Lord, Teach me to Pray
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11: 9,10)
Luke chapter eleven verse 1 begins with the words; One day Jesus was praying in a certain place... We are not told where He and His disciples were, but when He had finished praying they asked Him to teach them to pray. He then instituted what is now known by Christians the world over as the Lord’s Prayer. In verses 9 and 10 above Jesus encourages them and us to go to God in prayer with every need and advises them and us to pray to Him continually not worrying about being too bold or being a bother.
Do you believe in the power of prayer? If you do, I’m sure that prayer is a big part of your life. Do you pray with confidence, knowing God will answer “yes” or do you pray knowing the answer will possibly be “yes”, but that God may also possibly answer “no” to your request?
Hmmm… Isn’t Jesus saying in the verse above that if we ask we will receive what we ask for? He doesn’t say; ask and you might receive. He very simply says all we need do is ask Him and he will grant our wish. It almost seems too good to be true.
How many times in your life have you gone to God in prayer, desperately asking for healing of body for yourself or maybe for a friend or relative? Have you ever prayed that God would change your life circumstances or remove financial burdens? Are you lonely? Maybe you prayed for Him to send you a Christian partner – someone to share your life with in marriage? Did He answer “yes” to your prayers? Did He answer “no”? Or did He maybe make you wait a long time for an answer? Have you ever asked for something from God in prayer in which you don’t feel that He heard you or answered you?
I have offered up many prayers to God in my lifetime. There are many times when it was easy to see and realize His answer to my prayers, but there were and are just as many or more times when I have wondered if He even heard me, let alone answered me.
Oh, I know better! I have been taught from infancy that God hears and answers all prayers from believers. If I doubted, it was because my faith was weak or maybe I was just not spiritually tuned in enough to have recognized His answer to me. It may have been one of those times when God simply answered “no” to my request. As I look back on my life I remember one specific time when I prayed and prayed with tears and God answered “no”. It was the summer of 1963 and I was 13 years old.
My family had a beautiful huge Maple tree in our back yard. It was the center of our outdoor activity in the summer. It offered welcoming shade and as children, my brother and I spent many hot summer days playing under it. Our sand box and swing set were placed under the tree, but the best thing I remember, was the tree house which our dad had built for us. It was very simple – just a platform and there were makeshift ladder steps nailed to the trunk which allowed us easy access. At age 13 I was pretty much past the tree climbing stage but it was cool up there, and the leaves also offered quiet seclusion. It was a great place to go for a quiet and private talk with God.
The summer of 1963 was not a fun summer for anyone in my family. You see, there was a family member who was terminally ill. It was my 2 year old nephew. He had been diagnosed with cancer. He was dying. It was heartbreaking, but in my heart of hearts I knew there was hope. I knew that God could heal Him if it was His will to do so. I spent hours in our little tree house praying. I talked to God and acknowledged His power to heal. I asked, even begged Him to make my nephew well. I prayed and prayed with tears flowing down my face. In the end He answered “no” to my prayer. It was not His good and perfect will to heal that little boy. He took him to heaven on August 31, 1963.
So if God’s answer to a believer’s prayer is sometimes “no” what does Jesus mean when He says that all we need to do is ask and He will grant our request? He says; for everyone who asks receives… Really? Then why, over the years have I not received everything I have asked for from God? Why does He not always give me the desires of my heart? If He really means what He says, why didn’t He answer “yes” to my prayer to heal my nephew? I have never doubted that He could have healed him and I was never angry with God because He didn’t heal him, but still I wondered if I had missed something somehow.
I have finally reached a point in my faith life where God has allowed me to see it clearly. The answer is quite simple actually. Although it has taken me almost 50 years to figure it out, I have finally come to realize that the prayers Jesus is referring to here are spiritual prayers. He ends this lesson on prayer by asking His disciples; which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion… how much more then will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11: 11-13)
Jesus wants us to realize that Physical blessings are fleeting and only last for this life. When we die they no longer mean anything to us. We can’t take our belongings with us. Everything we own here on earth will be passed on to someone else. Spiritual blessings however, will last through eternity.
When we ask God for spiritual blessings – those blessings which have to do with our relationship with Him and our eternal good, He will never deny us. For example, when we ask Him to be present in our lives – He will always answer “yes”. When we pray for a stronger faith – He will always answer “yes”. When we ask Him to open our heart to receive His Spirit – He will always answer “yes”. He eagerly anticipates our requests for spiritual needs. He loves each and every soul on this earth dearly and His desire is for us to be close to Him and know Him personally. He wants us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Only one time in the Lord’s Prayer does Jesus mention physical blessings. He begins the prayer by addressing His Father in heaven.
- Father (God),
- hallowed be your name (your name is holy),
- Your kingdom come (May God’s word or His kingdom be made known to all people),
- Your will be done (may God’s good and perfect will be done)
- On earth as it is in heaven.(here on earth as well as in the heavenly realms)
- Give us today our daily bread (provide us with what we need for each day of earthly life)
- Forgive us our debts, (forgive our sins)
- As we also have forgiven our debtors (help us also to forgive those who sin against us)
- And lead us not into temptation (keep us from being tempted into sin)
- But deliver us from the evil one (protect is from Satan and all kinds of evil to body and soul)
This doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t care about our physical needs. He does. He walked this earth just like you and I do. He experienced many of the same ups and down that we do and more, but what He wants us to realize is that when our spiritual needs are satisfied, all of the other things we need in life will fall into place. Our lives will be fulfilling and we will be content.
There is power in prayer! Do you know someone who does not have faith? Pray for that person everyday and never stop. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:15) That doesn’t mean your prayer will be answered over night. It may take days, weeks, months or even years, but keep praying and don’t give up. God is not bound by time like we are. Remember; With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (1 Peter 3:8) Remember also that He has a plan. He is a God of order not chaos. He will bring things about in His own good time and always has our best interest at heart.
If the person you are praying for never comes to faith in his or her lifetime, it is not because God did not hear or answer your prayer. It is because that person hardened their heart toward God and rejected Him. God does give us choices in life. He won’t force anyone to believe in or come to Him. We are told in Hebrews 11:6; without faith it is impossible to please God. And in 1 Peter 3:12; The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
In regards to our requests for physical needs, God does answer “yes” to our prayers when He deems it is in our best interest to do so. We are told; is any one of you sick He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. (James 5: 14,15) He answered “yes” to the prayer of King Hezekiah by healing him and adding 15 years to his life. (2 Kings 20: 1-6) He answered “yes” to Hannah’s request for a child. You can read the story in 1 Samuel chapter 1.
In the same way He may also answer “no” to our prayers for physical needs when He deems it is in our best interest to do so. He answered “no” to King David’s request to save the life of the child born to him by Bathsheba and David accepted His answer in faith (2 Samuel 11, 12). He answered “no” to my prayer request for Him to heal my nephew. I accepted His answer in faith knowing He did what was best for all concerned.
Prayer is a heart to heart talk with God. It is an act of worship in which we speak to God from our hearts (Luther’s Catechism pg. 280).
Don’t know how to pray? Pray like you are talking to or confiding in a friend. Don’t know where to pray? A quiet place is nice when possible, but if not pray where you are. Don’t be ashamed for others to see you pray, but there is no need to make a big display either. If you need to talk to God when you are at work, then pray as you do your work. God knows the deep thoughts of your heart and mind. Pray out loud. Pray silently to yourself. Pray with your friends. Pray with your family.
Our God is all-knowing, ever-present, and all-powerful. He always hears and answers prayer. He may answer your prayer as you speak or you may have to wait. He may allow you to see and know His answer, or He may never make it known to you. He may allow you to see and know His answer months or years down the road or you may not see it until you are called home to heaven.
Remember, He will always answer “yes” to your prayers and requests for spiritual blessings. He may answer “yes” or “no” to your prayers for physical blessings.
Some ways/times to pray:
- while exercising
- before going to sleep(no need to get on your knees)
- while driving to work
- through song (out loud or in thought)
- before and after meals
- in church
- while playing sports (Tim Tebow for example)
- doing housework
- in the shower.
Stay connected. Honor God with your prayers. Make Him a part of everything you do. You will be truly blessed! Does it sound too good to be true? It isn’t! It really works!
Gloria Dei – All glory to God!