Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.
The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer.
Jesus taught extensively on prayer and he also put prayer to work in his life. He did not introduce prayer -it was an important part of the religious life of Israel, but Jesus set out to redefine it. Over the years it had been abused and neglected. What it had meant to be had become lost in the fog of time and misuse.
It is interesting to see that Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount (6:9-13), records the teaching by Jesus on prayer as part of his teaching on hypocrisy. Luke in his account of the same, the so called “Lord’s Prayer”, records it in a different setting. In Luke 11:1ff, Luke writes: “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’” (NKJV – used with permission).
The two accounts are basically the same but not word for word. That may indicate that this prayer was not meant to be a fixed formula to be repeated over and over again, but rather an example that Jesus used to teach on this important subject.
The first important statement as recorded in both accounts is: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” This places God and man in a proper perspective; people here on earth in need and God in heaven with the power to be called on when needed. We really need prayer all the time. Paul is later to record: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), indicating a prayerful life. This is something that Jesus also illustrated by example.
Recognizing that God is in heaven and we are here on earth does not distance us from God, but rather reminds us that prayer is the way that we can always approach our Father in Heaven. It is the conduit for God’s heavenly power to enter into our world when we need it. “Your kingdom come” bridges the gap between heaven and earth, a gap that God filled by sending his Son to die for us. The kingdom has come as Jesus established his church but it will be ultimately here when Christ returns.
Hallowed be thy name. As we pray to God in heaven, we recognize His Holy name. We approach God in prayer in the name of Jesus. “In the name of” was, and continues to be, a very important thought for anyone seeking favour or needing help. It all depends on who you are empowered by, just as a diplomat comes in the name of the country that he or she represents. Out passport indicates that we are citizens of a particular country. As Christians we come to God in the name of his Son but also claim that we recognize the hallowed name of our father in heaven. We then can go into our world while carrying the designation: “in God’s name” because after all, he is our father. What a great name to live with; a child of God!
Give us this day our daily bread. The request for daily bread goes squarely against the desire for the many unnecessary luxuries that we are so keen to possess. Basic needs are food, clothing and accommodation. Everyone should have access to these but in our world there is a huge disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Many have more than they need and many far too little. Our prayer should be for the essentials in life and the promise is that a caring God will provide what we need and not what we want.
Forgive us as we forgive those who wrong us : A basic need that every human has is the need for forgiveness. We need to be forgiven by others when we hurt/harm them but especially we need to be forgiven by God. If we then expect forgiveness from God we need to use the same yardstick that we expect God to use for us as we then deal with others. How hypocritical it would be to fail to forgive if we expect forgiveness.
Lead us not into temptation: Temptation is a fact of life. Jesus faced that problem in the wilderness and was lead there by the Spirit (Matthew 4:1). We face temptation on a daily basis. Sin comes at us in the temptation to do things that we should not, but also in not doing the things that we should. We need all the help we can get in the ongoing battle to overcome it. Does God lead us into temptation? A strange statement but in the context of the understanding in biblical times it fell into what we would call testing. Nothing worthwhile comes without testing so this statement can be written in a different way as one translation puts it: “do not bring to us hard testing”(Luke 11:4). Jesus, when tempted in the wilderness, replied every time with “It is written”. We should be grounded in what God’s Word says in order to combat Satan’s attacks in the same way.
The teaching of Jesus on prayer includes the story he told his disciples about the neighbour who comes to his friend’s house asking for bread for a visitor who arrives at night. Excuses are used to avoid answering this request but persistent requests bring the required outcome. Jesus makes the promise that those who ask will receive (Luke 11:10). Here he is teaching that persistence in prayer will be rewarded.
In the parable of the two men praying in the temple, one receives a favourable hearing while the other is really speaking to himself because he is so full of his own “goodness”(Luke 18:10). Jesus warns that the Pharisees and scribes who “devour widows houses and then for pretence make long prayers... will receive greater condemnation” (Matthew 23:14). Peter, in his teaching on family relationships, makes the same point about a man who does not treat his wife kindly and so his prayers are in vain (1 Peter 3:7).
Prayer is so vital in the teaching and example of Jesus that it obviously needs to become an integral part in the life of any followers of Jesus. God does not need our prayers; he already knows what we need. But we need to pray so that God knows we are serious about wanting to receive those blessings.
In Mark’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he records that “He could do no mighty works there; except that he laid He his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5, 6). When his disciples could not heal a particular person Jesus told them that in a case like that success could only come with much prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).
It has been said that Satan trembles when a Christian kneels in prayer. He is not worried when people gain riches (The example of the rich young ruler and the man building bigger barns). But when a person prays it opens up the channel for God’s blessings. Often in Old Testament examples it is when God hears the cry of his people he responds with giving them what they need.
In the same way prayer opens up the gateway to God’s promises for us. God is always ready to bless us, but only if we are ready to receive those blessings. One way we show that readiness to God and to ourselves is in prayer. In Isaiah 65:1, 2 the famous Old Testament prophet said that God was ready to answer and bless His people, but that they did not receive those blessings because they neither prayed nor searched for Him!
NKJV. Scriptures taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Jessie on July 01, 2021:
Thank you always Bro.Johan, for good reminders & interpretation of The Truth! You are a blessing to the family of The Lord!
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on July 01, 2021:
A great prayer life is what a christian need to move forward in this dark world. The read is inspiring. Thanks.