Lesson 8: The Prayer-Filled Life (Part 2) Principles of Prayer From Luke 11 Introduction It has been rightly said, ôthe secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.ö Not just our failure to pray, but our failure in prayer. In the story of the Pharisee and the publican the Pharisee is one who prayed long and often, but he was a miserable failure. His prayers were never heard by God because neither he nor his prayers were ever right with God. I think it was Oswald Smith who said, ôwhen we work, we work, when we pray, God works.ö Throughout history, the men and women that God has used mightily have been people who knew how to pray and for whom prayer was both a priority and a necessity. As we study the gospels and the training of the disciples by the Lord, we find that prayer is to be a vital part of a discipleÆs life. For a couple of illustrations compare the following verses: John 14:12-13 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. An electronic concordance quickly shows the importance of prayer in the Word of God. Variations of the word ôprayö such as ôprayerö and ôpraying,ö etc., occur 331 times in the NASB, 545 in the KJV, and 375 times in the NIV. The difference in numbers is caused by the fact some Greek and Hebrew words are translated differently in the different translations. For instance, the KJV might use the word ôprayö while the NASB or NIV might use ôask.ö Most Bible believing Christians recognize and accept, at least intellectually, the need and importance of prayer. We read books on prayer, we talk about it, we ask for prayer from time to time, but somehow, the church today is anything but a praying church. We may have a few real prayer warriors, but the VISION AND DISCIPLINE of biblical praying as committed disciples of the Lord Jesus has somehow escaped the body of Christ. We talk of its necessity, but too often we fail to accomplish its reality. The disciples had this same experience. They too fell short in their prayer life and they felt it deeply. In this lesson we want to look at Luke 11:1 and the request of the unnamed disciple who was probably asking on behalf of the entire group. Here is a very important passage for learning some of the key issues of prayer that are so crucial to our walk with the Lord and the fulfillment of His purposes. Luke 11:1-4 and the parallel passage in Matthew 6:9-11 is sometimes called the LordÆs Prayer, but in reality it is the discipleÆs prayer, a model prayer teaching them important principles of prayer. The Plea of the Disciple (11:1) Luke 11:1 it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ôLord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.ö The Motivation for the Question The disciples had obviously heard that John had taught His disciples on prayer and they too wanted instruction (11:1). But was there not something more, something much deeper that provoked this request? It was Howard Hendricks who, several years ago in a message at a pastorÆs conference, called our attention to the fact that if we were to open our Bibles and read starting with Matthew and were to read through John we would never find an instance where the disciples asked, ôLord teach us how to witness,ö or ôteach us how to perform miracles,ö or ôteach us how to teach.ö But in this passage, we do find one of the disciples asking, ôLord, teach us to pray àö Wow! How significant! This was a very wise question, a very needed question, and from these disciples who were sometimes so slow about spiritual values, this question becomes extremely significant. What was the motivation behind this question, and why is this so important? Again, I am reminded of something Professor Howard Hendricks once said. Can you imagine what life with Jesus Christ was like during His ministry on earth? One amazing experience after another! He was forever a source of joy and bewilderment, and I am sure people were constantly trying to explain Him to their own satisfaction with their own kinds of answers. (Cf. Mark 4:41.) For a long time I can imagine they tried to explain Christ with typical human explanationsùtraining, IQ, natural abilities, or whatever. At least at first. They regularly saw demonstrations of His power. They both heard His wise words and saw His wonderful works. They saw the lame walk, the blind see, the sick healed, the deaf hear, and the demon possessed dispossessed. Furthermore, they had all experienced the emptiness of the religion of their day and so, through all of this, you know they were watching the Lord and seeking answers to the miracle of His life. As they studied His life one of their conclusions was that He was God incarnate (John 1:14). But is that conclusion what evoked this question? I donÆt believe so. It was something else they constantly saw in the man Jesus that they began to suspect was part of the answer to His life. What was it? Our immediate response is of course, ôIt was prayer.ö Right? Not exactly! It was not just prayer. The Pharisees prayed and so did the disciples. It wasnÆt just prayer; it was the way He prayed in relation to all that He was and all that He did in His life on earth. It was His manner and attitude in prayer that saturated His total being and living, His every step and action, and that manifested the intimacy of His relationship with and dependence on the Father. Prayer was never just a religious responsibility nor exercise Christ engaged in because He was obligated to do so. Then what? Prayer for our Lord proceeded out of a basic attitude of deep dependence that resulted in a very intimate fellowship that He always had with the Father because, from the standpoint of His humanity, He was totally convinced He could do nothing of His own resources. It is this that undoubtedly brought deep conviction and longing in the lives of the disciples. They came to recognize that, while they could be believers in the Lord, they could not be true disciples who became like their teacher (Luke 6:40) unless they learned to pray to the Father like the Lord Jesus in the intimacy and dependency that He constantly demonstrated. ChristÆs Attitude in Prayer This incorporates one of the basic principles that governed the life of the Savior. In John 5:19 Christ said, ôthe Son can do nothing of Himself.ö Then, in John 8:28-29 and 14:10 He repeated the principle. The principle should be obvious for us. For Jesus Christ, prayer was a way of life, an absolute necessity: it was a means of communion with the Father and the means of bringing the power of God the Father to bear on the humanity of Jesus Christ moment by moment. We see this in Matthew 12:18 and 28. Note that for the most part, it appears the Lord performed His works and spoke His words by the power of God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit whom the Father had given Him. Though God of very God Himself, Jesus generally did not perform His works independently of the Father nor the SpiritÆs leading (Acts 2:22). It was the Father working through Jesus, the man. As we study the life of Christ in the gospels, we note a consistent pattern: (1) In the midst of a busy schedule, when men were clamoring in their need for His attention, Christ retired to pray and to draw upon the resources of God the Father for He knew that ôthe Son can do nothing of Himselfö (Mark 1:32-37). (2) When it was time to choose the disciples we donÆt find Christ reviewing the qualifications of each of the disciples. Rather we find Him retiring to pray. This is clear in Mark 3:13 and Luke 6:12-13. Why? Because ôthe Son can do nothing of Himself.ö He needed the direction and provision of the Father. (3) When Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus He raised His eyes heavenward in dependence and thanksgiving for what the Father was about to do (John 11:40-42). The actual prayer of Christ is not given, only the fact of His dependence, thanksgiving, and confidence that His prayer had been heard. The words of verses 41 and 42 imply, however, that not only did He pray to the Father, but that He wanted all those standing around to know it as well that they might learn the secret of dependence. This teaches us that when performing miracles, though not always heard by men, Jesus the man was praying in dependence upon the Father from the standpoint of His humanity. (4) When He fed the five thousand. The words ôand looking up toward heavenö demonstrate the LordÆs prayerful dependence (Mark 6:41). Also, ôHe blessed the foodö which shows He thanked God the Father for it and for what He, the Father, was about to do through Jesus, the man, a God-dependent, God-approved man. Think of Jesus Christ. He was the Son of God, God incarnate, the perfect man and the absolute Creator God who also as the God-man adequately and continuously fulfilled every expectation of God for man. He was the constant delight and joy of the FatherÆs heart. He always pleased the Father. Now, thinking of Him as such, ask yourself this question. How much did He personally, as man, contribute to His mighty works, deeds, and ministry? NOTHING! Christ Himself gives us the answer, ôà the father abiding in me does His worksö (John 14:10). And how did that come about? Through prayerful dependence on the Father! When we work, we work. When we pray, the Father works. So out of this conscious and constant sense of need, there arose a continuing attitude of prayer: a continual expectation in the Lord Jesus that if anything was to be done, the Father must do it both by way of initiative, and wisdom, and power. Now if this was true of Jesus Christ, how much more shouldnÆt this also be true for us? Indeed, prayer according to the pattern of the Lord Jesus is to be a vital goal of true disciples. The disciples saw in ChristÆs life, not only prayer, but a prayer life which demonstrated a dependency upon and intimacy with the Father unlike anything else they had ever seen and they wanted to know the secret of this. What was the request posed by the unnamed disciple? It was, ôteach us to pray.ö Not just how to pray, the MECHANICS, but how in the sense of the MOTIVATION. The how aspect is included by Christ in His answer in Luke 11:2-13. (1) Prayer should demonstrate a total consciousness of our need, a sense of our complete inadequacy along with a sense of GodÆs complete adequacy and willingness. 2 Corinthians 2:16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, (2) Prayer is not overcoming GodÆs reluctance, but laying hold of GodÆs ever present willingness. (3) Prayer is not for emergency use only, when we get in a pinch and need someone to bail us out. (4) Prayer is not an ôAladdinÆs Lampö or a trip to a wishing well for our wants. (5) By contrast, prayer is a means of intimate communion, fellowship, and dependence upon God the Father who has promised to work in and through us through His Son, just as God worked through Him. (6) Prayer is for everyday living, moment by moment. (7) Prayer is a means of claiming GodÆs promises and knowing and becoming abandoned to GodÆs will. In John 14:10-14, note the relationship to prayer mentioned in verses 13-14 and the works we, as disciples, are to do in verse 12. John 14:10-14 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. There is no activity in the life of a believer which does not require a prayerful attitudeùa prayerful dependence on and an expectation that God is at work and will work according to His purposes and leading. In ourselves we can do nothing. Christianity is living by faith in the Creator God who dwells in us, and prayer is GodÆs means for us to draw upon ChristÆs miraculous life. Christianity is as Paul expressed it in Galatians 2:20, ôI have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.ö Faith for a committed believer is expressed in intimate, prayerful living. In practical terms what exactly does this means? We canÆt really handle the phone call we are about to make, at least not in ChristÆs power and life, apart from prayer. The lesson we are preparing to teach, we canÆt do effectively without prayerful dependence. It means that while we usually recognize our need of GodÆs enablement in things like witnessing, we nevertheless tend to take God for granted and operate in our own abilities in other areas because we think a task doesnÆt seem too difficult or it is within our area expertise. As an illustration letÆs look at the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:5-11. What was Peter thinking in this passage? Probably something like, ôLord, youÆre a great teacher, youÆre the Son of God and Messiah, but we can handle this ourselves; we are expert fishermen. We have been fishing these waters for years. Besides, Lord, we fished these waters all night and we know the fish are simply not biting now.ö But you see, biblical Christianity is living by faith and prayerful dependence upon God and under the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ regardless of how things appear to us. Biblical Christianity is never a matter of living by who and what we areùour insight, our background, our experience, our training, our giftedness, etc. Rather it is a matter of living by faith in GodÆs Word, biblical insight, and by faith in Jesus Christ, the Creator God and His availability to work through us as we are available and submissive to Him. But such only happens when we live by intimate prayerful dependence upon the Father through a life of prayer, a life of praying without ceasing, and a life devoted to special times of prayer alone with the Father and His Son in the power of the Spirit. The Pattern for Prayer (11:2-4) Luke 11:2-4 And He said to them, ôWhen you pray, say: æFather, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.Æö We have observed something of the prayer life of our Lord which undoubtedly was a large part of the motivation behind the request of the unnamed disciple in verse one, ôLord, teach us to pray.ö For our Lord, prayer was the most natural and necessary aspect of His existence. In answer to this request of Luke 11:1, our Lord gave what is popularly known as the LordÆs Prayer. In reality, it was the disciplesÆ prayer and provides us with a model or pattern for biblical and effective prayer. This is an excellent passage in teaching new believers about prayer because it covers a number of categories which are important to prayer. Two things this prayer is not: (1) It is not and was never intended to be a ritual prayer to be formally and liturgically recited. It was a model designed by our Lord to show the nature of prayer and what prayer should consist of by way of content. There is nothing wrong, of course, with reading or reciting it together as we would any passage of Scripture for a certain focus or emphasis or as a reminder of truth. I am convinced, however, it was never meant to be simply recited as a prayer to God in place of personal prayer poured out to God from the heart. Compare the translation of the Living Bible: Luke 11:1b reads, ôLord, teach us a prayer to recite just as John taught one of his disciples.ö In a footnote to this verse the translator has added the word ôImplied.ö But is it really implied, or is this translation a product of religious tradition that does not have its roots in what this passage was intended to teach? (2) It was never intended to be used as an amulet or special words to protect someone when in danger. Perhaps you have seen films where people were in some kind of danger and they prayed the LordÆs Prayer in this fashion. The prayer divides into two sections marked out by the pronouns ôyourö and ôus.ö The ôyourö section points us to God and concerns our relationship with Him regarding His person, character, being, purposes, and activity on earth. The ôusö section deals with our needs as they are related to God and His activity and purposes in our lives here on earth. This is no accident. First, we start with God and then we go to ourselves. Here is an important principle in all worship of which prayer is but one mode and means. In prayer, as in everything, our Lord teaches us to put God first. Why? Because this puts everything in the right perspective, it gives us the right viewpoint about life, one that sees beyond our own very limited scope. This is important so that we might genuinely focus our hearts and minds on the who and what of God, that we might seek first the rule and righteousness of God, and that we might walk with Him in obedience and under His enablement, direction, and protection. As a tear magnifies sorrow and as laughter magnifies joy, so prayer (a form of worship wherein we count on the worth of God) must first magnify the Lord if our prayers are to have the proper result in our livesùconfidence, faith, and direction into the will of God. Prayer is a means of entering into the joy and confidence of GodÆs love, provision, direction, and presence. It is a way to focus on the Who and What of GodùGodÆs person, plan, principles, promises, and purposes. This kind of praying glorifies the Lord and demonstrates our desire for relationship with God, along with obedience. It is comforting to our hearts because it brings God into our vision along with His purposes. This first emphasis by our Lord exposes what is often a fatal weakness in our own prayers. We tend to begin with ôusö rather than with ôYour.ö We rush into GodÆs presence pleading for ôourö petitions, ôourö needs, ôourö problems and, as a result, we become problem oriented and frantic rather than God oriented and relaxed in His sovereignty (cf. Ps. 46:10, ôBe still [cease striving] and know that I am Godö). We need to focus on the Lord first to get the perspective of Jeremiah 32:27. Concerning the fulfillment of GodÆs covenant promises to Israel and to keep the ProphetÆs eyes on the Lord, we find this word to the Prophet: ôthe Word of the LORD came to Jeremiah saying, æBehold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is anything to difficult for Me?Æö (Jer. 32:27). We need the praise and focus of God in Psalm 100 before the petitions of Psalm 102. When We Pray: The Time Element (v. 2a) ôWhen you pray say.ö It is significant, I believe, that no commands are given as to time or how often. Why? Because prayer is more than a mere religious routine we go through as it is in some religions in which worshippers recite certain words and bow in a certain direction specified times of the day. Scheduled prayer is certainly scriptural and a godly pattern to have as with Daniel (Dan. 6:10), and David (Ps. 54:16-21), but, as with both David and Daniel, it should always be the response of a heart which desires communion with God and depends on Him in the same way man naturally takes in oxygen through the process of breathing. This is seen in the cry of the Psalmist, ôAs the deer pants (heavy breathing) for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O Godö (Ps. 42:1). Two things about this cry of the Psalmist: First, his entreaty expresses our need. We need the Lord and we need to drink from His fountain of life through the Word and prayerùour means of hearing Him and responding to Him. But second, his entreaty also expresses what should be a recognized reality in each of us. As the Psalmist, we should long to communicate with our God. Prayer is to be an expression of our longing for intimacy with God and to enter into His strength and will. Why We Pray: The Nature of Prayer (v. 2a) ôWhen you pray say.ö ôPrayö is the Greek word proseucomai from pros, stressing direction, closeness, and eucomai, ôto ask, request.ö The basic meaning of this word (along with its uses) looks at prayer as an avenue of drawing near to God in worship and dependence because we see Him as the all-sufficient one and ourselves as insufficient. Prayer becomes one of the means by which we draw near to the Lord and His sufficiency and submit to Him. ôSayö is the Greek word, legw. It gives prominence to the thought processes in choosing the words spoken because of their meaning. Originally, it meant ôto pick and chooseö and this is precisely what we generally do in speech unless we are talking gibberish. Legw reminds us of our need to carefully choose our words as opposed to praying as mere religious rote without careful thought. It should remind us of the conversational nature of our prayer or communication with God. ôSayö is what we call in Greek grammar, a present iterative imperative. As an iterative present it describes an event which is, as a command, to occur repeatedly, over and over again. The idea is when you pray, consistently pray in the following manner or example, but not repetitiously by rote, reciting these words as a mere repeated ritual, the problem Jesus addressed earlier in Matthew 6:7. Reasons why it does not refer to a prayer to be merely recited. (1) Matthew 6:5-7 is a specific warning against praying in a repetitious manner and the warning there is followed by this teaching which gives us a model for prayer. To view this as a prayer to be repetitiously repeated would be in conflict with the previous command. (2) The parallel passage of Matthew 6:9 adds the words ôin this way.ö This is the Greek $outws which could very will be rendered, ôin this mannerö or ôafter this manner.ö In other words, what follows is to be taken as a model for prayer, not as a prayer to be memorized and merely recited. (3) In the epistles of the New Testament, this prayer is never repeated though its pattern or principles are basically followed in one way or another. (4) This understanding fits with the warning of Isaiah 29:13 which the Lord quoted against the religious externalism of the Israelites of His day. Prayer is the thoughtful exercise of the heart and the mind through which we seek to draw near to God in worship and dependence on Him because of who He is as our sovereign God and support.