Teach Us to Pray

You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Psalm 86:5
I often wonder what it was about prayer that John taught his disciples. Did he hold forth for long periods of time on how to pray? Did he tell them what not to pray? Did he give them an example of prayer? I don't suppose we'll ever know the answer. But we do know the response to the disciples' request that Jesus teach them to pray. He taught them a prayer that we all know. Many of us say it every day. Most of us say it at least once a week. 

But another question arises: When Jesus gave us an example of prayer, did he intend for us to memorize it, or was it simply a pattern that we should use when saying our own prayers?

I have always assumed that the answer is both. As a pattern, it covers the bases that need to be covered. To meditate on the meaning of each petition and to lift up our own words and concerns to God is enough of a prayer life for any Christian. But there are times when we truly don't know how to pray, when our hearts are empty and we can't find the words to speak. At such times, to have a beautiful and perfect prayer already on the tip of our tongue is a profound blessing.

The psalms frequently speak of calling on God. God hears and understands all our prayers—even our most inarticulate cries. But in Christ, we can wax eloquent by simply praying as he taught us and meaning every word.

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
 Luke 11:1
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
Lord God, teach me the precious insignificance of prayer. Teach me the value of its hiddenness in my public life; its wastefulness in the world's eyes; its disregard for eloquence if my spirit can only groan. Let my prayer be filled with the enjoyment of you for your Name's sake and for none other.
 John Bell
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.
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