Lord Teach Us To Pray


“The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.”

– Trinity’s character to Neo in The Matrix

Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn’t act the way we want God to, and why I don’t act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge. – Philip Yancey

It’s quite possible that there are as many styles of prayer as there are people who pray. In Luke 11, one of the disciples says to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus answers in what we commonly refer to today as “The Lord’s Prayer.” He models that one should: pay homage to God’s holiness; ask for the advance of His kingdom; request that God provide for our needs; seek forgiveness; and ask to be saved from temptation.

This example from Jesus is helpful and can be quite meaningful, even simply recited from memory. But how does your prayer life feel to you? Like a child trying to master a new skill, do you sometimes wonder if “you’re doing it right?” Paul writes in Romans 8:26 that “we don’t know what we ought to pray for.” Hardly a good starting point, is it? We’re trying to find our way on a map that doesn’t even have a You Are Here sticker on it.

Philip Yancey, in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? has this to say about our attempts to navigate:

It occurs to me, thinking about prayer, that most of the time I get the direction wrong. I start downstream with my own concerns and bring them to God. I inform God, as if God did not already know. I plead with God, as if hoping to change God’s mind and overcome divine reluctance. Instead, I should start upstream where the flow begins. When I shift direction, I realize that God already cares about my concerns—my uncle’s cancer, world peace, a broken family, a rebellious teenager—more than I do. Grace, like water, descends to the lowest part.

Yancey goes on to say that we learn to pray “by praying” and that the reason we pray is “because Jesus did.” Even God incarnate needed to spend time in prayer while He was here.

Don’t we sometimes send our prayers off like an email, hoping that we typed the address in correctly and that it doesn’t get rejected by “the server” (to make a bad pun)? Again, our direction seems backward. God is more like an existing wireless internet connection than a distant email recipient and we should be trying to connect with the One who is literally surrounding us. If the Holy Spirit is in your heart and God is truly the God of heaven and earth, how far do you think your message in the bottle is going to travel?

We don’t know what we ought to pray for and we don’t usually know what to do with the answer, if indeed we even recognize it. Like any relationship, I suppose the first thing we need to do is to be honest. Talk…laugh…cry. Maybe even trust. Then eventually we may understand the rest of Roman 8:26, which reads, “the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” We need to learn this language.

Lord, teach us to pray.

I am interested in your thoughts about prayer and how you or people you know go about making it the foundation of your spiritual existence like Jesus did. It does make a difference! You may enter comments into the space at the bottom or email me at kent@hempfieldcob.org. Thank you and good luck on your prayer journey.

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There are 5 comments

Another great one! I am SO glad that God is a patient God. Will have to read Yancey's book when you're done with it.

October 27, 2009 - 08:13


Writing great devotionals...yet another gift of so many that you possess!!! Philip Yancey is a great author and writes in a style that truly makes one think. As I'm reading another book called "Revival Fire" written by Wesley Duewel regarding the great revivals in the Church's history throughout the world, I'm beginning to believe that we don't even scratch the surface of what God wants to do through us by using the vehicle of prayer. It seems to me that God doesn't move without our prayers (at least as much) but He will move heaven and earth with them!!!


October 21, 2009 - 15:51
Reply to Lois

Thank you for your comment, Lois. I'd be interested in taking a look at that book when you're done. Amen to your thought that God will move Heaven and Earth with our prayers!!

Pastor Kent
October 22, 2009 - 09:53

Thanks, Shawn. Soli Deo Gloria! I really believe that we need to "bathe" things in prayer before taking them to each other and the community, etc. I like Yancey because we seem to wrestle with a lot of the same stuff and he always seems to be more interested in God's answer that his own! Prayer is truly like remodeling a house--you can put up all the drywall you want, but if the foundation is bad it's not going to be pretty for long. If only our prayer life was truly the foundation for everything we do--what a revival there would be!

Pastor Kent
October 21, 2009 - 06:33

Thanks for another fine devotional Kent. I really enjoy reading them.
Liked your illustration, but the image is a bit spooky
until you realize it's not a problem on your own machine.
Philip Yancey is awesome - I really like the quote at the top. So simple, so true.
And, yes, Lord, teach us to pray!!

October 20, 2009 - 21:07
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