Opening Text: Heb.5:7
"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence."
"Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them,"
Jesus a man of prayer
List some of the descriptions of Jesus: Son of God, Prince of Life, the Righteous One, etc.
As the agent of Creation and the Author of Life he rightly belonged in a different realm and yet in his wonderful grace and mercy he left heaven’s eternal glories to dwell unrecognised and unwanted amongst his own people.
Once here he went about doing good and still he was rejected. He would not however let this throw him off or alter his plan and purpose – he was determined to fulfil his Father’s will and save his people from their sins.
Most of us will know something about the salvation that Jesus came to secure. Indeed the idea that Jesus saves sinners may be so familiar to us that we simply take it for granted and fail to think about the importance of it all. This was no small undertaking but a work of monumental proportions – Jesus would tread a path that no-one but he could tread.
How could he do it? Where would the resolve and strength come from? How could he put up day after day with the sinful opposition, hatred and misunderstanding that rose-up so relentlessly against him?
Part of the answer to such questions surely lies in the fact that he was a man of prayer.
This morning we will focus upon the opening verse of Lk.11 under the following headings:
Jesus was observed
Jesus was petitioned
Jesus readily responded
This not the only time
He prayed early in the morning and alone (Mk.1:35)
He prayed after his baptism (Lk.3:21)
He prayed all night before choosing his 12 apostles (Lk.6:12)
He prayed when he was alone with his disciples (Lk.9:18)
He prayed after dismissing crowds that had gathered round him to listen to his teaching Mk.6:46 after Feeding 5.000)
He went up the Mt Of Transfiguration with the intent of praying (Lk.9:28-29)
And he rejoiced when he heard word of the progress of the gospel (Lk.10:21) specifically praising his Father for his sovereign choice
While we see Jesus often at prayer we are not yet told much about the content of his praying up to this point.
Later in his ministry prayer will figure yet more prominently and we will be given much more insight into the content of his prayers.
He would pray for Peter’s upholding and restoration
He would pray in the Garden of Gethsemane when stretched to the limit
He would pray interceding for his people in his great high priestly prayer recorded for us in Jn.17.
He would pray during his crucifixion as he was nailed to the cross
He would pray while hanging upon Calvary’s tree
How amazing that this person should feel the need to pray and to make such efforts to pray:
– He was not unsure of the way to go
– He knew his Father’s plan and purpose
– He was not hindered or weakened by personal sin
His praying shows us something of how low he stooped in order to save us
His praying shows us his intense desire to fellowship with his Father
"Gulps of fresh air" for the One who had never breathed in a sinful atmosphere before.
Jesus’ disciples were aware of something of Jesus’ prayer life. They knew how important it was to him but how much the knew about the content of his prayers we can only imagine. We don’t know whether all of Jesus’ prayers were audible to them or not – he certainly didn’t "parade" his prayers before them in order to be seen because he condemned the Pharisaical attitude which did just that.
It is clear too that Jesus did carefully organise prayer. Doubtless he prayed while walking along and doing other things but he also had those organised moments when he set himself quite deliberately to pray. It was obvious what he was doing to those who observed him and they could tell when he stopped praying.
What did the disciples see?
Jesus making a priority of prayer
Jesus passionate about prayer
Jesus delighting in prayer
The experience of observing Jesus at prayer was inspiring, attractive and very appealing.
This experience caused desire in the lives of the disciples. Yes, it is true that Jesus taught about the importance of prayer but he did more than that – he backed it up by praying himself and setting an example that spoke to the disciples.
At the same time the experience of observing Jesus at prayer highlighted needs in the lives of the disciples themselves – there was an awareness that they needed help.
This particular disciple asked Jesus for just such help.
"Teach us to pray".
Jesus had already given a certain amount of instruction on prayer before this request was put to him by one of his disciples.
In Mt.5:44 he told his followers to pray for those who persecuted them.
In Mt.6:5ff he taught the need to avoid doing religious things in order to be seen by men. The piling up of empty phrases is not the same thing as genuine prayer – we come after all to our Heavenly Father who loves us and knows what we need.
In Mt.9:38 he taught us to pray for gospel workers to be raised up and sent out into the harvest fields.
And again this teaching that he has been asked to give will not finish all that he has to teach about prayer – he will go on to give significant chunks of instruction after this time. All this in order to underline that not only was prayer important in Jesus’ own life and experience he wanted it to be important in the lives of his followers too.
He wants it to be important to you as well!
The disciple asked specifically "Teach us to pray as John taught his disciples..."
We don’t know what John taught in terms of prayer – we don’t know what he focused on whether he spoke most about form or content or a balance of the two. What we do see from Jesus’ is an strong emphasis upon content: he doesn’t respond with comments about posture but goes straight to what he considered of prime importance. With the Lord’s help we will come to this in the weeks to come.
Let it suffice for the moment to say "Don’t get so hung up with secondary matters that you miss the essential."
The Bible contains examples of people praying in different positions including lying prostrate on the ground, kneeling and standing. The important thing is to pray!
Don’t be afraid either to ask for help in the same way this disciple of old did. Think of prayer as a wonderful privilege and honour and remind yourself of that as you come to pray – remember that here the question arose out of this disciple observing Jesus at prayer and wanting to be like him and not from a guilt-inducing series of messages chastising us for duty failures!
Jesus’ Ready Response
Briefly to finish we should simply note that Jesus was very happy to grant this disciple’s request.
There is no hint of criticism but some very practical help is given.
Jesus expects his followers to pray – when (not if) you pray. He takes the disciple at face-value and his response is not to teach some high flying theory of the take-it-or-leave-it kind but he gives practical advice that he expects to prove useful as it is put into practice.
We will come to this teaching in the future, God willing, when we will see that Jesus begins with supplying a model prayer which any believer can employ. We can learn this prayer by heart as so many have profitably done down through the years or we can use it as a starting point or set of guidelines to help us make sure that we "cover all the bases" as we pray in our own words. Having done that that Jesus went on to urge and encourage prayer with various promises and various lines of reasoning that are designed to help us to pray.
Such a man prays! And such a man loves.
Trust him and aspire to imitate him, calling upon him for help and heeding his advice.