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O Lord, teach us to pray

February 28, 2014 No Comment

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by Robert Bugbee

“And it happened while (Jesus) was in a certain place praying, as He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘O Lord, teach us to pray…’” (St. Luke 11:1). The guy did not ask Jesus to teach about praying, as if it were a topic for discussion. He yearned to actually pray, to have those close moments when a son or daughter of God pours out to Him the love and praises, the fears and needs pulsating in a believer’s heart. It seems that when the disciples heard Jesus pray, their own prayers seemed poor and clumsy.

Jesus could have said exactly that: “Your prayers are poor and clumsy.” In love He gave them instead the words of the “Our Father,” simple to understand and say, but also right to the point about what the deepest needs always are. He went on to tell the tale of a man already gone to bed, who would rather not be bothered when a friend pounds on his door one night and asks for bread to feed unexpected company. The man gets up and hands it over, not because he longs to help, but because the neighbour is so pushy! Get the point? If a reluctant man answers a pleading neighbour, how much more will heaven’s great Father be ready to answer you?

There’s comfort in knowing that even though the Twelve spent many days being taught by Jesus, they still felt weak in their prayer-life. There’s even warmer comfort to hear Jesus answer, not with scolding or a lecture, but with childlike words about what matters before the Lord. Even more, He makes clear your Father God is inviting, welcoming, and yearning to hear you. These things are preserved in Scripture for your sake, so your weakness and prayer-neglects of the past won’t hold you back from making a new start, if that’s what you need. The words of Jesus make clear just what sort of Lord He is: the One Who came to the broken world to be your Saviour, Who went to the cross to carry your sins and failures, Who came alive and sent His Word into the world to give you faith to trust Him… that same open-hearted Christ is giving you teaching and the nudge to rush to Him in your prayers.

I’ve encouraged our church in recent years to be a more Bible-centered family. By that I mean it’s not enough to say the right things about the Bible’s inspiration and authority: you and I need to set deep roots down into the Bible, reading it as a constant habit, climbing deep inside it so that we are no longer strangers to its life-giving message.

It’s not enough to say the right things about the Bible’s inspiration and authority: you and I need to set deep roots down into the Bible, reading it as a constant habit, climbing deep inside it so that we are no longer strangers to its life-giving message.

It will not do, however, to be readers alone—mastering Bible “facts” better just so you know more. As the Lord speaks to you in His Word, it is vital to speak back to Him in your prayers. This is not a formality, where you quickly go through a few motions on Sundays and then put it behind you. Day and night there are many struggles you need God’s help with. Time and again people cross your path; a young relative wondering what to do with her life, a faraway friend in trouble whom you cannot help in person, situations at work that leave you wondering how you’ll cope. Even aside from life’s problems, your blessings should drive you to seek the Lord’s guidance: how might you use your personal talents to serve Him? Is there some concrete thing you can do to build up brothers and sisters at church? Since God permits you to live in this richly blessed Canada, who will pray for those in authority, for men and women in helping professions like law enforcement or health care, and for the overall peace and well-being of the land if you don’t?

Last October in Calgary the pastors and deacons of our church heard Dr. Jobst Schöne invite them to pray particularly for others who cause them trouble. Dr. Schöne pointed out that, when you pray regularly for a difficult person, it becomes much harder to criticize that person to others. God takes the whole “prayerful atmosphere” in your life and uses it to shape even those moments when you’re not praying at all!

Every trouble you feel, every joy you experience, every challenge you face—and, of course, the pictures the Bible shares of your praying Lord Jesus—all these things can become your Father’s nudge to drive you deeper into the refuge of prayer.

Every trouble you feel, every joy you experience, every challenge you face—and, of course, the pictures the Bible shares of your praying Lord Jesus—all these things can become your Father’s nudge to drive you deeper into the refuge of prayer. As if that were not enough, the loving promise, “Before they call I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24) makes clear how anxious He is to have you come close!

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Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee is President of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC). LCC has announced its theme for the 2014 National Convention (and subsequent triennium) will be “Come to Him who Answers Prayer.” For more information on that theme, and President Bugbee’s explanation as to why the theme was chosen, read this article.

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