Many people struggle with prayer. We may feel inadequate and clumsy, and even perhaps unworthy. We may think that prayer is something that others do and we simply go along with them or that we don’t really understand prayer, or why we need to pray. We are not alone in that. In Luke’s gospel, we are told how the disciples encountered Jesus in prayer and when he had finished praying “one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”” (Luke 11:1) The disciples had a growing awareness of the need to pray, and of their own inadequacy at prayer. They realised that prayer was central to Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, and they knew they needed to learn how to pray to grow in their relationship with God. Jesus’ wonderful response was to teach them the Lord’s prayer.
Prayer may be many things: a declaration of truth, the heart of relationship and intimacy with God, knowing God’s heart, a lifeline to the Lord, a vehicle for confession, worship & praise, a journey into humility, an opportunity to draw close to the Lord, a request for God to act from an open hand of need and hope, a time of intercession and joyful and continuous (1 Thessalonians 5:17)! Prayer may be personal and intimate (“go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-8)) or corporate (“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you one earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)).
Eugene Peterson shares a helpful insight in telling us that “Prayer has to be a response to what God has said. The worshipping congregation—hearing the Word read and preached, and celebrating it in the sacraments—is the place where we may learn how to pray and where we may practice prayer. It is the centre from which we might pray. From it, we go to our ‘closet’ or mountains and continue to pray.”
I think that God rejoices when we come before him in prayer; he yearns that we, the pinnacle of his creation, might be in intimate fellowship with him. We can come before our heavenly father, Abba father, daddy, knowing that we are loved as we are because in Christ we are children of God. And so I invite you to ask God with me, just as the disciples asked Jesus…“Teach us to pray.”