“Lord, teach us to Pray”.
What a summer we have had, one of the hottest months on record and yet times of torrential rain; yes, but this is Tavistock! So as we move on and into Autumn, perhaps we could reflect upon that most significant of questions that the disciples posed to our Lord Jesus, “Lord, teach us to Pray” (Luke 11v1).
Jesus had been praying ‘in a certain place’ and his disciples must have observed that, and realised just how significant prayer was to their Rabbi, how it was an integral part of his life, and they were probably being convinced that they had better follow suit. The disciples would have been familiar with the regular Temple routine of prayer at the morning and evening sacrifice, but clearly could see that for Jesus prayer was a much more personal and intimate relationship shared with God, his Father.
I do not know about you, but giving prayer the proper place and time in my Christian pilgrimage has perhaps been the thing that I have struggled with most of all. So what may we learn from the prayer life of Jesus that may help and encourage us to pray? Why should we anyway?
The American attorney, Methodist minister and civil war chaplain E M Bounds considered “conversation with God as fundamentally vital to the Christian life as physical breath”. The Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard said, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays”. I certainly recognise that there is still much that God needs to change in me as He fulfils his promise through the Holy Spirit that we are to be transformed into the likeness of our Lord Jesus (2Cor 3v18), and perhaps those early disciples could see that need as well.
We can see in the prayer life of our Lord Jesus a number of pointers from which we can take note. The American pastor Charles Stanley (www.intouch.org) draws our attention to at least seven of these.
Early on in his busy ministry schedule Mark tells us (1v35) that Jesus ‘got up early to pray’. Not easy for some of us who are not ‘early birds’, but to start the day with God through prayer, as Joy constantly reminds me, is to set all of its activities in their proper context. Maybe this is another call to our 8am service of Morning Prayer?
Mark then goes on to tell us that Jesus ‘went out to a lonely place to pray’. Distractions so easily take us away from our intimate time with God so maybe we need to find a place where we can pray and not be easily distracted.
Later Mark tells us (14v35) that during the final days of his earthly life in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus ‘fell on the ground to pray’. Perhaps we can take that to mean Jesus prayed on his knees or lay prostrate. We each need to find a posture best fitting to our prayers. But it maybe that when ‘we are on our knees’, and so humbling ourselves before our great and Holy God, we become open to God and can pray like our Lord “not my will but yours be done” (Mk14v36), surely one of the hardest prayers to make. But it is at such a time that we are more open to hearing God speak to us, and our intimate relationship as a ‘child of God’ can grow and be perfected.
Luke adds to our understanding of Jesus’s prayer life (6v12) by telling us that before choosing his twelve disciples Jesus spent ‘the whole night in prayer’. I wonder how many of us can make that claim? But prayer is a wise move before making life’s significant decisions.
John goes on to inform us that at the ‘last supper’ (17v15) Jesus prayed for his followers to be ‘delivered from the evil one’. Informed prayer for one another should be an essential part of each of our lives as members of ‘the body of Christ’.
We also learn from Matthew (14v23) that Jesus ‘went up into the hills by himself to pray’. I wonder how many of us take ourselves off into the beautiful Dartmoor countryside that surrounds us to do just that. Although it is good to have a ‘prayer partner’- someone else to pray and share with, there are times when we need to bring our innermost feelings before our heavenly Father God alone, and to leave them with him as we await his response to the promise that he will indeed hear and answer us (1John5v14-15).
I pray that these thoughts may spur us on and into a deeper prayer life as we journey along the path set out before us.