Lord, Teach Us to Pray, Part 3
Answered prayer is to be expected for the follower of Christ. In fact, I believe answered prayer should be the norm, not the exception. Jesus exemplified an expectant prayer life. And so should you and I! Let’s continue this important series.
The disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1
The disciples witnessed Jesus’ supernatural lifestyle. But, teach us to pray, not teach us to heal or deliver the oppressed? Why?
The disciples watched Jesus as He healed the sick. They witnessed His miracle power to open the eyes of the blind and deaf. They observed Him cleansing a leper with the touch of His hand. His words calmed a stormy sea and raised the dead to life. How did He do these healings and miracles? What was the secret to such miracle power?
It was mysterious to them at first, but eventually, the disciples learned the secret to Jesus’ power: He was a man of prayer!
Fully God and fully man, Jesus’ life gives us an example of how to live dependent upon God for life and victorious living. It begins with being a person of prayer and a student of God’s word.
At the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we read how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to pray and fast for 40 days, “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” Luke 4:1 NKJV
We read next of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus overcomes the devil’s schemes by quoting God’s word in truth. Luke then records, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.” Luke 4:14 NKJV
Many want the answer without the discipline. Prayer is an intentional time of communion with God. Through prayer, we enter an understanding of the heart and will of God. Our prayer becomes empowered through our communion with God and knowing His word. Prayer is vitally important if we are going to have a victorious Christian walk.
Jesus set time aside daily to seek the Father’s will, direction, and fresh anointing for His ministry.
Here are some examples of Jesus’ prayer life:
“So He himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Luke 5:16 NKJV
Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer” and chose the twelve. Luke 6:12 NKJV
“He was alone praying.” His disciples came to Him and He told them of His death and resurrection. Luke 9:18 NKJV
In Mark 1:35-39, we read how Jesus was up early, praying in a solitary place, and received direction and fresh empowerment for ministry.
Throughout church history we read of men and women who valued their prayer time with God, in fact, many choosing to spend hours a day in communion with God. For example, 16th-century Church Reformer Martin Luther said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the Devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business, I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” 
To prevail in spiritual power, a lifetime of intimacy with God is required!
There are no shortcuts to spiritual vitality—it’s about abiding in Christ daily! Not out of duty, but from a place of love and desire to be with Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith! Prayer is essential for living a victorious Christian walk.
Jesus gives basic principles of prayer, not a formula. Luke 11:2-4
Jesus didn’t give just a prayer or a formula; He gave us prayer principles.
Because prayer was central to the ministry of Jesus, He wanted it to be foundational in the lives of His disciples. What we call the “Lord’s Prayer,” perhaps should be labeled the “Disciples’ Prayer,” as it’s an outline or blueprint for prayer.
Luke’s gospel primarily encourages the reader to be persistent in prayer. Luke’s context of “Our Father” is different from that of Matthew, which is situated among three acts of religion (Matt. 6:1-8); and its audiences are “Jewish opponents of Mathew’s community,” who are accustomed to the practice of prayer. Thus, Matthew is correcting their improper practices of prayer (Matt. 6:5-14).
In Matthew’s account, Jesus was commenting on the motivation for prayer. He is teaching to be careful not to practice prayer before people, so they admire us; rather, seek the Father’s admiration.
In contrast, Luke’s context is found within a Gentile community, most of whom are not accustomed to prayer. So, Luke needs primarily to instruct the Gentiles about how to pray, so he emphasizes the positive (persistent) attitude in prayer.
Prayer should begin with Praise and Worship!
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” To hallow means to sanctify, to set apart, to make special. As I have shared, foundationally, prayer is communion with God. But prayer should also revere and set God apart in our hearts. When God is revered, we praise and worship Him as Lord through all of life’s ups and downs.
We should praise and worship the Lord every day of our lives. Psalm 150:6 declares, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (NKJV) Prayer that touches the heart of God is worship-filled prayer!
As Christians, when we call God Father, we are acknowledging God as the loving, eternal Father of creation—all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. But not everyone can call God Father, only those who through Jesus have entered a relationship with God thus becoming members of His family.
John declares of Jesus, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12 NKJV) Those who have surrendered their lives to God through Jesus, are God’s children and begin to know God as the loving Father that He is.
Our existence and life in Christ are a result of the love and goodness of Father God. James, an apostolic leader in the early church, states, “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father…” (James 1:17 CEB). God is not the originator of sin, disease, poverty, violence, or racism, to name a few evils. So, prayer that is worship-filled knows that Jesus is our King, the Father cares for His own, and we can trust God always!
Our love response back to God is worship, which is the first element of prayer. Some miss this key component of prayer. Perhaps due to a lack of relationship with God, prayer for some is just a means to receive help in emergencies. Sure, God wants to help in our time of need, but it’s not the only purpose of prayer.
God desires relationship with us; those who will worship Him in Spirit and truth will discover the resurrection power of Christ working with them. Jesus declared to a woman of Samaria about authentic worship and relationship with God,
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 NKJV
Praise, worship, and thanksgiving bring us into the presence of God (Psalm 100:4-5). This is where genuine prayer originates!
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”
Asking should always be mingled with praise and thanksgiving. Consider Phil. 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” (NKJV)
Prayer Answered through Prayer, Worship, and Thanksgiving!
In the early nineties, Carolyn and I, along with our then-infant daughter Hannah, were on our way to Haiti to serve as missionaries. At that time, and sadly still today, the nation’s infrastructure—roads, water, sewer, and electric grid—was grossly deficient. Electricity was scarce, sometimes only available for an hour or two a day.
Living in Haiti necessitated electrical generators and inverter systems to generate additional electricity to power homes, businesses, and churches. The small house we were going to rent did not have a generator or electrical inverter system, so we needed to raise funds to purchase one. Just before moving to Haiti, an electrical inverter system became available for $1,500. This amount may seem small, but for a missionary family at that time, it was a significant sum of money. We began to pray and wait expectantly.
One morning a couple of weeks later, I felt led to worship, pray, and thank God for the answer to our prayers for the inverter funding. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the promises found in Philippians 4:6-7, and I began to worship and pray with fresh abandonment. A new understanding of prayer came alive in my spirit, that we are to make our needs known to God (who, by the way, already knows all that we need) and thank Him in advance for the answer. The Holy Spirit’s presence filled my heart, and I was full of His peace and joy.
One of the things I needed to do that day was purchase additional supplies for our move to Haiti. I went shopping and as I was finishing, I ran into a couple from our church at the store. They asked me about our moving preparations and showed excitement for our assignment. A few minutes into the conversation, the wife wrote a check for our mission’s work and handed it to me. Without looking at it, I folded the check, placed it in my shirt pocket, and thanked them. We finished our conversation, said our goodbyes, and I finished shopping.
After returning to the apartment and unloading all the supplies, I remembered the check in my pocket. I pulled it out, unfolded it, and to my surprise it was $1,500! I never mentioned our need to the couple, but God knew. The answer came after I deliberately worshiped and thanked God for the provision before there was any sign of it.
That day I learned a simple but important truth from Philippians 4:6-7. Prayer—filled with faith and trust that God has heard you, thanking God for the answer that is to come, and resting in His peace through the process of waiting—is powerful and will help you remain in His peace and joy. Since that time, God has asked me to trust Him for much larger issues and funding needs. Not all prayer is answered that quickly, nor perhaps in the way that I think it should unfold. However, this simple understanding of how to pray has changed my life, and it will change your life too.
I will continue next week with Part 4 of this series, Lord Teach us to Pray, looking at prayer with expectation.
For more on this subject, see my book Our Eyes are On You: Principles to Prevail in Faith and Prayer or search Bob Sawvelle on YouTube for video sermons.
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Lord, Teach Us to Pray, Part 3”
 E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982), 58.