Teach Us to Pray

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As Jesus whispered “Amen” and opened his eyes, his disciples were already standing there with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

There are many topics we need to cover in leadership development, but prayer is one of the most critical. Apparently, John the Baptist taught his followers to pray, and now Jesus’ disciples want a piece of the action too. Are we modeling prayer to our people? Are we teaching them how to pray, and giving them opportunities to practice this spiritual discipline?

More broadly, this story reveals five essential elements of discipleship. All leadership development must be…

  • Didactic. A disciple (Gk. mathetes) is fundamentally a “student” or “follower.” A learner must hear and grasp content. He must be taught. Jesus granted his disciples’ request by teaching them information. He took words and ideas and organized them into logical sentences and paragraphs to convey truth. We must do the same, with structure and order to what we teach our disciples.
  • Relational. Discipleship is more than just transmitting information. It involves people, and must be in the context of loving relationships. It was only after spending time with Jesus and seeing him pray that his disciples even thought to ask the question “teach us to pray.” They spent much time eating together, talking together, doing ministry together, and seeing how a biblical worldview operates in the milieu of everyday life. Likewise, we must be selective with our time and make sure we are accessible to those we are equipping.
  • Conversational. I love the question-and-answer format of this passage in Luke 11. Sure, there are extended sermons in the Gospels and Acts, but much of the teaching of the New Testament was in the form of dialogue. Jesus talked with his disciples, not just at them. He asked them questions and invited them to do the same. (Cf. Paul’s method in Acts 17:2, 17). A good mentor will look for teachable moments and learn to draw out even the quietest students through intentional conversations.
  • Practical. When the disciples asked “teach us to pray,” they weren’t saying, “teach us the importance of prayer.” They knew that already. They were begging Jesus to teach them how to pray. They wanted practical help in the labor of prayer. And that is precisely what Jesus gave them: specific instructions in the kind of balanced prayer that God answers.
  • Patient. A student will rarely master content the first time around. It can take days, weeks, or even years, to understand and put into practice what was taught. This is due to a variety of reasons including the process of human memory, frequent distractions, and just plain hardheartedness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples had the perfect opportunity to apply Christ’s teaching on prayer, yet instead they were “sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). Nevertheless, a short time later, we find these same men gathered together, “devoted to … prayers” (Acts 2:42). Yes! They were finally getting it! By the time we get to the epistles of John and Peter, we discover beautiful examples of bold prayer in the Spirit (1 Peter 1:3-5; 5:10-11; 1 John 5:14). Teaching requires patience, lest we grow discouraged by the early failures of our learners. But in the end, we can expect steady and marked progress. A disciple, when he is fully trained, will become like his teacher (Lk. 6:40).

Question: Who has been an example and inspiration to you in prayer? What lessons did you learn? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

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Photo credit: graur razvan ionut