Teach Us To Pray 1 - With The Right Attitude
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
After Jesus finished praying, one of his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. This would have sounded normal if it was just the beginning of his ministry, and his disciples were new. But Jesus was already approaching the end of his ministry and his disciples have already followed him for more than three years. They would have seen him pray countless times, and prayed together with him too. Yet one of his disciples asked him to teach them to pray.
Prayer is so simple that even a young child can pray, yet so great that even a pastor can’t claim to have mastered it.
We know how to put a prayer together... Start by addressing God as “Heavenly Father” (or something similar), say some words in the middle, and end with an “Amen!” So what’s so difficult about praying?
It’s true prayer is no rocket science, but it is not easy to have the right attitude in prayer. Do we approach God with the right heart? Are we humble to Him? Do we mean it when we praise God? Do we believe and surrender ourselves to Him? Are we open and broken about our sins?
I’ll be the first to confess that I need to learn how to pray. If you feel the same way, let’s look at what Jesus taught his disciples.
He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2-4)
What Jesus taught above is not an incantation for us to chant; there’s no magic in these words to exorcise demons or to use in rituals. Instead, it is a model for our prayer. It shows the right attitudes we should have in prayer. Let’s examine the model:
“Father” – To be able to call God our ‘Father’ is a very privileged position. He is the omnipotent Creator and almighty Sovereign; we are sinners. Yet this is the intimacy God wants with us – a parent-child relationship. A child wouldn’t need to prove his worth or earn his parents’ love, neither do we with God. We do not need to be trapped by feelings of guilt or insecurity, for we are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. Let’s approach God with confidence and draw close to Him as we pray.
“Hallowed be your name” – To hallow is to honour as holy. ‘Name’ in antiquity signifies more than just how we address a person; it is the sum of a person’s character. The whole of God’s character is to be honoured as holy. We should have the confidence to approach God intimately, but also the respect to regard Him with reverence. In practice, we may feel it is a contradiction and they’re mutually exclusive, but they’re not. We can be close to God and revere Him at the same time as we pray.
“Your kingdom come” – This shows our passion and surrender to God’s glory and agenda. His kingdom takes priority over ours. We often pray to God with ourselves in the centre of our prayers – our sins, our requests, our feelings. We should certainly share our thoughts and feelings to God, but our prayers should be more about Him. Prayer is not a tool to get what we want from God. Instead, it is our surrender to God’s plan, for God to accomplish His will in us and through us. Have a surrendering heart as we pray.
“Give us each day our daily bread” – While we shouldn’t treat God like a genie who grants wishes, He does care for us. We can trust that He will provide for our needs. Many among us may not turn to God for our basic needs (“daily bread”) because we imagine we are more than capable of providing and even earning them for ourselves. We forget that even the simple things are given to us through His grace. We should have the humility to acknowledge that in our prayers and learn to rely on God for simple and complex things.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” – We need to approach God with brokenness, and seek His forgiveness. This requires an awareness of our sins and how we've hurt God. We can never be good enough to earn our salvation. We require His grace. And as we ask God to forgive us, let’s also forgive others who have sinned against us. We're hypocrites if we hope for mercy and love, but deny the same to others. When we pray, let’s be broken as we seek forgiveness and gracious in forgiving others.
“And lead us not into temptation” – We must never be so proud to think that we can stay righteous through our own strengths. No willpower, discipline or sense of integrity would be sufficient to resist the worst of temptations. We have to face the fact that we're not as strong as we like to imagine. Let's admit it, we are weak. But we can overcome temptations through God. We are never tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Pray with an understanding of our weaknesses, and a desire for strength from God.
It’s easy to pray, but there’s so much more we can learn about prayer. Let’s practice the attitudes Jesus taught his disciples about prayer.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God". Gin Kai joined the Central Christian Church in 1988.