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“Teach Us To Pray” (And the Surprising Answer)

teach us to pray

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” ~ Luke 11: 1

Have you ever asked someone a question and then stopped listening too soon? The disciples say, teach us to pray in verse 1, but many of us quit listening after the first few famous verses. But his answer stretches all the way to verse 13.

Teach Us to Pray – A Surprising Lesson

After Jesus provided a sample prayer he continued with seven simple words that can forever change our idea of prayer: “Suppose one of you has a friend . . .” (Luke 11: 5) Jesus moved the conversation from the content of prayer to the relationship between God and man. He calls the relationship friendship.

Some friendships stand on stick-legs: they can’t hold much weight. Every conversation has to be measured carefully to avoid damaging the relationship. Jesus, on the other hand, presents the example of a friendship so strong that both men can say exactly what they think without any worry of ruining their bond.

The story is of two men who knew each other so well they could be completely honest. One guy receives an unexpected visitor late at night and needs to provide hospitality. He goes to his friend’s house–even though it’s too late at night to drop by–and asks for extra food. His friend says, “Are you nuts? It’s way too late, come back tomorrow.” Yet the relationship is so strong that the first guy can say, “I’m not leaving until I get what I need.”

Bible scholars will tell you that Jesus paints this picture to illustrate the importance of persistence in prayer, and of course that’s true. But there’s something more: Jesus invites us to imagine prayer as an extension of honest, real friendship. If we approach prayer academically we will rush past Jesus’ simple introduction, “Suppose you have a friend.” He asks us to draw on our experience and imagine the best friendship we have, then apply that kind of security and strength to the way we talk to God.