A New Way to Pray -- By: William C. Brownson

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 01:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: A New Way to Pray
Author: William C. Brownson

A New Way to Pray

William C. Brownson

The disciples wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray. I am reading from Luke, chapter 11:

He was praying in a certain place, and when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father’” (Luke 11:1–2 RSV).

Why Did They Ask?

Why do you suppose they wanted this kind of teaching from Jesus? Had they never prayed before? Of course they had. They all had grown up in Jewish homes where prayer was offered three times a day. This was an Old Testament pattern, remember? The Psalmist says, “Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud” (Ps. 55:17 KJV). It was said of the godly Daniel that “he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (Dan. 6:10), even at the risk of his life on one occasion. It was apparently the practice among all first-century Jews to have a prayer time in the morning and in the evening and at the hour of the afternoon sacrifice. Sometimes the family would recite what is called Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4–5). There would follow a string of benedictions in which they gave praise to God for all His mighty works. The Jews were a people who called upon God, so all of the disciples had heard prayers being said in their homes and had probably participated in them. Prayer was certainly not a foreign or unfamiliar thing to any of them. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (their God) had been known in Israel for generations by this name, “O Thou that hearest prayer.”

The disciples were apparently looking for something more than they had known in their past. They asked, “Lord,

teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Apparently, John the Baptist had instructed his followers in a certain way of praying. John had been calling people to a new repentance and readiness for God, showing them perhaps how to pray in a crisis time. Now Jesus’ disciples want from Him a way of praying that will be especially appropriate for His followers. “How ought we, Jesus, as a community gathered around You, to call on God?”

It is striking that they did this right after one of the occasions when they had seen Jesus Himself praying. We get th...

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