Do you struggle with prayer? So do I… I am a prayer wimp, but a recovering prayer wimp. Not where I long to be, but nor am I where I was.
We aren’t the first to struggle. The sign-up sheet for Prayer 101 contains some familiar names: the apostles John, James, Andrew, and Peter. When one of Jesus’ disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), none of the others objected. No one walked away saying, “Hey, I have prayer figured out.”
The first followers of Jesus needed prayer guidance. In fact, the only tutorial they ever requested was on prayer.
They could have asked for instructions on many topics: bread multiplying, speech making, storm stilling. Jesus raised people from the dead. But a “How to Vacate the Cemetery” seminar? His followers never called for one. But they did want Him to do this: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Might their interest have had something to do with the jaw-dropping, eye-popping promises Jesus attached to prayer?
Ask and it will be given to you. – Matthew 7:7
If you believe, you will get anything you ask for in prayer. – Matthew 21:22
Jesus never attached such power to other endeavors. “Plan and it will be given to you.” “You will get anything you work for.” Those words are not in the Bible. But these are –
If you remain in Me and follow My teachings, you can ask anything you want, and it will be given to you. – John 15:7
Jesus gave stunning prayer promises. And He set a compelling prayer example.
Jesus prayed before he ate. He prayed for children. He prayed for the sick. He prayed with thanks. He prayed with tears. He had made the planets and shaped the stars, yet He prayed. He is the Lord of angels and Commander of heavenly hosts, yet He prayed. He is coequal with God, the exact representation of the Holy One, and yet He devoted himself to prayer. He prayed in the desert, cemetery, and garden.
He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. – Mark 1:35
This dialogue must have been common among His friends:
“Has anyone seen Jesus?”
“Oh, you know. He’s up to the same thing.”
“Yep. He’s been gone since sunrise.”
Jesus would even disappear for an entire night of prayer. I’m thinking of one occasion in particular. He’d just experienced one of the most stressful days of His ministry. The day began with the news of the death of His relative John the Baptist. Jesus sought to retreat with His disciples, yet a throng of thousands followed Him.
Though grief-stricken, He spent the day teaching and healing people. When it was discovered that the host of people had no food to eat, Jesus multiplied bread out of a basket and fed the entire multitude. In the span of a few hours, He battled sorrow, stress, demands, and needs. He deserved a good night’s rest. Yet when evening finally came, He told the crowd to leave and the disciples to board their boat, and
He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. – Mark 6:46
Apparently it was the correct choice. A storm exploded over the Sea of Galilee, leaving the disciples
…in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. – Matthew 14:24-25
Jesus ascended the mountain depleted. He reappeared invigorated. When He reached the water, He never broke His stride. You’d have thought the water was a park lawn and the storm a spring breeze.
Do you think the disciples made the prayer–power connection? “Lord, teach us to pray like that. Teach us to find strength in prayer. To banish fear in prayer. To defy storms in prayer. To come off the mountain of prayer with the authority of a prince.”
What about you? The disciples faced angry waves and a watery grave. You face angry clients, a turbulent economy, raging seas of stress and sorrow.
“Lord,” we still request, “teach us to pray.”
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He gave them a prayer. Not a lecture on prayer. Not the doctrine of prayer. He gave them a quotable, repeatable, portable prayer (Luke 11:1-4).
Could you use the same? It seems to me that the prayers of the Bible can be distilled into one. The result is a simple, easy-to-remember, pocket-size prayer:
Father, You are good.
I need help. Heal me and forgive me.
They need help.
In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Let this prayer punctuate your day. As you begin your morning, Father, you are good. As you commute to work or walk the hallways at school, I need help. As you wait in the grocery line, They need help.
Keep this prayer in your pocket as you pass through the day.
Prayer, for most of us, is not a matter of a month-long retreat or even an hour of meditation. Prayer is conversation with God while driving to work or awaiting an appointment or before interacting with a client. Prayer can be the internal voice that directs the external action.
This much is sure: God will teach you to pray.
Excerpted from Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer