Jesus, while on earth as a man, spent much time in prayer.
He often prayed all night long. He rose up hours before dawn to be alone and pray. He withdrew to pray after ministering to the crowds. He prayed spontaneously as He walked along with His disciples. Prayer marked His life. As Jesus lived out His life on earth—day by day, encounter by encounter, event by event—His life exhibited a power and a joy that were so enticing that they caused His disciples to ask Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Until the disciples encountered Jesus, their models for prayer were primarily ritual, scheduled, public, memorized prayers. Not the passionate, free, honest outpourings they heard from Jesus. This was new to them. Never had they heard a person address God with such audacious intimacy and heartfelt love. Can you imagine their conversations as they waited for Jesus to finish yet another extended time of prayer? Perhaps as they waited, impatient to get on with the day’s business, they began to ask each other, “What do you suppose He does all that time? What is He doing for hours and hours alone with God? Could it be that this—all this prayer—is the secret to His power, His peace, His joy?” When finally they saw Him coming toward them, they were bursting with their newfound desire. “Lord!” they exclaimed. “Teach us to pray like You pray!” They didn’t need to know how to pray in some generic, memorized way. They already knew how to say prayers. They wanted to know how to live prayer. They wanted to know how to pray like Jesus prayed.
If the disciples were enthusiastic about their request, their enthusiasm was more than met by Jesus’ response. His lessons, I’m sure, were animated by, and punctuated with, His own experiences. Notice that Jesus did not correct their request that He would teach them to pray. He sat down and began to teach them to pray. He instructed them. Do you see? Prayer can be learned. In fact, prayer must be learned.
Learning to Pray
When a person is born with an innate talent for music, that talent must be cultivated if it is to reach its fullness. A person may be born with a gift for music, but that doesn’t give the person the ability to read notes or play an instrument. The skilled musician is one who has taken lessons, watched and imitated the masters, studied, and above all, practiced. Practiced, and practiced, and practiced.
The mature musician has mastered the basics. The fundamental laws of music have been drilled into him through diligence and discipline. Finally, the basics have become part of him. As automatic as the blinking of his eye. Then he begins to find his own, unique style. The music becomes his focus, rather than the fundamentals. He is able to use the fundamentals to compose his own music. He has honed his skill and has moved from diligence and discipline to delight.
When you were born into the kingdom of God, you were born with the innate talent for prayer. No one, living or dead, has more prayer potential than you do. The Spirit Himself is calling you to develop the art of prayer.
Lord, Teach Me to Pray
More than anything, I want to be a skilled and trained intercessor. I want my life to have optimum effect for eternity. I want continually to progress in the art of prayer. There is only one Prayer Teacher. Jesus Himself will teach you to pray as you yield yourself to Him.
Is there something you are struggling in prayer about right now? Would you be willing to use your current circumstance as a classroom in which Jesus can teach you to pray?