“Lord, teach us to pray.” The disciples had seen Jesus perform all sorts of miracles. And they knew he had a habit of spending time alone in prayer. I believe they recognized that the power of Jesus was not in the miracles. The miracles were evidence of the power in Jesus. It was following one of Jesus’ prayer times that they made this request. Teach us to pray. I imagine that Jesus smiled at this request.
Jesus responded, “pray like this.” And he laid out a model of prayer that changed everything. “Our Father.” There are two things about this opening statement that are unusual. Jesus continued a pattern – “you’ve heard it said this way, but let me show you a better way.” These two simple words were the first time that anyone ever addressed the Father God so personally, and he encouraged the disciples to pray so personally. Jesus opened the doors between his people and the Father. Hebrews 4 encourages us to confidently approach the throne of grace, and we can do that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Son of Man opened the way for us to have communion with the Father.
A second thing so striking about this opening phrase is the very first word. “Our.” Jesus could have opened in the singular “my.” Instead, this prayer opens with the plural possessive. “Our Father.” When animals hunt they often isolate their prey first. They separate the weaker animal from the rest of the community. It seems to me that our enemy does the same thing. If he can isolate me, if he can convince me of “my” instead of “our,” then I’m in real danger. This prayer reminds us that we are not alone. Christ himself is with else. When the enemy is nipping at your heels, remember who is with you. You are not alone.
Jesus offered more explanation after teaching this prayer. Jesus used a comparative model, moving from lesser to greater. He compared fathers giving appropriate gifts to the Good Father giving the best gifts. The Matthew account (7:11) indicates that the Father will give good gifts to those who ask him. The Luke account (11:13) names that good gift – the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer, he begins and ends with relationship. “Our Father.” He is ours and we are his. No one can enter the Father’s presence without first going through the Son, and Jesus opened that door. And now he gives us the best gift – his presence with us, his Spirit in us, and his Glory around us.
May you know Jesus. May you confidently approach the throne of grace. May you stand up strong, even if the enemy is on the hunt, because the Lord of all Creation is with you. May you know the goodness of the Father as he bestows his best gifts on you.
This is a partial summary of the message I delivered at Cornerstone Church on June 25, 2017. Audio of the message is available at www.cornerstoneofsheridan.org.