“Teach Me to Pray, Lord!”


Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor, July 6, 2021

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

9 In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

—Matthew 6:5-15

If you grew up in the US from 1984-1999, you knew – you just KNEW – that THE man to watch in the National Basketball Association was none other than Michael Jordan. In fact, the footwear (and other stuff!) maker used him as an advertising icon with the catch phrase, “Be Like Mike!”.

Well, I just want to tell you, I know just how he feels. All 5 foot one inch of me! In my first pastorate in Beaver Meadow (NY), on Fridays during the winter our youth group joined a group from a church in nearby Georgetown in their elementary school gym – to do what? Why, play basketball, of course!

One night I got a brainy idea! I had the kids stack all the gym mats one on top of another. Then they hoisted me to the top of the stack. There, I found myself at eye level with the gym’s basketball rim! I had the youths “feed me” one ball after another. Then I shot them toward the eye level hoop. And guess where EACH ONE all went? You bet! Swish – nothing but net! Mikey would have been so proud. Why be like Mike when you could be like ME! (I better give up while I can).

It shouldn’t be too surprising when Jesus’ disciples approached him and observed, “John the Baptist teaches his disciples how to pray. Would you teach us?” (Stopford paraphrase of Luke 11:1). AND, it is from a major scene of Season 2, Episode 7 of “The Chosen”. Have you watched “The Chosen” yet? Check out for yourself “www.thechosentv.com”! Dr. Becker – end of commercial. Thank you!)

Like the first disciples, we, too, need to have a teachable spirit. And we also need to be wise! A long-term missionary once quoted in his missionary letter, “nothing of eternal value is ever accomplished without prayer.” [does anyone know the original source of that amazing saying? Let Pastor Becker know!] We can have all the right programs, but without prayer, they amount to NOTHING. Prayer is HARD WORK. Even Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, once said, “I have an extremely busy day ahead. So I better spend at least 4 hours in prayer!”

Into this introduction, our Savior wonderfully gives us His “model prayer”. Of course, He NEVER prayed this prayer! He NEVER suggested to His disciples that this prayer, word for word, should be prayed at every church service, or even as a means of penance in any denomination. And, of course, there have been MANY great books and treatises written on this prayer. May this simply be a guide as well as an impetus to pray as Jesus taught His disciples.

Rather, the Lord Jesus’ “model prayer” can be easily divided into 4 sections. First is “INVOCATION”. In verses 4, 6, and 8 the Savior talked with the disciples in general terms about “your Father”. But the model prayer is addressed to “Our Father Who is in heaven,” or simply, “our heavenly Father.” The disciple is entering into the tenderness which Jesus has with His Father. With that brief statement, Jesus is inviting His disciples to BE STILL (Psalm 46:10). To DRAW AWAY (1 Sam. 14:36; James 4:8) from the hullabaloo of the day. In fact, He desires to be sought FIRST (Matthew 6:33). We are to come to God as a child (John 1:12). As such, we are to enjoy God as in a Father/child relationship.

I had a GREAT Dad! And we had a GREAT father/son relationship. So when I enter into my Heavenly Father/child of God relationship, I envision the tenderness and closeness which I enjoyed with my dad for almost 45 years before he passed away. But many don’t have that! For some, their dad might have been a drunk or an abuser of some other kind. What happens when that son or daughter comes to the cross, trusts Jesus as Savior, and is invited to come to “our Father”? It is a new experience, and in the big picture a cautious yet ultimately most amazing experience! Perhaps for the first time in their lives, that child has a Father Who loves them unreservedly. Can you sense that breath of fresh air in worshiping the LIVING God?

Secondly, the model prayer exhibits ADORATION! Don’t jump into petition. Remember, we are to visualize an intimate stillness. Such adoration includes “hallowed be Your Name”. “Hallowed” means “holy, excellent, sin apart.” And “Name” immediately would bring into the Jewish disciple of Jesus’ day the instruction that he would have been taught about the work of the scribe, the one who would make copies of the original scriptures. When the scribe would come to the Name of God, he would STOP! He would SAY PRAYERS. And he would CHANGE PENS. He would use the new pen to write God’s Name. He would throw that pen away. And then he would reverse the order: CHANGE PENS again; SAY PRAYERS again; and then START OVER his copy. In such a way God’s Name was revered. The disciple of the Lord should have that same reverence in prayer.

This is not a lesson on the extent of what God’s Name is. But the good Jew and the subsequent disciple of Jesus would learn His Father’s Name: “JEHOVAH” or “JHWH” (the self-existent One). “I AM THAT I AM” (the eternally self-existent One). “JEHOVAH-JIREH” (the Lord will provide). “JEHOVAH-RAPHA” (the Lord that heals). “JEHOVAH-NISSI” (the Lord our banner). “JEHOVAH-SHALOM” (the Lord our peace). “JEHOVAH-REAH” (the Lord our Shepherd). “JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU” (the Lord our righteousness). “JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH” (the Lord is present). You can understand just how powerful an impression was made when the disciple was taught “hallowed be Your Name.”

Adoration also includes “Thy Kingdom come”. “Thy Kingdom” reminds us that there is an earthly kingdom which is in opposition to His. This also marks the hope of a future settling of all world events into His good plan, HIS KINGDOM.

And adoration involves “Thy will be done – on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus’ heavenly pattern is…perfect! Do we remember when Moses was to build the tabernacle. It was an earthly building based upon a plan, a pattern. A pattern of what? Of the HEAVENLY TEMPLE! Thus God’s will IS done in heaven. The adoration here means that the disciple hungers for God’s will to be done on earth as well.

Thirdly, the model prayer is now PETITION. After the invocation and the adoration THEN comes the petition. A simple definition of “godly petition” would be “perfect all around care.” Under that heading, that umbrella come the desire for “daily bread” (physical), “forgiveness” (mental), and “lead us” (spiritual).

Fourth and final, the model prayer is BENEDICTION. Benediction links with Invocation. “Yours is the glory” links easily with “Our Father Who is in Heaven.” And in between – Adoration and Petition – are the meat of the model prayer. Amazingly simple. Yet amazingly profound!

Let’s close with some reminders:

* D. L. Moody said that the blessings of praying the heart of this prayer were more than his physical frame could bear. Often he would say, “STOP, LORD!”. Oh to have that kind of intimacy!

* The very abrupt prayer – “Lord, HELP!” – includes all 4 above points of the model prayer. It is not length of words that is needed!

* Above all remember: “nothing of eternal value is ever accomplished apart from prayer”.

Are you teachable?

Would you pray, “Lord, teach ME to pray!”?