Part 1- Introduction
For several months now I have been studying and teaching about prayer. During this time, I have found that my prayer life has been refreshed, and revitalized. My consistent prayer has been: “Lord, teach me to pray!”
Recent reading and two Bible texts have triggered some reflection on the nature of prayer. Prayer, at its simplest, is a two-way conversation between us and God. Those conversations may be with God, my Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit (the too often forgotten member of the Trinity, as far as personal conversation is concerned).
Jesus’ disciples were experienced in prayer. As children, they had been taught the Jewish prayers. They had prayed several times a day throughout their lives. However, as they witnessed prayer as Jesus practiced it, they knew that there was something more to prayer than what they had yet experienced.
Luke records the story this way. “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray….” Luke 11:1. It is noteworthy that this version does not say “how to pray”, but simply “to pray”. There are many “HOW TO” books on the market, including those on prayer. Most of my readers will understand that “One-size-fits-all” is never quite true. My prayer is not a model for yours… because you and I are created differently. Praying friends of mine represent such different approaches to pray, but they each do pray.
Jesus, further went on the say: “When you pray, say: ‘Father’” (Luke 11:2). The word which Jesus used for Father was likely the Aramaic “Abba”. This is how a child would address their father: daddy, papa… a term of affection and familiarity. Prayer, then, that Jesus wants us to learn is communication between a child and a loving parent.
In another passage highlighting the importance of childlikeness, Jesus is responding to an argument among the disciples to decide who would be the greatest. Jesus resolved the discussion with a simple but dramatic demonstration.
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.18:2-3)
So then, as we reflect on these two scriptures, let me suggest that learning to pray effectively may best be illustrated by a child coming to a parent in conversation. That being the case, what would be the qualities of childlikeness, in relation to a conversation with a loving parent that would and should be reflected as we “learn to pray”?
In the next few postings we will examine and apply these qualities to prayer.