Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount early in his ministry. It was his first recorded teaching. Months before the end of his ministry, the disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. He responded with instruction similar to that which he gave in the Sermon on the Mount. The important point of the Lord’s instruction is to gain the concept and scope. This prayer was never intended to be memorized so as to be magic words repeated like “abracadabra.” Jesus knew every person should pray for certain things daily. These things are addressed in the prayer. The words are not the issue as much as the truths and concepts the words communicate to the mind. You can use different words and say the same thing.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
After acknowledging our relationship to Almighty God, the first thing for which we are told to ask in prayer is the knowledge and strength to do God’s will. Perhaps prayers are not answered because when we request what we want, we contradict what God wants. We are assured that if we ask according to His will, He will hear us and answer our requests.
I John 5:14-15
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
The challenge we face is knowing His will. Very important to remember is that the Word of God is the will of God. To know His will, we must know His Word which means we must diligently study His Word. All things that pertain to life and godliness are revealed in it. Often in the Scriptures are prayers asking God to teach and to give understanding.
Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Also, in the Church Epistles are prayers for us to have a knowledge of His will. We are to pray and study the Word of God to know His will. As we are involved in daily living, insight is needed. The holy spirit within us can bring to remembrance God’s Word appropriate for the situation.
Jesus continued his prayer instruction by sharing a parable. The key word to understanding the parable is “importunity” which basically means shameful persistence. He gave this illustration so we would clearly understand we are to persist with our prayers. Do not give up. God will provide.
A repetition comes with persistence, but the parable illustrates the passion of heart that is involved. There is a big difference between vain, mindless repetition and what this friend manifested.
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
The words “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” were translated in the Living Bible as “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” and “keep on knocking.” When do you stop asking? When you have that which is needed! When do you stop seeking? When you find! When do you stop knocking? When it is open! Asking, seeking, and knocking are describing the persistence the friend in the parable illustrated.
In another record, Jesus graphically illustrated the need for persistence in prayer. While reading, keep in mind the first verse because the point is not to faint or give up.
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily….
Jesus continued in this chapter to teach on the subject of prayer and magnified the point of humility in prayer.
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Our loving, merciful God is not obligated to answer our prayers because we deserve an answer or demand it. He responds because of His loving grace. When we pray as our Lord Jesus Christ taught, we can expect our prayers to be answered because we are then obeying God’s Word. He absolutely assures us that He will stand behind His Word. Each and every time we pray, our hearts should be filled with love, gratitude, and praise for our Father.