TEACH, TOPIC, TASK 1: Prayer
During the months of September and October, we’ll be studying and practicing prayer. Here are some important resources you can use for faith formation in the home!
Jesus On Prayer (Lesson from 9/20/17)
How many of you have heard of prayer? Seems like a silly question to ask. How many of you have heard of prayer? A solid 100%, I would guess. How many of you have prayed before? A little less silly of a question, but again I’d assume we’re somewhere near 100%. How many of you are sure you’re doing prayer right?
Did I hit the right nerve?
Prayer is a spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines are like any other disciplines. They’re intentional things we do to sharpen our abilities or raise our quality of life. Do you discipline yourself not to take an extra piece of pizza? Do you discipline yourself to shoot or bump or kick correctly? Do you discipline yourself to get homework done? Spiritual disciplines are things we do to sharpen our relationship with Christ, just like with any other discipline. Spiritual disciplines include prayer, fasting, fellowship, worship, reading Scripture, Sabbath rest, and meditation. These are all different things we can do to discipline our spirits.
We don’t do that well.
On that list, maybe prayer, worship, and reading Scripture are the only three we even practice. Even then, do you know if you’re even doing something as seemingly simple as prayer right?
Over the course of this year, we’ll have the opportunity to practice many of these disciplines. We’ll be talking about and doing prayer, worship, fellowship, reading Scripture, fasting, and meditation. But beyond just doing, we want to understand.
So, how can we begin to understand prayer?
Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer in Luke 11:1-4. You’re probably familiar with some version of the Lord’s Prayer. Most lessons or messages on this section of the Bible will center around the words of the Lord’s Prayer. But maybe the most important part of this whole section is verse 1: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (NIV).
The disciples saw the way Jesus prayed and asked, “teach us how to do that.”
The disciples are certainly familiar with prayer. They’ve certainly prayed before. Some of them are ex-disciples of John, who apparently taught his disciples to pray. So they’ve even been formally trained in prayer. Yet here they are, watching Jesus pray and asking, “teach us how to do that.”
What do we know about the way Jesus prayed? A lot, actually.
- Jesus prayed reverently (Hebrews 5:7). In fact, that’s the reason given that his prayers were heard! They weren’t heard because he was sinless. They weren’t heard because he was the Son of God. They weren’t heard because he prayed in Hebrew. While all those things are right and true, Hebrews 5:7 tells us his prayers were heard because of his reverence.
- Jesus prayed for a long time (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus prayed so long, the disciples fell asleep three consecutive times, despite their best efforts to stay awake. One time (at least), he prayed through an entire night (Luke 6:12).
- Jesus prayed often (Matthew 14:36, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18) Luke 5:16 is a good summary, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” It seems like after every time he taught or every time he made any public appearance, any time he in any way exhausted himself he went and prayed. Mornings, evenings, rain or shine. Jesus prayed often.
- Jesus prayed for everyone (John 17). There’s this special prayer in John 17 where Jesus prays for you and me. He starts with a prayer for himself, then for his disciples and followers. Finally, he prays for all who will believe. It’s pretty cool to know that Jesus spent time praying for you and me.
We know that these four things are true from the way Jesus actively lived them out, but Jesus is a guy who practices what he preaches. In fact, in this very chapter we’ve been studying—Luke 11—Jesus preaches these same principles about prayer.
Take a look at what he taught the disciples after the asked him how to pray:
“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.”
Jesus was reverent, even before his own Father.
“Give us each day our daily bread.”
Jesus prayed often and for a long time.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”
Jesus prays for everyone, even you and me.
Jesus practices what he preached. Are you willing to put into practice the spiritual discipline that Jesus modeled? Commit to praying like Jesus. Pray reverently, pray often and for a long time, and pray for everyone.
Prayer is important. It’s a spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines are things we do to sharpen our relationship with God. Do you want to sharpen your relationship with God? I mean, are you pursuing God?
Listen to what David Platt has to say:
Jesus models for us what it looks like to have a heart for the Lord.
How is your heart before the Lord? Do you love him? Is your time long with him? Are you seeking him every day like you can’t live without him? For Jesus the answer was an obvious yes.
This year we’re going to do a lot of things. We’re going to invite friends. We’re going to share with the community. We’re going to fellowship with our church. We’re going to worship and lead worship. We’re going to serve people in their greatest time of need. But if we don’t stop and first ensure our hearts are seeking God, we miss the point. How is your heart before the Lord? Amen.
Small Group Questions:
- Which part of Jesus’ prayer life stood out to you? Why?
- Which part of Jesus’ prayer life are you already doing well? What advice can you give the rest of us so that we can do it well, too?
- Which part of Jesus’ prayer life are you doing poorly? What are some practical ways you can get better at it?
- Is there anything about praying that confuses you? Come up with a question that your group can add to the box.
Heidelberg Catechism on Prayer
Q & A 116
Q. Why do Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.1 And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking God for them.2
Q & A 117
Q. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to?
A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.1 Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.2 Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what God promised us in his Word.3
Q & A 118
Q. What did God command us to pray for?
A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically,1 as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.
Q & A 119
Q. What is this prayer?
A. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.1