The Disciples’ Prayer

Luke 11:1-4

We have come to the conclusion of our course in the School of Prayer, but really we’re just beginning. Learning to pray and wrestling in prayer is something we need to do for a lifetime.

In this series we’ve talked about prayer from a biblical perspective—that the Bible’s focus on prayer is that it be gospel-shaped, asking God to do what God has promised. We’ve looked at the reasons to pray; we looked at the prayer life of Jesus; we talked about the kind of prayer God answers and we’ve talked about what it means to “pray constantly.”

But the question I want to deal with today as we wrap up the series is really the nuts and bolts practical application of all of what we’ve been talking about. That is, how do we pray? We know that prayer is a vital part of the Christian life, that God honors gospel-shaped prayers, that God invites us to persistent prayer. But the real question is, on a daily basis, how do we pray? What’s the structure for our prayers? What kinds of prayer can deepen our relationship and dependence on God and unleash God’s will and Spirit in us?

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The Irregular Power of Regular Prayer

Acts 10

So far in the “School of Prayer” we’ve talked about why we pray—that prayer is asking God to come through on his promises. We’ve talked about what we pray for, following the example of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets who “called on the name of the Lord” to crush the serpent through one of the offspring of Adam and Abraham; and the example of Jesus who prayed that God would accomplish this serpent-crushing work through his own life, death, and resurrection. Jesus also prays that his disciples would carry on this mission and do even “greater things” for the gospel. Indeed, this is what “gospel-shaped prayer” is all about.

A couple of weeks ago, we then talked about how we pray—we looked at the five prayers God always answers: prayers for forgiveness, for wisdom; prayers to know God better and to have the strength to live for God; and prayers for the spread of the gospel. These are gospel-shaped prayers that give us a contact for our asking “in Jesus’ name.”

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The Five Prayers God Always Answers

During our lessons in the School of Prayer, we’ve been talking about the fact that “calling on the name of the Lord” and praying “in the name of Jesus” are ways of asking God to do what he has promised. That’s Gospel-shaped prayer. The patriarchs, matriarchs, and prophets of the Old Testament prayed to God to do what he promised: to send a Messiah—one of the offspring of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to come and crush the serpent’s head and defeat sin and death, setting them and the whole creation free from their slavery.

In the Gospels, we learn that Jesus is, indeed, that promised offspring—a son of Adam and Abraham, but also Son of God. Last week we talked about the fact that in Jesus God took on the limitations of human flesh, being born into a fallen world, and prayed that God’s ultimate promise would come through in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ prayer life was all about the gospel and we said that the context of our prayers should reflect Jesus’ concern for the mission of God. Every prayer we pray should be shaped by the mission.

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“In the Name of Jesus:” The Mission of Prayer

John 14:8-14

We have now come to our third lesson in the School of Prayer and, like any good course of study, it’s often helpful to have some review before moving ahead. In our first lesson, we looked at the reasons we struggle with prayer and one of those major reasons is that we don’t know why we pray. For that we need a comprehensive biblical theology of prayer in order to understand what prayer is and what it does.

We started into that biblical theology last week. The biblical phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” means asking God to come through on his covenant promises. We tracked that through the Old Testament beginning in Genesis 4, as people began to look for the offspring of Adam and Eve who would one day crush the head of the serpent and liberate humanity and creation from its slavery to sin and death. We know that God delivered on that promise in the person of Jesus—an offspring of Adam and Eve, of Seth and Enosh, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But this was not only a son of Adam, he is also Son of God. All prayer, then, is gospel-shaped and centered around this fulfilled promise of God in Jesus. We still live in a fallen world where the snake still speaks, but we know his days are numbered. We “call on the name of the Lord” with the confidence that God has already begun to deliver on his promise to his people in Christ.

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Calling on the Name of the Lord: The Beginning of Prayer

Second in the series “School of Prayer”

Genesis 4:25-26; Romans 8:18-27

What was the first prayer you ever prayed? For those of us who grew up in the church it might have been a table grace you used in your family (God is great, God is good…) or that nighttime prayer many of us were taught to say (“Now I lay me down to sleep…”)—nothing like beginning prayer with a potential nightmare! If you came to faith later in life, you might have prayed the sinner’s prayer or simply cried out with one of the three types of prayers that Anne Lamott talks about: “Help! Thanks! Or Wow!”

In many ways, our first prayers set the tone for the prayers we will pray later. We begin simply, even in a primitive way, but then as our relationship with God grows our prayers become more focused and rich. I think the same is true when we look at the history of prayer in the Bible—a history of prayer that should set the tone for the kinds of prayers and prayer lives God calls us to.

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