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“Lord, Teach Us How to Pray”

Do you need your tire jack? Of course you do! If you get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, you are going to be glad you have that tire jack. We use our tire jacks to lift a very heavy car so we can swap out a flat tire with a spare tire. You may never need that tire jack, but if you find yourself in a bind and have to change a flat tire, you surely will be glad you have it!

Isn’t that kind of the way we view prayer—as something we pull out and frantically use when we are in a bind and have a burden too heavy to lift? But that’s not how God wants you to view prayer. To be sure, He does want you to pray to Him when you are in trouble. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me,” He tells us through the psalmist (Psalm 50:15). But that’s not the only time He wants you to pray to Him. The Apostle Paul calls on us to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).

Not only has God commanded us to pray to Him, but Jesus bolsters our confidence in prayer by promising He will hear us. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23). Because Jesus died on the cross to reconcile you to God, you can go right to God with your prayers, in boldness and confidence, knowing that He promises to hear your prayers and answer accordingly.

Sometimes, though, we wonder how we should pray. Our catechism defines prayer simply as “a heart-to-heart talk with God.” Sometimes it is as simple as, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or “Thank you, Jesus!” for an unexpected blessing. Sometimes it may be a longer, structured prayer, such as the ones our pastors often use during the worship services.

On one occasion, the disciples of Jesus asked Him about prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). How did Jesus answer? He gave them what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” It has been said that the Lord’s Prayer is the complete prayer—it deals with everything we need that pertains to our salvation, our spiritual needs, and our daily living.

It is a good thing that Jesus did teach us how to pray. Very often our prayers revolve around our earthly, material problems and needs—health, employment, finances, security, or any number of other such matters. These are all things that are important, and our heavenly Father wants us to bring them to Him. Yet these things make up only one petition of the Lord’s Prayer, namely, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In that petition Jesus teaches us to ask our heavenly Father for those things we need for today.

In all the other petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us how to talk to our heavenly Father about our spiritual needs. Spiritual needs like being forgiven, and forgiving others. Deliverance from temptations and protection from the devil. Spiritual needs like glorifying our Father’s name in our teaching and in our actions. Spiritual needs like spreading His Kingdom. These things we need to be taught how to pray, lest we be always praying for daily bread alone! Prayer is more than a tire jack that we keep “just in case” of emergencies. Prayer is a gift that Jesus died to give us. Through faith in Jesus, each one of us has been given direct access to the heavenly Father. May we be in constant conversation with our dear Father in heaven!

What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Ev’rything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Ev’rything to God in prayer! Amen.

(TLH  #457:1)

Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington.