Prayer… according to Jesus

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts” (attributed to Mother Teresa)

There are a lot of different ideas of what prayer is or should be. For some, prayer is wordless contemplation. For some it is listening to God or to an inner voice. For some it is spinning a prayer wheel or moving hands over beads.

And these beliefs are very deeply held. It is often said that the last part of a man to be converted is his wallet but perhaps a strong rival would be his prayer life. Part of the reason seems to be that prayer is such an intimate and spiritually charged activity. To question a particular prayer practice is taken as an assault on a most private space.

Another reason that particular prayer cultures are so deeply ingrained is because they tend to be socially learned. In other words, we learn how to pray from those around us, often at quite an early age. We learn the words, the phrases, the tone, the volume, the posture. Like a mother tongue it is instinctive, the ‘obvious’ way of doing it. Long after our theology has shifted, our patterns of prayer often stay the same.

In some ways our prayer cultures may be fine and good. Using our heart language for example is good (God doesn’t need prayer in King James English). Expressing our personality is fine (God wants us to speak naturally, as us, not as someone else). Whether we sit or stand or lie down – all these are fine and to some extent culturally defined expressions of the heart posture.

But there is a problem if we are unwilling to let go of our prayer traditions – just as there is a problem if we insist on clinging to any of our traditions and culture when they are out of line with Scripture. There is a problem if we insist on saying, “Me, I think of prayer like this…” in such a way that we are completely closed to what God says about prayer.

That’s why the disciples’ request in Luke 11 is such a good one:

“Lord, teach us to pray”

Ultimately, prayer is not something we define. It is something the Lord defines. It is not something that we make up as we go along, as we see fit, for our own therapeutic benefit. It is not something obvious that we will just naturally get right. It is something that we need the Master to teach us.

Prayer cover

Prayer: according to Jesus is a series of 10 Bible studies for small groups or 1-to-1 where we let the Lord teach us how to pray, why to pray, what to pray.

Read the free sample.

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