In Luke 11, Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.” Verses 2–13 are the Lord’s personal response to the disciples asking Him to teach them to pray.
Much has been written about prayer. One of my favorite books is the book by John R. Rice, Prayer: Asking and Receiving. This book is excellent because it points out that the word prayer means “to ask,” it doesn’t mean supplication, it doesn’t mean thanksgiving, and it doesn’t mean praise. It means “to ask.” God wants His people to ask, and the answer to prayer is receiving. If you have never read this book, I highly recommend that you do so.
When I was in school, Dr. Jerry Falwell used to say, “Every failure I ever had was a prayer failure.” He also said, “Nothing of eternal value has ever been accomplished apart from prayer.” I believe this is true. Several years ago, my mentor, Dr. C. Sumner Wemp, told me that if I was going to be consistent in my prayer life I needed to have a prayer list. He also said that if you don’t have a prayer list you won’t have a prayer life. I have found both of those statements to be true. It is wonderful to receive instruction about prayer from men of God; but in this passage, Luke 11, we have specific instruction about prayer—what to pray for and how to pray—from the Lord Jesus Himself. There are several valuable lessons about prayer in this passage.
1. Prayer Is Expected
Jesus said “When you pray.” He did not say if you pray. Prayer is something God expects. If you want something from God you must ask Him. If you believe that God can give you anything you need, then you will ask Him. If you are not asking him to supply your needs, and you are involved in ministry, then one of two things is taking place. You are either receiving nothing, or you are very talented in your own flesh. Neither one of these bring glory to God. God expects you to pray. Prayer is God’s way for God’s people to get things from God.
When do you pray? Do you have a time set everyday where you seek God and ask Him to supply your needs so that you can do His work? Do you tell people you will pray for them and then forget to do it? It is sad that many books are written, that people talk about prayer, and even request prayer but do not do it themselves. Are you a man of prayer? When do you pray? How long do you pray? How often do you pray? God expects you to pray.
2. Prayer Should Be Vocal
Jesus said, “When ye pray, say.” The word say means to speak out loud.
“I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.” Psalm 3:4
In Psalm 5, the Psalmist says, “Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning.” When God delivered Israel through Moses, He delivered them because they cried unto God the Father. It is true that God can hear our thoughts but God specifically says in this passage and many others that God wants us to pray out loud. When you pray, “say.”
3. Prayer Is Not Always Emotional
Some people say, “Well I don’t feel like praying, and sometimes when I pray I feel like I’m just repeating the same thing.” As long as you are intellectually engaged and making a request to God, God is hearing that request. He does not say in this passage you need to be emotionally engaged. He does not say you have to feel anything. He does not say you have to even care about a particular situation. It very simply says when you come before God to ask Him for something you need to say certain things. God tells us to ask for specific things, but often times we get emotion confused with request. God simply wants us to ask. God wants us to pray whether or not we feel like it.
4. Prayer Must Be Addressed to the Proper Person
Recognize that you are addressing the sovereign, prayer-answering Father. Jesus said when you pray say, “Our Father which art in Heaven.” That is, we need to recognize the One we are speaking to is our Father. He loves us. He cares about us. He sent His only begotten Son to pay the penalty of our sin in our place. He wants what is best for us. He reigns in Heaven.
He is not just our Father, not just compassionate, not just loving; He is able—because He is the ruler of Heaven—to give us anything we need, that He thinks is best for us. When you pray recognize to whom you are praying.
It is important that we have an effective prayer life. God expects us to pray. When we pray we are to pray out loud. When we pray, we are to pray whether or not we feel like it. When we pray we are to pray to our Father, One who can hear and answer prayer, because He is our Father in Heaven.