Jesus, Teach Us to Pray
“He was a soul so great in spiritual apprehension that our best adjectives pass rather for impertinence than praise, and yet his prayers are as simple as a child’s. “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit” is the trustful self-commitment which he makes even in the crucifixion’s agony. . . . Just one thing the disciples asked the Master to teach them; they wanted him to teach them to pray.”
--Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Manhood of the Master
As controversial a pastor as Fosdick was during the early 20th century, his words were helpful as I was reading this morning. Today is the beginning of our 21 days of prayer and fasting at Mosaic, and as I sat there reading I felt like this was to be our cry at the beginning of a new year--Lord teach us to pray! Every year we come back to these 21 days and each time these words are always on my mind. Jesus, teach us to pray.
The disciples saw Jesus do many things, but they asked him to teach them prayer. They saw miracles, healings, great sermons preached, and they asked for no such teaching. Just prayer. In some ways that’s hard to imagine. Why prayer? Why not learn to multiply bread and fish? Why not learn to heal? But as fantastic, flamboyant, and attractive as those moments were when Jesus drew a crowd, the disciples saw Jesus far more frequently in prayer. For every powerful moment chronicled in the Gospels, there are a multitude of moments Jesus spends in prayer that we don’t see like the disciples did. How many more of those moments were there that aren’t recorded?! But we see that Jesus awakes early to pray, he slips away to spend time with the Father, he invites the disciples into Gethsemane, he even spends whole nights in prayer some times. His miraculous moments of teaching and healing before the crowds demand detail and explanation, whereas the accounts of his time in prayer are short. And it’s easy to just gloss over those most shaping and defining moments.
The disciples had seen first hand that this was the source of every miracle, healing, and sermon. When the disciples could not heal a young boy who had been struggling with seizures, Jesus healed the boy and informed them, “This kind only comes out by prayer.” If their experience watching him pray had not been enough, this moment made clear that prayer was what mattered most for Christ. Over and over again Jesus pointed the disciples and the crowds back toward his Father. And this is where the disciples found him so often--with his Father. Jesus knew that this connection to his Father was what empowered his ministry. This is what made Jesus bold and confident--simply that he was the Son. And this is what gives us confidence--that we are children, sons and daughters of the living God. Jesus‘ prayers are profound and yet simple like a child’s. When he teaches the disciples to pray, we are surprised at the simplicity of the Lord’s prayer. And our prayers, no matter how profound or simple, are all heard the same by the Father, as the cry of a child. So whether you think your prayers are profound enough or not, join us as we pray together over the next 21 days.
Lord, make us bold in prayer, make us frequent in prayer, and make us simple in prayer. Jesus, teach us to pray.