Becoming Jesus’ Disciple #3
"Learning to Pray Like a Real Christian"
1. One of the clearest evidences of Christian discipleship is prayer.
Just as physical health can be measured by blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol, spiritual health can be partially measured by prayer.
2. When Jesus’ first disciples saw and heard him pray, they were
totally impressed. They went to him and asked, "teach us how to do
that; teach us how to pray." Jesus told them to go find a private place
and try a prayer like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy
name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us
this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who
trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evi.
3. They wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray. Prayer is not something we are born with. Prayer is learned. It has to be practiced in order to be good at it.
4. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are learners. We’re learning to be and to do like Jesus — and that includes prayer.
I. Premise of prayer
The premise of prayer is that a disciple lives by faith. We believe that God exists, that we have a special relationship to him through Jesus Christ and that he can be trusted to impact our lives for good.
The opposite of living by faith in God is to try to handle everything on our own. We take full responsibility for our health, family, employment, relationships, government and everything else. I could never do that. I would be a nervous wreck. I need God. I need God’s help. I need to turn the issues of life over to him. That’s where prayer comes in.
3. Philippians 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
4. We have a choice — to live by sight or to live by faith; to handle everything ourselves or trust God; to be stressed out with anxiety or to pray.
5. The premise of prayer is that we choose to live by faith and that’s why we pray.
6. There are some principles of prayer that are helpful to learn if we’re going to pray like real Christians.
II. Principles of prayer
#1 Prayer is communication with God
• Prayer is not asking for something, although asking certainly is part of prayer to God. If we think prayer is just asking, we’ve significantly missed the point and misunderstood prayer.
• Many women become frustrated with their fathers and husbands because they always try to immediately fix things. She starts to talk about what happened today at school, work or home and immediately he interrupts with an action plan to solve what he thinks is the problem. She blurts out, "Can you just be quiet and listen? I’m not asking you to do anything except listen and try to understand." Now, it may later come to a request and action — but sometimes we just need someone to talk to, especially someone who loves us.
• God loves us. He wants us to talk to him. We are invited to share our lives — express our hurts, describe our dreams, process our decisions.
• Philippians 4:6 = "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition…."
• Real Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ, talk to God.
#2 Prayer should be God-centered
• Jesus did not teach his followers to start out with "give us our daily bread." He taught them to begin with, "Our Father who is in heaven."
• A disciple is a follower and learner. Someone else is the teacher. Someone else is the boss.
• Perhaps this is the biggest mistake made by modern American Christians when we pray. We mistakenly think that we are first, we are most important, what we want is what we are supposed to get and that God is a supernatural robot whose job is to make us happy.
I hear people say, "I told God what I wanted and it didn’t happen. I don’t think I can ever trust him again." God is not a celestial mail order service. Prayer is not connecting to God.com to place an order.
• As disciples, we should always pray with God at the beginning, God at the center. Our goal should be God’s purposes, pleasure and happiness — not our own.
#3 Prayer is to align with God
• Prayer is not to align God with us, but us with God.
• When a pilot is approaching the airport there is voice communication with the control tower. The purpose is to line-up the aircraft with the runway. The pilot doesn’t ask the airport to move the runway 5° or 50 yards to the left. Prayer is communication with God in order to line-up our lives with his will and righteousness.
• Confession of sin is part of the alignment, admitting where we have gone off course, asking for forgiveness and getting us back on track.
• Alignment includes words of one of Jesus’ prayers when he said, "not my will but your will be done."
#4 God hears and answers disciples’ prayers
• It is within the context of the first three principles of prayer that we experience the fourth principle of prayer — that God hears and answers Jesus’ disciples.
• This is sensational, spectacular, supernatural and true. Disciples of Jesus Christ connect with God and communicate through prayer so that we don’t need to be "anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, we present our requests to God" who hears and answers.
• When we pray, these principles are turned into experience. The topic of prayer and the words of Philippians 4:6 were chosen for this week many months ago — all part of this seven-part series on "Becoming Jesus’ Disciple."
After last Saturday’s evening church service I arrived home to a telephone voice message that my mother had fallen, been seriously injured and had been transported to a hospital by ambulance. I phoned the hospital in Boca Raton and talked to the ER nurse who said that she had been there for an hour or two and was on a gurney in the hallway awaiting her turn. I thought about her there — alone, in pain, perhaps scared… and I started to cry. Half a continent away. Scheduled to preach Sunday morning. Too late on Saturday for a flight. I was anxious. Charleen and I prayed together. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
– Within an hour there was a pastor by her side whom my mother has known for all of his life.
– Within twelve hours she was having surgery by an orthopedist whom Charleen and I grew up with and my mother was his childhood Sunday School teacher.
– Within less than 24 hours Charleen and I were by her side in Florida.
– within less than a week she was out of the hospital and recovering well.
• All of our lives are filled with uncertainty, surprises, anxiety and things we cannot control. What do we do? How do we live? Disciples of Jesus Christ live by faith. Disciples of Jesus Christ pray.
III. Practice of prayer
Since disciples learn to pray, let’s talk about the actual practice of prayer.
1. Pray privately
• Jesus said (Matthew 6:6): "when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…."
• Jesus often slipped away from his family and friends for private prayer.
• I suggest that each of us establish a place for regular private prayer. It may be your bedroom, office, basement, porch or car. Ideally, it should be where you can sit, stand or kneel. A place where you can be silent or pray out loud.
• This shouldn’t be the only place to pray because we should pray throughout the day, but this should be a regular place and time for private prayer.
2. Pray publicly
• The Bible has many prayers. The only way we know about any of them is that they were publicly shared, including the Lord’s Prayer.
• There is a special supernatural power and blessing which accompanies prayer with others. Specifically blessed are marriages where the couple prays together. Lifelong impact shapes the lives of children who grow up hearing their parents pray. Amazing things happen when small groups of Christians pray together.
• Some Christians find public prayer difficult and uncomfortable. The reasons may be many. Some are shy. Some are reluctant. Some haven’t prayed much in private. Many are simply afraid of saying the wrong thing.
• Remember, disciples learn to pray. Pray out loud alone. Pray out loud in the safety of family, marriage and closest Christian friends. Think through your prayer in advance. If necessary write it out, practice it, read it. As you learn, it gets easier and better. Learn to pray with others.
3. Pray frequently
• Just as conversation is spread through your day, converse often with God. In the car. Out running, lying in bed before falling asleep. In emergencies. At church. During business meetings. Talk often to God about everything.
• 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 = "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
• Praying continually doesn’t mean non-stop. It’s more like carrying a cell phone and making multiple calls throughout every day. In other words, stay in touch with God.
4. Pray Supernaturally
• Prayer is not natural — it is supernatural. We should recognize that we are tapping into God. There is presence. There is power. It goes beyond anything merely human and ordinary.
• Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you. Request a spiritual encounter with God when you pray. Expect to experience God in wonderful ways which will be impossible to later explain. Expect God!
• Romans 8:26 explains a little of how supernatural prayer works. When we are praying, connected with God, but run out of words to say, the Holy Spirit takes over our prayers and goes beyond human language with supernatural sounds for which there are no human words.
• Pray supernaturally. Expect God!
5. Normal pattern: Father/Son/Spirit
• God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
• While we may pray to one or all three, there is a normal biblical pattern to prayer. Pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus the Son, and in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
• The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian — our souls are connected to the Spirit. We use that connection, pray in the name of Jesus and talk directly to God the Father.
6. Typical content: worship; confession; thanks; requests
• Certainly we can pray in different ways with different content but there are some helpful biblical guidelines about the structure of a disciple’s prayer and what to say.
• When we phone someone there is a typical routine. "Hello, this is Leith Anderson; I’m calling for George. Hi, George, how are you today? It’s always good to talk to you. I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner. I want to thank you for shoveling my driveway last week and I was wondering if you could help me out again tomorrow."
This conversation included greeting, praise, apology, gratitude and a request.
• When setting aside a special daily prayer time:
Worship — tell God how great he is. ("Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.")
Confession — tell God what you’ve done wrong and request forgiveness ("Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.")
Thanksgiving — tell God you’re grateful for him and all he does ("in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.")
Requests — ask God to show you what he wants and give you what you need ("thy will be done…give us our daily bread…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.")
1. Jesus said that a disciple is someone who obeys all that he has commanded and he has commanded us to pray.
2. Each week as we learn how to become Jesus’ disciples there is a challenge to obedience and action.
3. What has God taught you today about prayer?
What would Jesus like you to do?
What are you going to do to pray like a real Christian?
February 3–4, 2001 Wooddale Church
© Leith Anderson 2001