“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
While Jesus was praying, Luke took notice that He prayed often. He records Jesus praying at his baptism (Luke 3:21); in the wilderness (Luke 5:16); before the appointment of the apostles, when He continued all night in prayer (Luke 6:12); praying alone (Luke 9:18); and praying before His transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29).Do we automatically know how to pray just because we understand there is a command to do so? Is there a right and a wrong way to pray? Notice the prayer in 1 Kings 8:54 where Solomon assumed a certain physical position. Is this what the disciples were asking about? Are we always to be on our knees with our hands spread up to heaven? Should we beat our breasts like the sinner in Luke 18:13? Will that make our Heavenly Father hear our prayers?
In Matthew 6:9, we see that Jesus taught His disciples to pray a certain way, but that did not include a particular body position. He taught the words to speak to our Heavenly Father, words which addressed Him reverently and humbly. If we are going to ask the Lord to teach us to pray so that He will hear, we need to notice several instances in scripture where prayers were heard by God and why.
King David prayed often, and in Psalms 10:17 we see one reason why God might have listened to his prayer. He prepared his heart and humbled himself before God. Again in Psalms 19:14, David says, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Are we concerned with our words when we pray?
Not only are we supposed to be concerned with proper words to use in prayer, but we need to know there are certain things we should pray for. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27).
The apostle James (James 4:2-3) said, “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
We may assume from the account that Luke and the other disciples had been struck with the excellency and fervor of Jesus’ prayers, and, remembering that John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray, they asked Jesus also to teach them. From their experience and testimony we learn:
1. That the abilities and fervor of Jesus (or Paul) should lead us to desire the same.
2. That the true method of praying can be learned only by our being properly taught. Consider that we cannot pray acceptably at all unless God is our teacher.
3. That it is proper for us to meditate beforehand what we are to ask of God, and to arrange our thoughts, so that we may not come casually into His presence.
4. We learn from the testimony of James that we must not ask God for things to satisfy our fleshly desires. We must ask for what God has promised He will give so that we may grow spiritually and be the best we can be.