Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written by the physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the eighteenth chapter of this New Testament book. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to fain; 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. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 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” (Luke 18:9-14).
“And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:15-17).
“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, DO not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:18-27).
“Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:28-30).
“Then he took unto him twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:31-34).
“And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God” (Luke 18:35-43).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will once more find Jesus teaching and speaking unto the disciples concerning prayer. If you truly take the time to read the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus you will find that there is a considerable amount of time, effort, words and language Jesus spent when speaking about prayer unto His disciples and followers. You cannot read the gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the truly astonishing reality of Jesus’ words which were used to teach His disciples concerning prayer—and not only prayer itself, but also the role, the purpose and the function of prayer. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this when reading these gospel narratives, for Jesus spent a considerable amount of time when speaking unto the disciples concerning prayer and it’s vital and crucial role within their lives. The four gospel narratives are not only replete with teachings of Jesus concerning prayer, but also examples of Jesus praying—from Jesus’ praying in the garden, to Jesus rising early while it was still dark to pray, to Jesus being alone on top of the mountain praying unto His Father. In all reality, the four gospel narratives are incredibly unique and powerful, for not only did Jesus teach and instruct His disciples how to pray, but He also spent a considerable amount of time modeling prayer and providing them with a tremendous example of what prayer looked like. Although we cannot classify and identify Jesus as a “believer,” we can nonetheless state and declare that within His life He most certainly modeled what prayer would and should look like within the heart of a believer. The four gospel narratives paint an incredibly beautiful and powerful picture concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and the vital role and importance prayer played within His own life. I would dare say that Jesus would and could not have been able to do the things He did within and upon the earth apart from and without prayer—and not only prayer, but also the presence and person of the Holy Spirit. Truth be told, Jesus was able to move and function the way He did upon the earth because of the incredible role prayer played within His life and ministry.
The more I think about and consider the four gospel narratives the more I can’t help but think about how on the one hand there was the teaching of prayer, while on the other hand there was the example of prayer. THE TEACHING OF PRAYER! THE LESSON OF PRAYER! We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it forces us to acknowledge the crucial and vital role prayer played within the public life and ministry of Jesus. What’s more, is that while much of Jesus’ life was indeed very public as He was constantly surrounded by crowds and multitudes, there was a private side to His life and to His person—one that was seen by the Father alone. Oh there were certain times within the gospels when the disciples might very well have seen, witnessed and beheld Jesus praying before and unto the Father, and even when He performed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, as well as the feeding of the four thousand, He took the bread and the fish and looked up toward heaven and blessed them in the sight and presence of the Father. Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced that before we can truly get into the words which are found within the eighteenth chapter of this gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke, we must first journey through the gospels to uncover and discover the prayer life of Jesus—and not only the prayer life of Jesus, but also the lessons Jesus taught concerning prayer. With this being said, I am absolutely and completely convinced that there was the lesson on prayer which Jesus taught with His words, but there was another secondary lesson Jesus taught concerning prayer which came not with words, but with example. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize this distinction, for it is this distinction that calls and draws our attention to what is so incredibly vital within our hearts and lives—not only lessons which are taught with words, but lessons which are taught without words by and through example.
It is with all of this being said I feel it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found within and throughout the gospel narratives concerning the private life of Jesus and the time He spent alone before and with the Father in prayer. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely remarkable and astonishing truth that while there was indeed a very public life of Jesus which was made manifest before and unto all those who gathered themselves together unto Him, there was also a distinctly private life which He would spend with the Father. There were a number of times when the Lord Jesus would teach His disciples truths concerning the kingdom of heaven, and there were times when Jesus would teach and minister unto the crowds and multitudes, however, there were undoubtedly other times when Jesus got Himself up and away from the crowds, and up and away from the disciples themselves that He might be alone with and before the Father in the secret place of prayer. In all reality, I would dare say there were essentially three different realms to Jesus’ prayer life found within the four gospel narratives which were written concerning His life. The first realm of Jesus’ prayer life is that which was private, hidden and secret—that time in which He was alone with the Father (and even the Spirit which was present within and upon Him) and devoted Himself to praying unto and seeking the Father. The second realm of Jesus’ prayer life was that realm of prayer in which He invited His disciples to witness, partake of and behold—regardless of whether it was Peter, James and John in the garden of Gethsemane, or all twelve disciples when He prayed unto the Father as was recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John. The third and final realm of the prayer life of Jesus was that prayer life that was not in secret, nor in private, and that which was not relegated or limited just to His disciples, but also to His disciples and followers as a whole. The four gospel narratives serve as a powerful backdrop and picture into this three-fold realm of Jesus’ prayer life as we witness and behold the time which He spent before His Father in heaven in prayer. Knowing all of this, I now invite you to consider the following passages found within Scripture which directly point to and reveal the prayer life of Jesus as it was not only a model and example, but also as personal fellowship and relationship with His Father in heaven:
“And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. AND WHEN HE HAD SENT THE MULTITUDES AWAY, HE WENT UP INTO A MOUNT APART TO PRAY: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:22-23).
”AND WHEN HE HAD SENT THEM AWAY, HE DEPARTED INTO A MOUNTAIN TO PRAY. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land” (Mark 6:46-47).
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples” (Luke 6:12).
“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering” (Luke 9:28-29).
“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: nevertheless 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).
“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou silt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep gain, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand” (Mark 14:32-42).
“And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46).
“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35).
“But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16).
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
“And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again” (Luke 9:18-19).
“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” (Luke 11:1).
It is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable when reading the words which are found in each of these passages of Scriptures that Jesus was not only one who taught His disciples and followers to pray and how to pray, but He also modeled unto and for His disciples how they ought to pray. You cannot read the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and not encounter and come face to face with the incredibly awesome and captivating truth surrounding Jesus’ lifestyle of prayer. The more you read the gospel narratives the more you will find that Jesus was one who devoted and committed time within each day when He could get alone with His Father who was in heaven and quietly commune in fellowship with and before Him. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter the absolutely awesome and captivating truth surrounding Jesus’ prayer life and how He was a man who committing Himself to praying before the Father. With this being said, there were times when He would pray in the company and presence of the disciples, while there were other times when He would depart from the crowds and depart from the disciples into a solitary place—away from the noise, away from the commotion, away from the needs, away from the demands, and away from all that the people had great need of. What makes this all the more interesting is when you think about and consider how there were times when Jesus distanced Himself from the crowds together with the disciples to experience rest, prayer and fellowship, while there were other times when Jesus even distanced Himself from the disciples themselves that He might be alone with His Father in prayer. After feeding the five thousand and sending the crowds away, as well as sending the disciples out into the midst of the sea, Jesus would Himself remain alone upon the land in prayer before and with His Father in prayer. It’s actually quite interesting to read how in the morning a great while before it was day Jesus went out and departed into a solitary place and prayed before His Father who was in heaven. What’s more, is that there is even found within the four gospel narratives the mention of Jesus being alone and praying, and praying in a certain place, and even having sent the crowds and disciples away that He might be alone together with His Father in prayer.
I find it absolutely incredible and astonishing when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture that Jesus did so much more than simply teach His disciples and followers to pray, for Jesus Himself modeled unto and for them what prayer and what a prayer life ought to look like. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous fact that there is a vast difference between prayer and a prayer life. There is a vast difference between praying and having a prayer life within your daily and weekly routine. I feel absolutely compelled to emphatically state that anyone can pray, however, it takes something truly genuine and authentic to go beyond simply praying to having a prayer life. I firmly believe that many within our churches and houses of worship might know how to pray, and might even be good at praying when in the company and fellowship of others, however, when it comes to having an actual prayer life they are found sorely deficient. I am completely and utterly convinced that when we read the four gospel narratives—not only do we see and find a picture of Jesus praying before and unto His Father in heaven, but we also find Jesus having a personal and private prayer life. For Jesus, prayer wasn’t simply an action which He engaged in at various times throughout a given day, or even during the week, but prayer was a discipline and a lifestyle. Oh it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that there is a vast and underlying difference between simply praying and actually having a fervent and vibrant prayer life. We would like to think that praying and having a prayer life are somehow one and the same, and yet the truth of the matter is that nothing could be further from the truth. Oh would it shock and surprise you to hear that you can be one who might very well be good at praying in the company of others when you’re asked to, or even when you’re in a place of need, however, possessing an actual prayer life is something that is sorely lacking and missing from you life? If you are truly willing to be honest with yourself and with the Holy Spirit, can you say that you are one who knows how to pray, and one who might even be good at praying, and yet you are one who does not have a passionate and fervent prayer life?
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the four gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus, and I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with the fact that Jesus did more than simply pray before and unto the Father. The four New Testament gospel narratives present us with and paint a powerful picture of Jesus who did indeed and did in fact have a vibrant, fervent and passionate prayer life before and with His Father who was in heaven. It is incredibly important for us to recognize and pay close attention to this, for there is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus would not and could not have done the things He did on a daily basis were it not from the prayer life He had within Himself. What’s more is that when we read of the teaching and preaching Jesus engaged in during those three and a half years He engaged in public ministry we must needs understand that His preaching and teaching was only as great as His praying and prayer life was. This is something which we have great need of recognizing and understanding, for our preaching and our teaching can never and will never rise above our prayer lives and the time we spend alone with the Father in the prayer closet. We have a great need to understand and acknowledge within our hearts and lives that having a fervent and vibrant prayer life is absolutely necessary. With that being said, however, we must needs recognize that we do not pray, nor do we commit ourselves to having a prayer life that we might teach, or that we might preach, or that we might even work great works in this life. To help illustrate this even more I have heard men and women state that the only reason they workout is because they love to eat. Although it is true they might indeed and might in fact workout because they enjoy it, the truth and underlying fact of the matter is that the main reason they workout is so they can eat. It is their willingness and ability to workout that enables them to eat what they went, when they want it, and how they want it. Oh this might not seem like it has any relevance to what we are speaking concerning prayer, however, I am convinced there are men and women who pray solely that they might teach and preach, or so they can somehow work great works within and for the kingdom of heaven.
There is something which must needs be recognized and understood when thinking about and considering this concept of having a prayer life, for if the sole reason and purpose for you having a prayer life is for the sake of teaching, preaching, and working great works then you have missed the point. We dare not, we cannot and must not think that having a prayer life is solely for the purpose and benefit of us being able to teach and preach the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven. If there is one thing we must needs understand concerning having a prayer life within our hearts and lives it’s that having a prayer life must have at the very heart and center of it a desire to fellowship and commune with the Father which is in heaven. We know and understand that there is a vast difference between praying and having a prayer life, and with that being said we must recognize and understand that more often than not prayer and praying is treated as a means to lay hold of and get those things which we have need of or desire. There are men and women who will only pray when they are in need, or when they are desirous of something, and they have absolutely no room or space within their hearts, within their spirits, and within their lives for prayer as communion and fellowship with the Father who is in heaven. Oh the underlying question we must needs ask ourselves is when did prayer become something that we used solely for the purpose and benefit of laying hold of what we want and desire? When did prayer become something that we somehow keep and hold in reserve until the time comes when we need something, or until the time comes when we want something? Oh there are a great many men and women among us within our churches and houses of worship who might be good at praying, and yet the only time you find them praying is when they themselves are in need, or when they are going through something, or when they want and desire something. There are men and women who treat prayer as nothing more than a single and solitary act which they can engage in at certain times within their hearts and lives when they deem it as necessary and appropriate.
Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—there is an incredible and inherent danger when we think and feel that prayer is simply and solely something which is an action rather than a lifestyle. We do ourselves and the LORD our God a great disservice and dishonor when we treat prayer as an action rather than a lifestyle which we engage in on a daily and consistent basis. If you are reading these words right now I would like to ask you whether or not prayer for you is an action which you engage and participate in at certain and specific times, or whether prayer is an actual lifestyle which you have committed yourself to. Is prayer a means to an end for you, or is prayer a means for fellowship and communion with the eternal Father who dwells and inhabits heaven above? How we answer this question can indeed and can in fact determine the nature, the course and the outcome of our lives on a daily and weekly basis. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that prayer and having a prayer life are absolutely critical and vital within our hearts and lives. While it might very well be true that we are good at praying, we dare not and ought not think that simply being good at praying is the only thing that is necessary within our hearts and lives. In fact, I would dare say that the LORD our God does not view our praying with the same regard and in the same light as having a prayer life, for the one is based solely on asking for something we might need or desire, while the other is a lifestyle of fellowship and communion with the Father. There is a great and pressing need within our hearts and lives to recognize and acknowledge that prayer is so much more than something we use to get what we want when we want it, for prayer is and must be an active lifestyle which we engage in and develop on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. We do a great disservice to ourselves—and not only to ourselves, but also to our relationship and fellowship with the eternal Father—when we treat prayer as a means to an end and as a means to somehow ask for what we want, or somehow get out of something we have found ourselves experiencing.
It is with all of this in mind that we must needs recognize when reading the four gospel narratives that while it is true that Jesus not only modeled how to pray, but also modeled what having an active prayer life looked like, Jesus also taught His disciples how to pray. There are countless times within the four gospel narratives when you will find and read Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray, and giving them clear instruction on how they ought to pray before and unto the Father who is in heaven. We have great need of recognizing and understanding this particular truth, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that while it is true that Jesus did indeed and did in fact model prayer and having a prayer life for His disciples and followers, He also taught His disciples how they ought to pray. The words and language we find in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke are but one example of Jesus teaching His disciples how they ought to pray—and not only teaching them how they ought to pray, but also teaching them concerning some of the dangers surrounding prayer. In all reality, we must needs recognize some of the dangers and temptations surrounding prayer, for Jesus was very clear concerning some of the temptations which the adversary and enemy can and will seek to present us with during the course of our lives. If and as you read the four gospel narratives you will find that such temptations surrounding prayer is using vain repetitions and much words thinking that we will somehow be heard with and by our much speaking. Another temptation surrounding prayer is to do so in the synagogues or in the corners of the streets seeking to be seen and heard by men that we might somehow receive glory from and by men. Another such danger and temptation surrounding prayer is an unwillingness and refusal to forgive others their trespasses while at the same time seeking the Father for forgiveness of our own trespasses. What’s more, is that there is a tremendous danger and temptation in losing heart and persistence in prayer and giving in and giving up too quickly and too soon. In addition to this, there is a great danger and temptation in allowing our hearts to be filled with and consumed by pride and arrogance as we attempt to exalt ourselves—not only in the sight of the living God, but also in the sight and presence of men. Oh we would be incredibly remiss to think and consider that while Jesus did indeed and did in fact teach His disciples how they ought to pray, He also did not teach them the dangers and temptations which surrounded prayer and praying.
As much as it is necessary to speak about Jesus teaching and instructing His disciples concerning prayer and how to pray, it is also absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that Jesus also taught His disciples and followers concerning the dangers and temptations surrounding prayer and praying. The four gospel narratives call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth that while we are called, urged and instructed to pray, we must also recognize the dangers and temptations surrounding prayer. For Jesus, it wasn’t enough to simply call and invite His disciples and followers to pray, but it was also necessary to make them aware of the framework and context in which prayer thrives, operates and functions. What’s more, is there were certain things that would and could hinder, limit and greatly prevent prayer and our praying if we aren’t careful and if we don’t guard ourselves from it. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider that there aren’t certain dangers, snares, pitfalls, and traps which the enemy and adversary can and will attempt to present in our paths—particularly and especially when it comes to prayer. With this being said I would dare say the enemy and adversary isn’t as concerned, nor isn’t as enraged and afraid of one who might know how to pray, and one who might even be good at praying, as he is with one who has an active, healthy and vibrant prayer life. What’s more, is that the enemy and adversary isn’t as alarmed and troubled with one who prays and does not understand the temptations and traps that can be laid out—even in prayer—if one is not careful and is not on constant guard and alert. Oh dear reader you and I must needs recognize and understand that prayer, praying and having a prayer life is such that must be carefully guarded with everything that is in our hearts and spirits, for the enemy and adversary would love nothing more than to allow and permit us to pray without our hearts being guarded from the certain dangers and snares the enemy can and will present before and unto us.
It is with all of this being said and at the forefront of our minds right now I would like to call and draw your attention to the words Jesus taught and spoke concerning prayer. We have already seen, witnessed and beheld Jesus praying and demonstrating what a healthy, active and vibrant prayer life looks like, and it is not necessary to draw and call our attention to the words which Jesus taught and spoke unto His disciples concerning prayer. With this being said, however—and before I present you with the various words and passages presented in the four gospel narratives—I find it absolutely necessary to state that our having a prayer life not only manifests itself in the secret, personal, quiet, and hidden place before the Father in heaven, but it also manifests itself in the sight, the company and the presence of others. It was indeed true that Jesus had a quite and personal prayer life with and before His Father in secret and in private, however, it is also true that this prayer life spilled over and was manifested in the company and presence of His disciples and followers. We have great need to recognize and understand the personal and private side of a prayer life, as well as a public side which is evidenced and manifested in the company and presence of others in the church, within our homes, perhaps even in our places of employment, and many other places which we might indeed find ourselves in. There is within the four gospel narratives wonderful and powerful examples of Jesus teaching His disciples concerning prayer—and not only teaching His disciples and followers concerning prayer, but also how they ought to pray. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that knowing how to pray and knowing how to approach the Father which is in heaven is absolutely critical and necessary when we are thinking and speaking about having a prayer life within our homes and within our lives. What’s more, is I feel greatly impressed by the Spirit to declare unto you who might be reading these words that within this generation and within the days in which we are living we have a great need to not only be good pray-ers, but we also have a great need to be those who truly have an active prayer life with and before the Father who is in heaven. Having said all of that, I now invite you to consider the following words and passages found in the gospel narratives that bring us face to face with Jesus’ teaching concerning prayer:
“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 ilke unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, 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. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:5-15).
“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” (Matthew 26:40-41).
“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:22-26).
“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” (Luke 11:14).
“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. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? OR if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? OR if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke 11:5-13).
“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. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 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” (Luke 18:9-14).
The words which we find within these passages of Scripture present us with an incredibly powerful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He spent a considerable amount of time teaching and instructing His disciples how to pray. With this being said, it is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth that when we think and speak of prayer we must needs acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ not only modeled for His disciples and followers what prayer looked like and what having a prayer life looked like, but He also spent time actively teaching His disciples and followers how to pray. What makes the words which we find in the eighteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke so incredibly strong and powerful when you take the time to think about is the fact that it begins and opens with Jesus teaching His disciples how they ought to pray always—essentially praying without ceasing, without fainting and without giving up. In all reality, I can’t help but think about and consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in one of the epistles written unto Timothy, one of the epistles written unto the churches in Thessalonica, in the epistle which was written unto the church in Philippi, as well as the epistle which was written by James the half-brother of Jesus. It is within each of these epistles we are brought face to face with some incredibly strong language concerning prayer and how men and women ought to not only pray without ceasing, but how men and women ought always to pray with faith believing within their hearts. What’s more, is the apostle Paul—when writing unto his spiritual son in the faith Timothy—urged and implored that all men might pray with their hands lifted up without wrath or dissension. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples directly impacted the words which were written by the apostle Paul, as well as James the half-brother of Paul concerning prayer. We dare not and must not think that these men weren’t at all influenced by the words which the Lord Jesus Christ spoke unto His disciples and followers concerning prayer. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament epistles concerning prayer, concerning praying without ceasing, and concerning having faith within our hearts when and as we are praying before and unto our Father who is in heaven:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
“see that none render evil for evil unto amny man: but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. IN every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:15-24).
“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
“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 ye ask not. Ye aks, 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” (James 4:1-4).
“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 it 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 5:16-18).
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving: withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery the Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:2-6).
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote—and not only the words which the apostle Paul wrote, but also the words which James the half-brother of Jesus wrote—for their words were directly influence and impacted by the words which Jesus spoke. When we think and speak about prayer we must needs acknowledge and understand that it is indeed one thing to prayer, however, it is something else entirely and altogether to be given wholeheartedly to prayer. What’s more, is that it is something else entirely and altogether different to actually have within our hearts and lives a healthy, active and vibrant prayer life. I continue to believe there are those among us who might very well be good at praying, and who might be perceived as “knowing how to pray,” however, beyond simply being good at praying and “knowing how to pray” there is a great and tremendous need within our hearts and lives to in fact have a prayer life. It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize that it is one thing to pray, but it is something else entirely and altogether different to have a prayer life. What’s more, is I would dare say that there is nothing that frightens the enemy and adversary more than a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who has an active and healthy prayer life. The enemy and adversary cares very little for you when you pray, however, he absolutely shutters when you begin to develop a prayer life. There is something truly powerful when you begin to transition from merely praying and knowing how to pray to actually developing a personal prayer life within your heart and life. There are many within and among our churches and houses of worship who might very well be good at praying, and yet outside the four walls of the church there is absolutely no active prayer life that is manifested within their secret closet of prayer.
When the global pandemic first struck last year and everything within, throughout and across the nation began shutting down and closing, churches and church buildings were also closed and shut down. As churches and church buildings began to shut down and men and women could not gather together to worship, to give, to pray, to fellowship, and the like, there were countless men and women who lost their nerve within themselves. As churches and church buildings were closed and weren’t open to any form of public worship and prayer men and women grew angry, embittered, offended, resentful, and the like toward the federal government, as well as state and local governments for closing down churches. What’s more, is there were even men and women who took to the streets in protest professing that churches and church buildings are essential in this generation. There were men and women who no longer had access to the physical altar that was present within many churches, and yet all the while they failed to recognize and understand that while access to the altar in the church building might very well have been cut off, the prayer closets remained active and open. Although the physical altars within the church buildings were seemingly closed and cut off to the people in a public and corporate sense, the physical, personal and private altars within our homes and within our prayer closets remained open. Not only this, but I would dare say that during this time there were countless men and women who missed what the living and eternal God was speaking unto this generation, and how He was calling and inviting men and women back into the secret closets of prayer, and was inviting men and women back to the altars within their homes. What’s more, is that just like Elijah repaired the altar atop Carmel in the presence of the prophets of Baal and a great number of men and women in Israel, so also was the Spirit of the Lord calling and inviting men and women to repair the altars within their own hearts, houses and homes—altars which were in disrepair, and altars which might very well have been dormant and inactive. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this portion and passage of Scripture, it’s that Jesus not only taught us once more how we ought to pray, but He also taught us that we are to pray without ceasing, to pray without losing heart, to pray without giving up, and to pray without fainting. Perhaps the single greatest question is not only whether or not we are willing to pray without fainting and losing heart, but also whether or not we are willing to allow our prayer lives to have the same intensity, the same urgency, the same power, and the same intensity and magnitude as some of our individuals prayers have had and might have. Oh that we would not only be men and women who pray, but that we would be men and women of prayer—men and women who have vibrant, active and healthy prayer lives and prayer closets.