With Christ In the School of Prayer

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fourteen through fifty-four of the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find it beginning with an account of Jesus casting out an unclean spirit which was both deaf and mute, and how after Jesus had driven out this unclean spirit the people greatly marveled at the wondrous works which were taking place among them. Before we get into the words which are found within this portion of Scripture, however, I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need to direct our attention to the words which are found in the opening thirteen verses of the chapter. If and as you read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture you will find Jesus praying—and not only praying, but praying in a certain place, and in the company of His disciples. If you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the eleventh chapter you will find Jesus praying in a certain place, and either the words which He prayed in that prayer, or even the means and method by which He prayed unto the Father so sparked something in one of the disciples that they came unto Jesus with a very simple request. Upon reading the words found in this portion of Scripture you will quickly notice what was perhaps the single greatest request the disciples ever made before and unto Jesus during the three and a half years they walked with and followed Him. As you take the time to read the words which are found within and throughout the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus you will find the disciples coming unto Jesus on various occasions asking for a greater and deeper understanding around the words which Jesus taught and preached, however, this is the only time we have any record of the disciples coming unto Jesus and asking Him to teach them—and not only teach them, but teach them something incredibly specific and personal.

            In all reality, I am absolutely and completely convinced that this request made by one of the disciples—a disciple who coincidentally we do not know the name of—was undoubtedly the greatest request that was every made by any of the disciples. Even greater than Simon called Peter’s request of Jesus to bid him to step out of the boat and come unto Him upon the water this request stands above it all. Despite all the other requests the disciples might very well have made within and throughout those three and a half years this is perhaps the single greatest request any of them could have made, for everything and anything they did directly flowed from this particular truth. What makes this particular truth all the more captivating when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that Jesus gave the twelve apostles power and authority to cast out devils, to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, and to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and there is an initial report of the disciples returning unto the Lord Jesus Christ speaking of and declaring unto Him all those things which they had accomplished in His name by and according to the power and authority He had given unto them. Within this same portion of Scripture, however, we find nine of the twelve apostles experiencing something that was greater than the power and authority which the Lord Jesus Christ had given unto them. If you turn and direct your attention to the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will find the disciples being given power and authority by the Lord Jesus Christ to cast out devils and unclean spirits, and they would return unto Jesus rejoicing in all they had accomplished in His name, however, there would come a point when either they would be asked to do what they had been granted power and authority to do, or they attempted to do what they had been given power and authority to do, and yet they could not carry out that which they attempted.

            Upon turning and directing your attention to the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke you will find that while Peter, James and John were atop the mountain together with Jesus as He was transfigured before them and appeared in glory speaking with Moses and Elijah concerning the decease He would accomplish in Jerusalem, there was a desperate father who would come unto the nine remaining disciples who were at the base of the mountain. This particular father was incredibly desperate, for his one and only son was taken and overtaken by an evil and unclean spirit which sought to tear him apart. This unclean spirit so tormented and oppressed him that it would often throw him into the fire and often throw him into the flood that he might destroy him. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear whether or not this father came unto these disciples seeking to find Jesus to bring deliverance for and unto his son, however, we know from the narrative and account that Jesus was not present among those disciples who were present at the base of the mountain and perhaps in the city and town. It is actually quite intriguing to think about and consider this particular narrative and account, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely remarkable and astonishing truth that this father came in his desperation—perhaps even his hopelessness—for his one and only son seeking deliverance and freedom for his son who was tormented and oppressed by this evil and unclean spirit. The more I read this particular narrative the more I can’t help but wonder if this father came unto the disciples seeking to find Jesus and upon being unable to find Jesus asked the disciples who walked with Jesus if they could do anything for his son. Scripture does not reveal anything beyond the dialogue between this father and the remaining nine apostles other than that he brought his son unto them and they could neither cure nor deliver him. Oh I can’t help but wonder if the father himself requested the disciples attempt to cure and deliver his son, or if the disciples themselves volunteered to try and cast out the evil and unclean spirit.

            I write these words right now and I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that the disciples had been given power and authority by the Lord Jesus Christ to cast out evil and unclean spirits and devils, and they initially experienced a degree and measure of success in doing so. There would, however, come a time when a desperate father would bring his son who was tormented and oppressed by an evil and unclean spirit, and the disciples could not cast the evil spirit out of him. Stop and consider this particular truth, for it is something truly astonishing when you actually consider what is taking place here on this particular occasion. Here we have this father who in desperation brought his son unto the disciples of Jesus, and we find the disciples attempting to cast out the unclean spirit from within the child, and finding themselves being unable to do so. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading this particular narrative, for what we find here is a strong and powerful picture of the disciples being given authority and power to carry out a specific work and manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, we find the disciples experiencing an initial measure and degree of success, and yet there arising something that was much greater and much bigger than what they had experienced previously. Oh I find it truly captivating when reading the words and narrative surrounding the disciples and their being unable to cast out this unclean spirit, for after Jesus showed up and delivered the child from this torment and oppression the disciples would ask Him privately how and why they could not cast this evil and unclean spirit out of the child. The response which Jesus gave them is such that is absolutely and incredibly challenging, for the response and words Jesus gave them is such that calls and draws our attention into something that is so much greater than we can even think or imagine. The response Jesus gave the disciples was that this kind—this kind which they encountered and attempted to cast out themselves—would and could not come out but by prayer and fasting.

            I have previously written concerning this particular narrative and how there are times within our lives when we seek to rely on the measure of power and authority we have been given by the Spirit, and which we have received by the Son, and yet that power and authority wasn’t and isn’t enough to carry out and accomplish what we are faced with. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading this particular portion of Scripture that one of the greatest lessons we can learn and discover is that there are times when we encounter and experience something that is far greater and far bigger than what we could even think or imagine, and what is before is simply cannot be accomplished solely based on whatever degree and measure of power and authority we have received and been given. The disciples had been given power and authority by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the disciples had indeed experienced success when attempting to carry out the work which was ordained and appointed unto them by the Lord Jesus Christ, however, what we find in the very same chapter is the disciples encountering something which they had been given power and authority to do, as well as something which they might have previously experienced a measure of success in carrying out and fulfilling, and yet they were unable to carry it out and complete it. Oh if there is one thing we must needs understand and recognize when reading the words found in this particular portion of Scripture it’s that there are times within our lives when power and authority is simply not enough to carry out and complete that which is before us, and there is something else that is necessary and required. We would like to think that power and authority, and even the command and invitation of Jesus is enough to carry out and complete that which we have been called to do, and that which we are presented with, and yet there are certain times when we find ourselves being confronted with and by something that is far greater and far more powerful than what we are even aware of.

            I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are times within our lives when although we have experienced victory in certain areas of our lives in the past, and although we have accomplished certain things within our lives, there come those moments in time when we experience and encounter something that is far greater and far more powerful than what we could even think or imagine. I firmly believe there are times within our hearts and lives when the battle before us so much greater than we could even think or imagine, and whatever measure of power and authority we have received from Jesus is simply not enough to overcome and defeat the enemy and adversary. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are certain victories and triumphs which simply cannot and will not be experienced within our lives without and apart from prayer and fasting. I firmly believe there are times when the strongholds before us, the prisons before us, and the walls before us simply cannot be confronted without and apart from prayer and fasting. I would dare say there have been certain times within our hearts and lives when we have attempted to overcome in a certain area within our lives, and we have found ourselves being unable to truly overcome that which we have struggled with. There have been times within our hearts and lives when the battle, the struggle and conflict before us is far greater than what we could even think or imagine, and as a direct result we have found ourselves being unable to truly experience freedom, victory and deliverance the way we desire and would like to. You cannot convince me that there haven’t been times within your life when you have sought deliverance and freedom from something you have been struggling and wrestling with, and you have attempted everything you could to gain that freedom and deliverance, and yet you have found it coming up short. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that there are certain things within our lives which simply cannot be overcome, destroyed, brought low, defeated, and triumphed over without and apart from prayer and fasting.

            The disciples had been given power and authority to cast out evil and unclean spirits, and the disciples might have even experienced a degree and measure of success in doing just this, however, on this particular day and occasion they would experience something which they could not carry out and complete. Oh it is something worth thinking about when reading the words found in this portion and passage of Scripture, for what we find here in this passage of Scripture is the disciples experiencing something which they knew they had been given power and authority to carry out and complete, and yet their being unable to do what was asked of them. With this being said I am absolutely convinced that there are times within our lives when power and authority is not enough and that it must needs be tempered and met with prayer and fasting. There are times within our lives when we seek to rely on whatever degree and measure of power and authority we have been given, and we give absolutely no place for prayer and fasting in the work and task which is before us. If you are willing to be truly honest with yourself and with the Lord your God you must needs admit that there have been times within your life when you have sought to rely on whatever degree and measure of power and authority you have received from the Lord to carry out and complete that which is before you. There have been times when you have attempted to triumph over, defeat and overcome certain things and areas within your life, and you have attempted to do it in your own strength, or perhaps even with the strength you have been given by the Lord, and yet you have found yourself entirely and altogether unable to bring it to pass and to fruition. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely astonishing and captivating truth that there are certain things within our lives which simply cannot be carried out, completed and confronted without and apart from prayer and fasting.

            Permit me to ask you a very candid, personal and potent question, and that question is simply if you can recall a certain time within your life when you have attempted to do something in your own strength, and have found yourself failing utterly and entirely. Have there been times within your life when you have sought to rely on the power and authority you have been given from the Lord to carry out and confront something before you in your life, and you have found yourself experiencing and suffering defeat? In all reality, this reminds me of something which happened in the Old Testament book of First Samuel during the days of Samuel the prophet when the Philistines were still engaged in conflict with and against the people of Israel both on their southern border, as well as within their borders. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find the children of Israel engaged in a conflict and battle with the Philistines, and their attempting to fight the Philistines in their own strength, in their own might and in their own power. The opening verses of the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel paints a very clear and powerful picture of the children of Israel going to war with and against the Philistines, and how as a direct result of that war they found themselves defeated before their enemies and adversaries. As a direct result of their being defeated before their enemy and adversary they assumed and presumed their defeat was because they did not have the Ark of the Covenant in battle with them. In response to this assumption they would have the Ark of the Covenant brought unto them in the midst of the battle, as it was carried by the corrupt sons of Eli—Hophni and Phineas. When the Ark of the Covenant arrived in the camp the people made such a great noise and commotion of joy and excitement at the presence of the Ark of the Covenant that the sound greatly troubled and disturbed the Philistines when they heard it. The Philistines would hear the noise that was present within the camp of the children of Israel and would learn that the Ark of the Covenant had entered into the camp and was now present in the midst of the battle.

            What makes this particular narrative so incredibly powerful when you think about and consider it is that the Ark of the Covenant was the iconic symbol of the manifest glory and presence of the living God within and among the children of Israel. If you begin reading with and from the Old Testament book of Exodus and continue reading throughout the Old Testament until the time you come to First Samuel you will find the Ark of the Covenant being that symbol of the divine glory and presence of the living God in the midst of the children of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant would be carried upon the shoulders of the priests, and would essentially be the very first thing that would enter into battle when the children of Israel engaged in conflict and struggle with their enemies. What’s more, is it was the feet of the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant which entered into the waters of the Jordan that would cause the waters of the Jordan River to be parted before the children of Israel, and how the entire army of the children of Israel were permitted to pass through upon dry ground. The Ark of the Covenant was the first thing which would enter into the waters of the Jordan River, and as a direct result of the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant stepping into the waters of the Jordan River the waters themselves would be parted. The Ark of the Covenant would be carried upon the shoulders of the priests when they marched around the city of Jericho in silence one time each day for six days before marching around the city in silence six times on the seventh day before lifting up and raising a shout upon the seventh time marching around the city. OH it is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable that the Ark of the Covenant was the tangible and visible manifestation and evidence of the glory and presence of the living God, and on this particular occasion during the days of Samuel, Eli, Hophni and Phineas we find the children of Israel seeking to bring the Ark of the Covenant into battle thinking and believing it would give them the victory over their enemies and adversaries. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following narrative as it is written and recorded within the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel beginning with the first verse:

            “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Eben-ezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it ay save us out of the hand of the enemies. So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of God came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! For there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! Who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight. And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter: for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were slain. And there ran a man of Benjamin out o the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head. And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out. And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see. And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son. And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phineas, are read, and the ark of God is taken. And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years” (1 Samuel 4:1-18).

            The words which we find here in this particular passage of Scripture are absolutely and incredibly challenging when you take the time to think about and consider them, for they bring us face to face with something the children of Israel did during the days of conflict and battle between themselves and the Philistines. As you read the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture you will find the children of Israel initially setting themselves in battle array against the Philistines, and within that initial conflict and contest the Philistines routed them, and four thousand footmen were killed in battle. After this great defeat before their enemies and adversaries the elders of the people thought to themselves that the reason for their defeat before their enemies and adversaries was because the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD was not among them in battle. What they would proceed to do was “fetch” the Ark of the Covenant from its resting place in Shiloh where Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas were. These two corrupt sons of Eli would bring the Ark of the Covenant into the camp of the children of Israel there in battle against the Philistines. Upon witnessing the presence of the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the camp the children of Israel shouted with a great and mighty shout—so much so that Scripture not only speaks of the earth ringing again, but the Philistines wondering and thinking to themselves what the great noise was. When the Philistines learned the meaning of the shout and that the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD of hosts had entered into the camp they greatly feared and trembled—not only because of its present among the children of Israel, but because of what the LORD God of hosts had done unto the Egyptians in the wilderness. Now, we would like to think that their fear would ultimately prevent them from being able to defeat and overcome the children of Israel in battle, however, the scriptural narrative and account reveals how the Philistines would speak to and encourage themselves to quit like men and to fight. As a direct result of their fighting and engaging the children of Israel in conflict and battle there would fall thirty thousand footmen in battle, Hophni and Phineas would be killed in the midst of the battle, and the Ark of the Covenant would be captured by the Philistines.

            I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need to recognize and understand that which is present before us in this passage of Scripture, for it calls and draws our attention to how we as the people of God respond during certain times of conflict, struggle and battle within our lives. There are times within our lives when we think and believe we can rely on the power and authority we have been given, and we even attempt to do so in conflict and battle, and yet we find ourselves being defeated, overcome and distressed. The children of Israel during the days of Samuel, Eli, Hophni and Phineas found themselves engaged in battle and conflict against their enemies and adversaries, and in their initial contest against them they were not only defeated, but also lost four thousand footmen in the battle. Upon being defeated before their enemies the elders of the people gathered themselves together and believed that the sole reason for their being defeated before the enemy was because the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD God of hosts was not present with and among them in battle. They believed that if the Ark of the Covenant of God was present among them in the battle they would be able to defeat and overcome their enemies and adversaries. Thinking and believing that if they brought the symbol of the power, the presence and the glory of God among them in their midst they would experience victory against their enemies and adversaries they would fetch the Ark of the Covenant and would have it brought in the midst of the camp which was set in battle array against the Philistines. What’s more, is that the children of Israel shouted with such a great shout when the Ark of the Covenant entered in among them in their midst, and so much so that the earth rang again. Even more than this, the great shout which the children of Israel shouted with would produce a great fear and trembling within the hearts and souls of the Philistines when they discovered that the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD of hosts had entered into the camp of the Israelites.

            It is necessary that we behold this particular narrative and account within the Old Testament, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are many of us within the church today who move, act and operate just as the children of Israel did—whether we have been defeated by the enemy and adversary, or whether we are faced with an enemy and adversary before us. There are times within our lives when we think and feel we can engage and overcome the enemy and adversary in our own strength and in our own might—only to find ourselves being defeated and overcome by the enemy. As a direct result of this we think we can somehow manipulate the power of God within our lives, and/or even rely upon whatever degree and measure of the power and authority we have been given by the LORD within our hearts and lives. The children of Israel thought that the Ark of the Covenant would and could give them victory over their enemies and adversaries, and yet they would find themselves being defeated a second time—and not only defeated a second times, but they would lose more than seven times the number of soldiers they lost in that initial defeat, as well as the Ark of the Covenant being captured by the Philistines. It is truly something worth thinking about when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture, for the children of Israel believed that having the Ark of the Covenant of the living God present among them in the camp would guarantee and secure victory for them over their enemies. Imagine their dismay, their shock and utter horror when not only were they defeated before their enemies, not only were thirty thousand soldiers killed in battle, but the Ark of the Covenant was also captured by the enemy and adversary. Stop and consider just how severe and how great this particular battle truly was in the history of the children of Israel at this time, for they thought and believed that simply having the Ark of the Covenant among them would guarantee victory over their enemies and adversaries.

            The reason I have called your attention to this particular narrative within the Old Testament is because when you think about the account of the disciples and this desperate father who came unto them on behalf of his son, you will find that they were indeed and were in fact given power and authority over unclean spirits to cast them out. What’s more, is the disciples had even gone out and carried out that which Jesus commanded them to do, and that which Jesus had given them power to do. On this particular occasion, however, the disciples would find themselves encountering something they weren’t able to do—even something they had been granted power and authority to do. On this particular occasion the disciples would find themselves encountering something which they had already experienced a degree and measure of success in carrying out as per the command given them by Jesus Himself. What makes this particular narrative so incredibly challenging is when you think about the fact that even though they had been granted power and authority to cast out unclean spirits, and even though they had already experienced a degree and measure of success in doing so, they would be unable to cast out this unclean spirit from within this young child. Pause for a moment and think about what it must have been like for these disciples to perhaps think and feel as though they could cast out this unclean spirit, and yet finding themselves being entirely and altogether unable to do so. Think about and consider the tremendous truth surrounding these disciples being unable to cast out this unclean spirit, and perhaps even the emotional response of this father when he watched—perhaps even in stunned horror—as the disciples could do absolutely nothing for his only son. Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the disappointment of this father in the disciples’ inability to deliver and cure his son, as well as perhaps the frustration and confusion of the disciples as they recognized they were unable to cast out this devil and unclean spirit.

            I sit here thinking about and considering this particular narrative and account and I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that there are indeed and there in in fact times within our lives when power and authority simply aren’t enough. The disciples would ask Jesus how and why they could not cast out this unclean spirit, and Jesus’ response to them would be that this kind comes not out but by prayer and fasting. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to this, for what Jesus was teaching the disciples here on this particular occasion was that there are and there would be certain times within their lives when power and authority were not enough. Although He had given them power and authority to cast out unclean spirits, and although they had in fact cast out evil and unclean spirits previously, this kind would not come out but by and through prayer and fasting. Oh that which Jesus was speaking and declaring unto them was that there were certain things which could only be accomplished by and through prayer and fasting. You will notice that Jesus mentioned absolutely nothing about not having power or authority when responding to the disciples and their question. Nowhere in the gospel narratives will you find Jesus speaking of and even addressing the disciples’ lack of power and authority, and that was why they were unable to cast out this unclean spirit. That which Jesus spoke and mentioned unto the disciples was that this kind comes not out but by and through prayer and fasting. Oh that we would pay close and careful attention to this, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth that is desperately needed within our hearts and lives—namely, that there are things which can only be accomplished by and through prayer and fasting. There are times within our lives and there are things we face which simply cannot be overcome, defeated, triumphed over, cast down, destroyed, and the like without and apart from prayer and fasting. There are times within our hearts and lives when we can and will face things that can only be handled and dealt with by and through prayer and fasting.

            In all reality, I can’t help but be absolutely gripped with and by the words which are found here within this portion of Scripture, for in the ninth chapter we find the disciples learning that there were certain things which would and could not be accomplished but by and through prayer and fasting. The disciples would learn and discover that there were certain things they would face and certain things they would encounter within their lives which could only be handled but by and through prayer and fasting. What adds even more weight to this is when you come to the eleventh chapter of this same gospel and find Jesus praying in a certain place—and not only praying in a certain place, but perhaps even heard and seen by the disciples. When I read the words found in this particular portion of Scripture I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that the disciples not only heard Jesus praying, but also watched and witnessed Him as He prayed before and unto His Father. Scripture is unclear how often Jesus prayed before and unto His Father, and Scripture does not point to or reveal how many times the disciples would sit there watching and beholding Jesus as He prayed, however, suffice it to say on this particular occasion the disciples themselves would watch, witness and behold Jesus praying, and it would spark and ignite something within them. Oh there is something incredibly powerful when reading the words found in the eleventh chapter—particularly and especially when you consider it in light of Jesus previously spoken unto the disciples that there were certain unclean spirits which could only be cast out by and through prayer and fasting. Now here we are in this passage of Scripture and we find the disciples hearing Jesus praying, and when He had finished praying one of the disciples came unto Him and asked Him to teach them how to pray.

            Upon reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that when Jesus had finished praying one of His disciples would come unto Him and ask Him to teach them to pray as John also taught his disciples. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth, for there is something about the way Jesus prayed—and not only the way Jesus prayed, but also the words which Jesus prayed that sparked and ignited something within the hearts of the disciples. In fact, if you read and study the four gospel narratives which were written by the gospel authors you will find that there were certain and specific times when Jesus would pray in the hearing of His disciples, and certain times when Jesus would actually teach and instruct His disciples how to pray. Within the gospel narratives we find an account of Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray, while there are at least two other accounts where we find Jesus praying before and unto His Father in heaven. There is within the Sermon on the Mount—as well as here within this passage of Scripture—that which we have come to know as “The Lord’s Prayer,” which was a prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray before and unto the Father. With this being said, I am also reminded of the prayer which Jesus prayed as was recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John, as well as the prayers which Jesus prayed within the garden of Gethsemane. I am absolutely and completely convinced that in order for us to truly have a discussion and dialogue about the request of the disciples for the Lord to teach them to pray we must needs acknowledge and understand those prayers which Jesus Himself prayed, as well as the prayer which Jesus taught His disciples. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the four gospel narratives written by the gospel authors:

            “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:5-13).

            “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are min; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these tings I speak in the world, tat they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast se3nt me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:1-26).

            “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: neverhtless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:36-46).

            I am absolutely and completely convinced the words which are presented here in these three passages of Scripture not only bring us face to face with Jesus teaching us to pray, but also specific examples of Jesus Himself praying—one while in the garden on the night in which He was betrayed, and the other in the presence and company of the disciples after the Passover meal was celebrated and partaken of by both He and the disciples. In all reality, I absolutely love the words found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke, for out of all the things the disciples entreated the Lord to teach them to do, they chose to ask the Lord to teach them to pray. The disciples could have asked the Lord how to heal the sick; the disciples could have asked the Lord how to cast out devils; the disciples could have asked the Lord how to raise the dead; the disciples could have asked the Lord how to preach the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven. What is actually truly captivating when reading these words is the fact that Jesus gave the disciples authority and power to heal the sick, to cast out devils, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, and to preach the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven, and yet when it comes to prayer we find it being something He taught them how to do. In the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus—in the Sermon on the Mount—teaching His disciples how to pray before their Father in heaven who sees in secret. In the Sermon on the Mount we find Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray before and unto their Father who was in heaven, and on this particular occasion we find the disciples asking the Lord to teach them how to pray. Oh if there is one thing that makes this truly astonishing and remarkable it’s that the disciples had perhaps already cast out unclean spirits, had perhaps already healed the sick, had perhaps already cleanse the lepers, and had perhaps already raised the dead, and yet when it came to prayer they earnestly desired the Lord that He teach them how to pray.

            What makes this particular narrative and occasion so incredibly unique and powerful when you truly take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that the disciples would ask Jesus to teach them how to pray—not only because John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray, but also perhaps because they watched and witnessed Him as He prayed before and unto His Father who was in heaven. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclean as to why sparked and ignited this tremendous desire within the hearts and spirits of the disciples for Jesus to teach them how to pray, and yet what we find here is an incredibly powerful request made of the disciples. Oh it was true that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke of fasting, of giving and of prayer, and yet the only one the disciples actually requested Jesus how to do was to pray. The disciples could have asked Jesus to teach them how to fast, and even how to give, and yet the one thing they earnestly and desperately needed and desired was for Jesus to teach them how to pray. I am entirely and altogether convinced we have a great need to recognize and pay close attention to this—particularly and especially when we consider how the disciples were told that there were certain things which came not out but by prayer and fasting. The disciples had already heard Jesus declare unto them that there were certain things which came not out but by prayer and fasting, and now we find them requesting of Jesus that He teach them to pray. What an incredibly awesome and beautiful request this truly is, for the disciples themselves had an earnest and eager desire of the Lord that He teach them how to pray. With this in mind, however, I can’t help but wonder what the disciples thought and expected when they made such a request of Jesus. When this disciple came unto Jesus and entreated Him to teach them how to pray, I can’t help but wonder what they expected in response. As this disciple came unto Jesus and requested of Him to teach them how to pray, there is a part of me that wonders what their expectation was. WITH CHRIST IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER!

            The late Andrew Murray wrote a book which was entitled “With Christ In the School of Prayer,” and I can’t help but see the title of that book as a fitting expose for this particular narrative. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs allow Jesus to teach us how to pray, for it is out of our prayer life and out of the prayer closet every area of our lives are directly impacted and affected. Solomon would write unto and encourage his sons to guard their hearts, for out of the heart flowed the well spring and issues of life, and with this being said, I am absolutely convinced that in addition to guarding our hearts, we must also needs learn how to pray before and unto our Father who is in heaven. The disciples could very well have asked Jesus to teach them how to do a myriad of different things, and yet that which they asked Him to teach them was how to pray. Perhaps they remembered His words when He spoke of “this kind comes not out but by prayer and fasting;” perhaps they spent a considerable amount of time listening to His prayers and the words which He prayed unto His Father who was in heaven; perhaps they spent a considerable amount of time watching and observing Him pray before and unto His Father in heaven; perhaps they realized and recognized through the life and witness of Jesus just how incredibly necessary, critical, vital and important prayer truly was, and how Jesus never did anything without and apart from prayer before and unto His Father in heaven. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to what prompted this disciple to come unto Jesus to teach them how to pray, and yet what we find here in this passage of Scripture is the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. What I so love about this particular narrative and account is that not only do we find Jesus teaching them how to pray using a specific pattern that focused on the kingdom, the will, and the glory of the Father, but He would also speak unto them concerning the importance of persistence in prayer. For Jesus, it wasn’t enough simply to teach them how to pray in terms of the words which ought to be used when praying, but it was also about a posture which was desperately needed in prayer when praying before and unto the Father who was in heaven.

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the fact that Jesus would indeed and would in fact give the disciples a specific pattern with which to model their prayers and prayer life before and unto the Father in heaven, however, He would do something so much more than that. Jesus would also teach them using a parable of persistence in prayer and a willingness within our hearts to ask and continue asking, to seek and continue seeking, and to knock and continue knocking. Jesus would teach His disciples the tremendous importance of the words which would indeed and would in fact be used when praying, however, Jesus would also teach them the tremendous importance of the posture of prayer, for any discussion about prayer cannot be had without and apart from understand the tremendous need for persistence, commitment, dedication and devotion before the Father in heaven. It is truly something worth thinking about when reading the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for immediately after we read the words Jesus provided the disciples to use when praying before and unto the Father in heaven, we also find Him teaching and speaking unto them concerning the posture of prayer which was one of persistence and importunity. Oh there is something about what is presented before us in this passage of Scripture, for what we find here in this passage of Scripture is an incredibly awesome and powerful picture of Jesus giving the disciples a pattern for how they ought to pray before and unto the Father who was in heaven, as well as an undeniable call to be persistent and consistent when praying unto the Father who was in heaven. For Jesus, prayer was and will always be about our willingness to ask of the Father, our willingness to seek the Father, as well as our willingness to knock. When we think about and consider prayer we must needs think about it in terms of asking what we will in the name of the eternal Son as we approach the Father in prayer. When we think about prayer we must needs think about it in terms of seeking the Father, for it would be the Old Testament prophets who declared that those who sought the LORD God of hosts would indeed be found of and found by Him. It would be Jeremiah when writing unto the captives and exiles that would instruct them to seek the LORD while He may be found, and that He would indeed and would in fact be found by them. Now here we are finding the Lord also instructing them to knock—and not only to knock, but to knock with the expectation and anticipation that what was before them would indeed and would in fact be opened.

            GIVEN! OPENED! FINDING! Oh I can’t help but think about my own prayer life and ask whether or not my prayer life is indeed and is in fact characterized by asking, by seeking, and by knocking. What’s more, is that I can’t help but ask myself whether or not my prayer life before the Father who is in heaven is such that sees doors opened before me, as well as such which receives from the Father, as well as such which finds. I am reminded of the words which James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the New Testament epistle which is found later on in the Scripture, and what is so desperately and vitally needed when we think about prayer before and unto the Father who is in heaven. I am absolutely and completely convinced we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which James wrote in this New Testament epistle, for it calls and draws our attention to what is so desperately and critically needed within our prayer lives before and unto the Father who is in heaven. As I bring this writing to a close I feel it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found within this epistle, for it calls on us to not only focus on our prayer life, but also what is accomplished and what we accomplish when we pray before the Father who is in heaven. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this New Testament epistle beginning with the first chapter of the epistle:

            “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

            “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because eye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw night to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the LORD. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be ya; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the pray of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that I might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:7-18).

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