“One 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)
Why would anyone say: “Lord, teach us to pray”? Aren’t prayers easy to say? You recite them in church, or just before going to bed; and when you need something, you ask!
But is this really the way it is? Jesus’ disciples, the men who asked this question, had learned to pray as children, and had been praying all their lives. You would think that they, of all people, wouldn’t need to ask such a question.
When the disciples looked at Jesus, they saw not only a great, compassionate spirit, but also the power to fix the world’s problems. They had seen many mighty, vivid demonstrations of Jesus’ power. They had witnessed Him raising the dead and healing the sick. They had seen Him free the people from the power of sin. And they longed to do as Jesus had commanded:
“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:7-8)
But how could they do these things? They tried to attain this power by themselves. A record of their failure is found in Matt. 17:14-18 “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’ ‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.” (NIV)
Later biblical reports confirm that the disciples did, indeed, attain Jesus’ power. Here are just two of many examples:
“Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money . . .. Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:2,3, 6-8)
“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’”(Acts 20:9-10)
So just what was Jesus’ secret? What was it that the disciples learned? You might say: Jesus was the Son of God. That was His secret! But does the fact that you bear your father’s last name, give you the same talents that he has? My father began his married life without a penny in his pocket. He went on to become a successful businessman. Does the fact that I am his son give me those same talents? No. I have my own set of talents, but I certainly don’t have my father’s head for business! No, there is much more to Jesus’ power than just being God’s Son!
Because the disciples were Jesus’ constant companions for three years, they couldn’t help but notice that some of Jesus’ habits were very different from their own. They were witnesses to the fact that Jesus prayed continually, and they had to wonder why. Was this His secret power source? Did He know some kind of a magical prayer that they didn’t know, one that held much more power than their own prayers? Or perhaps it was His method of prayer that gave Him His power? They had to know, and so they asked: “Lord, teach us to pray!”
If the disciples, men who walked with Jesus, felt the need to learn how to pray, shouldn’t it be an even bigger concern to us? Do we know how to pray? Do we really know how to address our Father? If we do, then why can’t we perform miracles like the disciples did? Why can’t we heal the sick, the deaf, and the blind? Shouldn’t that power be available to anyone?
What would you say if I told you that you do have this power at your disposal? Would you believe me? The scriptures say: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) (NIV)
My friends, this power is still available to each of us today. But like the disciples of old, we also must ask: “Lord, teach us to pray!”
Why Should We Pray?
By looking at Jesus’ life, we can discover that prayer is necessary, it is natural and it teaches us to be “God-sufficient”, rather than “self-sufficient”. Let’s explore these truths in more detail: