Learning How to Pray – Part 1

Written by Neil Silverberg

October 22, 2022

In Luke’s introduction to the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11), the disciples observed Jesus praying alone. Seeing Him commune with the Father, one of them asked, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

That occasion led the Lord to give them that prayer we traditionally refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps it would be more accurate to refer to it as the Disciples’ Prayer.

Interestingly, there is no record of the disciples ever asking the Lord to teach them to preach, cast out demons, or teach the Bible. But watching their Lord commune with the Father that day must have created in them a deep desire to learn how to commune with the Father in the same way. And anyone who is serious about communing with God must admit their need for the Lord’s instruction. Even though I have been praying for over fifty years, I still feel as if I have only scratched the surface regarding fellowship with God.  O Lord, teach me to pray.

We can take each precious word in the disciples’ request and turn it into prayer. Lord, teach us to pray. We are asking none other than the Lord of glory Himself to teach us how to pray personally. Lord, teach us to pray. Yes, we desperately need the Lord’s instruction in learning to commune. The Lord is the great Teacher who alone can teach us to pray. Lord, teach us to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is the Lord’s answer to that request. While we can certainly quote it verbatim while praying, it serves more as an outline containing the main components of prayer.

Let’s look at our Lord’s further instruction regarding prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. These words of our Lord in the seventh chapter of Matthew are his most well-known teaching on prayer that the Lord ever gave. To set the context correctly, let’s begin with Matthew 7:6; a statement that seems to have little to do with prayer:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your
pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn
to attack you.” Matt. 7:6

Our Lord, in this statement, concludes his teaching about judgment. Most of us are familiar with the emphatic statement that opens this section, “do not judge lest you be judged.” We wrongly conclude from that statement that we are never to make judgments of any kind. But that can’t be true because in verses 2-6, he calls us to use our powers of judgment to the fullest. For example, verses 2-5 tell us we must use our powers of discernment to judge ourselves by the same standard we are judging others. Haven’t you discovered that while you are quick to point out others’ faults, you remain blind to your own?

The final statement regarding judgment is found in verse six, which was previously quoted. What aspect of judgment is it dealing with? It calls us to discern our hearers. In other words, we have been given the kingdom’s treasures, but we must be careful to whom we give them. Not everyone appreciates the treasures we have; some are dogs and pigs. How often have I abused this principle over the years by pouring into people who weighed what I told them on the same scale as their bartender?

It is immediately on the heels of that statement that the Lord gives his well-known acrostic dealing with prayer:

“Ask and it shall be given; seek and you shall find;
knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives,
and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matt. 7:7-8

The question is, what relationship does this instruction on prayer have with the need to discern our hearers? At first glance, it would seem to have nothing at all to do with it until we read it a little closer. God has treasures for us that he will not dispense with lightly. Just as he calls us to discern our hearers so as to not dispense with our treasure lightly, so does God. In other words, God has certain treasures for his children that he doesn’t dispense until we exhibit certain attitudes. Let me explain.

Some treasure the Father has for us he dispenses with by our simply asking. God is a Father, and like any father, he loves to give to his children. But some treasure he has for us he will never dispense with by asking—it requires a more intense attitude conveyed by the word seek. And still, he will only dispense other treasure he has for us by the word knock. That has to do with knocking on doors of opportunity to give away what you have received and found.

In future blogs, we will unpack each of these carefully, expecting to receive instruction from the Lord Jesus on how to pray.

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