Called to Pray
Reading: Luke 11:1-4
What is prayer? The New Testament uses many different words which we translate as ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’. One of the most common was a technical word for addressing a deity, and covered all kinds of prayer, formal and informal, requests, promises, thanksgivings. Other words were commonly used for asking for things – when we pray to God, we are often asking for his help.
Prayer in the Bible is more than saying prayers. Just saying the words doesn’t count as prayer; we have to mean them. Nor should prayer be a one-way monologue, a list of requests or wishes. It is a conversation, for we are speaking with a God who always listens to his children and is ready to respond. Words are not always necessary. It is possible to pray with the heart in silence, or using a language we do not understand (‘speaking in tongues’) – especially when we can’t put what’s in our heart into words.
The Lord’s Prayer
Father: Jesus teaches us to address God as ‘Father’ – a better and more loving Father than any earthly one, who cares for every detail of our lives.
hallowed be your name: the most important request comes first, that our Father God be honoured and respected.
your kingdom come: we too are ‘about our Father’s business’, and he wants us to share what he is doing by supporting it in prayer. God can work alone; but he prefers to work through us, in answer to our requests. Often things do not happen because we do not ask for them.
Give us each day our daily bread: God cares about the details of our lives, but he does not want us to take that care for granted. He wants us to ask him for the things we need – and to appreciate it when we receive them. Some people don’t want to be a ‘God-botherer’; Jesus teaches us that God really wants to be bothered! And thanked afterwards.
Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive those who sin against us: we need God’s forgiveness all the time. However, we cannot expect to receive if we are not prepared to give, and that includes forgiveness. Forgiveness is costly – but essential.
Lead us not into temptation: we live in a fallen world, full of temptation, and need our Father’s help to resist. We are in a spiritual battle, in which we must help each other through our prayer.
Paul warned the Ephesians that days come when spiritual forces of evil attack God’s people. They work through flesh and blood persecutors (as well as circumstances); God defeats them through his flesh and blood children who overcome evil with good, and support one another in prayer. But we need to be on our guard.
In prison, Paul took inspiration from the armour his jailers wore. Our armour is truth – the truth God teaches, and the integrity of our lives; righteousness – that which Jesus gives rather than our own; the readiness to share the good news of peace with God; trust in God even when fiery doubts come; confidence that Jesus is our saviour and we are safe; and the Spirit’s words to us in each situation – including words from the Scriptures (such as those Jesus quoted when tempted).
Paul, however, knew that Roman soldiers were vulnerable when alone. In an army they could be irresistible. He knew that spiritually he was vulnerable unless people were supporting him in prayer. So he urged the Ephesians to keep on praying for each other ‘with all kinds of prayers and requests’. It is when we pray for each other that God’s work is most effective, evil is resisted, and God’s people stand firm in the evil day. God calls us to keep praying!
TO THINK ABOUT
1) Why is prayer so important to Jesus?
2) How can you develop your prayer relationship with your heavenly Father?