Monday, July 28 by Pastor Ho Lee
“Teach Us to Pray”
1. Importance of Prayer
Today’s Bible passage, Luke 11:1-13, is the place where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. Thus, I will preach about prayer based on today’s passage. Prayer is one of the most important things for our spiritual journey. Our spiritual ancestors in the Christian history often said that prayer is spiritual breathing. As we die shortly without breathing, our spirit will die quickly without prayer. Jesus and apostles in the Bible also keep emphasizing the importance of prayer here and there. In particular, we can easily find in the Bible that Jesus always finds the place and time for prayer in spite of his busy schedule. Imagine how busy Jesus was at that time. He was a kind of big star at that time. His outstanding teachings, miraculous power, and charisma had attracted a lot of people. There was almost no time for him to rest because of the crowd who kept coming to him for his teaching and healing. One day, even Jesus expressed his exhaustion by saying that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”(Matthew 8:20) However, in spite of this busy schedule, no time to rest and even sleep, Jesus always makes the time and place to pray. Jesus’ life example and his teachings show vividly how prayer is very important.
In fact, I believe that we already know the importance of prayer for our spirit as Christians before my explanation. However, I would like to ask a challenging question to you to help you to think about. You do not have to answer me, but answer to yourself. How often do you pray in your daily life? Do you pray every day, once a week, once a month, occasionally, or hardly? Some people might say that the number of prayers does not matter. The matter is the quality of prayer. However, the Bible clearly teaches us how often we should pray. Do you know the Bible says how many times we should pray? The answer is always, without ceasing. Ephesians 6:18 says: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” Also, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing.” Some recent surveys show that the number of Christians in the United States who pray has decreased. Personally, I also found that many church members, especially people in the denominational churches, do not devote themselves to prayer, even considering prayer as a pastor’s job. As you already know, we are all called to pray to God. Why don’t many church members pray although they know the importance of God? I think there are various reasons behind it. But, one of the main reasons might come from our clergy community’s fault. While I talked with some church members, I have heard many times that they have never heard about how to pray in a practical way. That is why I think it would be great if I can have some time to talk about how to pray based on Jesus’ teaching regarding prayer in today’s Bible passage.
I believe that Jesus seemed to be excited to teach how to pray in today’s bible passage. When one of the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus gave them the best prayer, Lord’s Prayer, right away without any comment or explanation as if he has waited for this question for a while. Asking about how to pray would be the right question. The Bible passage is short, but it includes a lot of teachings about prayer. If I tried to explain every detail about teaching, especially Lord’s prayer, it would take several hours. I believe nobody wants to stay that long. So, I will point out some fundamental things about prayer.
2. The Conversation with Father
The first fundamental teaching about prayer is the following: prayer is a conversation with Father. For understanding what prayer is and how to pray, we need to ask one of the important questions. That is, to whom do we pray? Certainly, we pray to God. But, who is God? One of the interesting things from Jesus’ teaching is that Jesus indicates God as father. From our perspective, that is natural because we have learned that God is our father. However, at Jesus’ time, it was a strange teaching. When you read the Old Testament, more accurately, the Hebrew Bible, you can see that God was described as the divine and powerful God whom people could not close to Him at all. Because of His glory and power, people had feared Him and served Him as His servant. Thus, their understanding of God was more the divine, not father. But Jesus encourages his disciples to call God as their father. In other words, it shows God wants people to be His children. From this perspective, prayer could be seen as the conversation between loving father and children. Some people seem to believe that prayer is some kind of magic to gain what they want from God. However, what Jesus teaches us is that prayer is the conversation with a loved one.
3. Shamelessly and Honestly
The second point is that we should pray shamelessly and honestly when we pray. Right after Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, he tells a parable to help his disciples to pray. In this parable, a guy has an unexpected guest in his house at midnight and finds out that he needs some bread to welcome this guest. Thus, this guy goes to one of his friends and asks to borrow some bread. This friend was irritated by this guy’s request in the middle of night and refused him at first by saying, “Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” Certainly, visiting a friend in the middle of night and asking what he wants would be rude and seem to cross the line. However, at the end of this parable, Jesus says that this somewhat rude guy will have what he asked for because he keeps on asking shamelessly. The point of this parable is that we should pray shamelessly.
From my visitation and meeting with church members in my previous ministries, what I found was that many Christians feel guilty when they ask God what they want, especially for their own good. They thought that prayer should be something good for others or for bigger things such as the comfort for people who suffered from some tragic events or world peace. For sure, we need to pray for those things. However, prayer should not be limited to those things. We should pray for what we need in our daily lives shamelessly, boldly, and honestly. We should remember that Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread when he teaches the Lord’s Prayer. Just imagine the loving father or mother and their children. What kind of topics do they talk about when they get together? If they are really in a loving relationship with each other, they will talk about all kind of things. Furthermore, children will not be shamed to ask what they need for their lives because they are their parents. Prayer is like the conversation between loving parents and children. There is nothing to hide. Jesus’ teaching goes further, encouraging disciples to ask constantly.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” – Luke 11:9-10 –
This Bible passage does not mean that God will give us everything we ask for. As the loving father does not allow everything their children ask, our Heavenly Father does not give us everything we ask for. His answer could be yes, no, or wait. However, this Bible passage confirms that God will listen to our prayer and answer us in any form, giving the best for us from his perspective. Thus, we need to pray shamelessly and honestly.
4. Ask for the Holy Spirit
Until now we learn about two importance teachings about prayer. One is that prayer is the conversation with Father and the other is to pray shamelessly, boldly, and honestly. The last point is that we need to ask for the Holy Spirit. In the last verse, Jesus says the following: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) From this verse, we can see that one of the best gifts God would like to give us as Heavenly Father is the Holy Spirit. Before his crucifixion, Jesus promised his disciples to give the Holy Spirit, who would abide with the disciples and in them. Jesus said that this Holy Spirit would teach and guide disciples as an advocate and helper, instead of Jesus. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit came upon all disciples of Jesus and transformed them from weak and pale-hearted disciples to strong and passionate evangelists for the world. Jesus invites us to ask for the Holy Spirit and wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit as his disciples were two thousand years ago. Have you ever asked God to give you the Holy Spirit and be filled with the Holy Spirit? If not, how about asking God for the Holy Spirit now?