In Luke 11 the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray!”
In one sense, it’s a slightly strange request. These guys would almost certainly have prayed before. They would have attended the Temple and offered prayers there. They would have been raised since childhood to recite prayers at particular times of day. They surely didn’t need to be taught how to pray – they’d been doing it for years!
But I wonder if the reason for their request wasn’t just they didn’t know how to pray at all but rather that they didn’t know how to pray like Jesus did.
Prayer was so important to Jesus. It gave him wisdom, insight and deep relationship with God. Prayer equipped him to be effective in all he did. And I suspect that the disciples saw Jesus praying in a way that seemed more dynamic and powerful than anything they’d ever experienced before.
So I wonder if their question is best understood not as a general request, but more like: “Lord, teach us to pray like you do!”
Many of us – myself included – find prayer difficult. Maybe you’ve begun 2017 with good intentions and a fresh resolve to develop a healthy prayer life. But how? I read Luke 11 and feel jealous at the level of access the disciples had. If only I could have Jesus coaching me in prayer, surely I would be able to learn how to pray effectively too?
Well, we can learn to pray like Jesus did, because he has not left us clueless. The Bible contains plenty of insights into Jesus’ prayer life, and in our first sermon series of 2017, we are going to look at The Lord’s Prayers – both what Jesus prayer and how he prayed – so that we can learn to pray like he did.
The sermons will cover a range of topics, including fasting, developing healthy rhythms of prayer, prayers of surrender, and empowered prayer. We will also be including times of prayer and reflection within our services, to give you a chance to experience different approaches to prayer.
In addition, we want to provide lots of practical tips to help you grow in prayer. So every Monday we will be writing a blog and sending out an email with practical advice to help you go deeper on the themes covered in the sermon. There will be reflections, exercises and recommended resources to help you explore ways of praying you might never have tried before, on your own, in groups, or with your children. Keep an eye on the blog, sign up for the email or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to read the updates. You may want to set aside some time to try some of these practices, and if you lead a Connect Group, why not consider using some of them in your meetings in January and February.
You may also want to read some books on prayer to accompany the series. I’m sure we will recommend plenty as we go, but here’s a selection to get you started:
Bill Hybels’ Too Busy Not to Pray is an accessible book, with plenty of tools to help you slow down your life and make time to be with God. And if you enjoy this, Hybels’ The Power of a Whisper is also well worth reading – a brilliant book on how to experience God’s guidance in your life.
Pete Greig has written plenty on prayer. As a starting point you may want to check out his talk from ChristChurch London in 2015. Red Moon Rising and his latest offering Dirty Glory are full of inspiring stories of prayer, and God on Mute is an excellent book to read if you are struggling to understand why some prayers seem to go unanswered.
Prayer by Timothy Keller is a wide-ranging book, looking at the theological underpinning of what prayer is, before offering practical suggestions on how to go about praying. It’s a little hard going in places, but well worth persevering with.
In a similar vein, Richard Foster’s Prayer is a fantastic book, drawing on various traditions and looking at many approaches to prayer, including contemplation, meditation, petition, intercession, healing prayer, and more.
Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft’s Everyday Supernatural is also a brilliant book to check out. It’s about way more than prayer – there are chapters on hearing God’s guidance, spiritual gifts, praying for healing, and much more. This is a really great book to read if you want to learn to live an increasingly spirit-empowered life.
A new Sermon series The Lord’s Prayers starts this week, Jan 8th, at all ChristChurch London’s services.