Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As He finished, one of His disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:’Father, may Your name be kept holy. May Your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.'”Luke 11:1-4
I wrote yesterday: When He had finished, one of them said, “Teach us to pray”. Conceivably they have been looking on and talking among themselves. “How can He pray for so long?” “I wonder what He is praying about?” which leads into, “Lord, teach us to pray, like You do.”
There are a number of things people frequently ask me about regarding prayer.
- “How do you pray for a long time? I seem to be only be able to prayer for 5 minutes and no more.” [Duration]
- “How do you know what to pray? I have difficulty knowing what to pray for.” [Content]
- “There is a difference in how you pray. I don’t understand what that difference is. I hear it in other people too but can’t work out what it is.” [Style – which I will call The X Factor]
You can tell me all about prayer but the best way for me to learn is to show me. Demonstrate prayer to me and I will understand when I see it exemplified. Model prayer for me.
I am sure when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray their question was centred on one or all four of these aspects:-
- The X Factor – Intimacy
Watching Jesus pray I suspect it was the length of time He prayed which caught their attention first. The things He prayed about although on this occasion I am not sure they heard what He prayed as I said yesterday. But I think what impacted them the most would have been the way He prayed. Let me attempt to explain all four of these in this one Gem. The first three I will deal with briefly; the last in more detail.
How long to pray?
When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. (CEV)Matthew 6:7
Jesus Himself tells us not to pray long prayers like others do. When we might pray for a long time it is not because God likes to hear wordiness. It is because of the number of things we may be praying about or the detail involved in them. There are number of issues tied up in “this matter” which require us to pray exactly what it is we ask for from Father God. We have to have experience in praying and knowing what to pray before we can pray for a long time.
Stop praying when you feel the release in the Spirit that the thing you have been praying for has been covered. It takes practice to recognize the moment when that happens in prayer. Until the Lord lifts the burden keep praying. How long should I pray? Until you feel the effect and until it changes the way you walk and talk.
Knowing what to pray is another matter. When it is a family member or a person who is close to us, then there is no problem with us knowing what to pray for them. We know the issues in their lives and we ought to know what to pray for them. It is a matter of how well we know the situation we are praying for. If you don’t know, find out. If we know the Word of God well then we know what to pray for them.
Pray according to God’s Word:
- His Principles,
- His Promises and
- His Prayers and the prayers of the Bible.
If we don’t know the details related to our friends we can still pray in accordance with the Word on their behalf. There is another source of the content of our prayers as well. The Holy Spirit. We can ask the Lord what to pray and and then be open to what it is that He tells us via His Holy Spirit. (See Gems 429–431, 436)
There are many styles of praying. There are people who like to pray in archaic King James language seemingly thinking that God likes prayers in King James English. These kinds of prayers we could also call Theological Prayers. The words are all there, the prayers sound eloquent and put many of us off praying because we compare our prayer with theirs and ours seems so simple, so ordinary. There are people who pray what I call Soliloquy Praying where they begin praying especially in the context of group prayer and they pray on and on and on. Then there are those who pray Conversational Prayers, praying just like you would if you were having a conversation with someone. I was given a book years ago called Conversational Prayer by Rosalind Rinker. But there is another level to all of this that I would term The X Factor.
4. The X Factor
The X factor is all about intimacy. When you listen to people praying who have the X factor it is like God comes right into the room, right there in the prayer. I have met a number of people over the years who have demonstrated intimacy with God in their prayers which made me want to be like them. I am sure Jesus’ praying evidenced to the disciples His intimacy with God the Father. After all these Two were One so how could that not be the case. Is that not likely to be one major factor which held the disciples attention and caused them to say teach us to pray . . . like that?
The first person I met to pray with intimacy was my future mother-in-law. But way back then (before the hills got dusty) I didn’t appreciate what I was seeing or hearing. I thought she was kooky. I was an atheist at that time and I remember walking past her bedroom door when I heard her say, “Lord Jesus, please just come and sit here on the bed beside me.” As I looked in to the bedroom as I passed I could see her patting the bed beside her. I thought, “what a weird woman.” I am much wiser now and no longer an atheist. I greatly respect Tania’s mother for the intimacy she has developed with Jesus.
That is what the X favor is all about. It is seen in people who have made intimacy with the Lord a feature of their prayer. They don’t put things in theological terms, talking about God when they pray to Him. They pray to God in such an intimate way that it brings God into the room. It makes Him seem so real, because He is so real to them. Listening to a person praying like that inspires the others of us and encourages us toward intimacy. That is what happened between Moses and Joshua. Moses used to meet God daily at the “tent of meeting” when God would presence Himself before Moses in a cloud and God’s presence would fill the place. Joshua was there observing all this happening but what is most telling is that Joshua would linger “in the presence”, maybe the afterglow, long after Moses and the LORD had gone.
“Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.”Exodus 33:11
Intimacy and the presence of God will do that for you. Find someone to mentor you who has that X Factor and you will never be the same again. Say to them, “Teach me to pray.” Obedience deepens our intimacy with Jesus. If we want to know the Father, we must not only love Him, but also obey Him.
The ability to hear what God is saying and to see what God is doing is based on the levels of intimacy we have developed with Jesus.Ian Vail
The more time you spend with God to develop an intimate relationship with Him, the more afraid of you the devil becomes.Joyce Meyer
When prayer is at its highest we wait in silence for God’s voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and power to flow over us.William Barclay
The secret of the Power is found in the intimacy of the Presence.Ian Vail