselves.

It puzzles me that there are Bible colleges and seminaries all over the place, where people can study God's word and be trained for service, but no Christian institutions whose primary goal is to teach its students to pray. We seem to be expected simply to absorb the ability to pray.

I count myself privileged to have studied at one of the UK's best Bible colleges. It was a place soaked in prayer: we were expected to have personal devotions before breakfast; there was chapel each weekday morning; every meal and every lecture would be preceded by prayer; every lunchtime would conclude with prayer for former students; once a week we would meet in small groups to pray for different parts of the world; every term there would be a quiet day when we would not be allowed to speak and were expected to devote the time to prayer. Yet we were never actually taught to pray. It was just assumed we could do it.

I have to say that it is my experience that most people can't do it. It's not through any fault of their own, they simply haven't been taught. Most people don't know how to go beyond confession (perhaps), thanksgiving (probably) and asking for things (the bulk of our praying). There is little worship beyond singing on Sunday, no adoration and absolutely no concept of seeking God's face. Consequently, prayers are prayed half-heartedly and rarely answered.

I don't wish to sound condemnatory but I believe the church in this generation is floundering because we have not been taught by previous generations how to get breakthroughs in prayer. We need to relearn the lessons from the classroom of prayer and the place to begin is where the first disciples began.

Lord, teach us to pray.

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