The Class of Prayer (part 1)

In Luke 11:1, we read:

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Let me draw your attention to three things from this verse.

First, it was after Jesus had finished praying that His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Obviously, there was something uncommonly different about Christ’s prayer life. The disciples knew they didn’t pray as effectively and powerfully as He did. Has anyone ever watched or heard you pray and
asked, “Will you teach me to pray like that?” What a compliment!

Second, the disciples pointed out that John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray. The Bible describes John the Baptist as a man who lived in the great outdoors, wore strange clothes, ate odd food, preached fiery sermons, and baptized great multitudes in the Jordan river. He even baptized Jesus. But we don’t usually think of him as having his own followers (disciples). We don’t think of him as being a great man of prayer either. Nevertheless, you must have expertise in a field to be able to instruct others.

Third, notice that prayer is something that can be taught. A person can learn how to pray. I’ve always found tremendous encouragement in this simple truth. Prayer is not an inborn talent or spiritual gift that you either have or don’t have. It’s not like a musical bent or an artistic ability. You don’t have to be a certain height or weight. It’s not limited to a particular skin color or race. Nobody is a “natural” at prayer. We all need to become students in this class. And, fortunately, we can.

With that said, there is a difference between merely enrolling in a class and fully embracing the class. I remember a French class I took in high school. I only enrolled in the class to please my guidance counselor. Some colleges required two foreign language courses for admittance, and French was the only option my school offered at the time. That was my sole reason for taking the class because I had no interest whatsoever in learning to speak French. I resented having to sit at that desk, and it was absolute torture for me to drag myself into that classroom in the afternoons.

It should come as no shock then that I bombed out of the class. Even though I was an honor student, I felt lucky to pull out a D- for the first six weeks of the class. Frankly, my teacher was generous even with that grade.

So what did I do? I dropped that class and never looked back! I can’t speak one word of French today, and I still don’t care. As for admission to college, I just looked around and found a good school that didn’t require two years of foreign language for admission. Not only did I not regret foregoing that French class and the follow up one the next year, it irked me that I lost six weeks of my life sitting in a class I loathed.

My point is that even though you can learn to pray, you can’t go in with the attitude I had concerning that French class. Honestly, you’d be better off not to start the class than to start it with the wrong mindset. Nobody can make you want to become a student of prayer. It has to be a personal decision on your part. If you see learning to pray as just one more chore to add to your list, you won’t be much of a student. It’s well nigh impossible to teach something to someone who isn’t interested in learning it.

Of course, me dropping out of that French class didn’t do any long-term damage to my life. When all the dust was settled, I still graduated from the college God always had in mind for me. However, you dropping out of the class on prayer will hurt you. You see, I didn’t have to learn a second language because I already knew a first one. But you dropping out of the class on prayer would be akin to me dropping out of an elementary school English class. Do you understand the difference? My point is that prayer is the basic language by which you talk with God. It is Communication 101. This class is not superfluous. It’s not a nice extra. It is core-curriculum education.

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