Teach Us to Pray

What we can learn from the leading and prayer of Jesus

Note: The following article has been excerpted from Mentor Like Jesus, by Regi Campbell.

Jesus must have been a fantastic pray-er. Imagine the intimacy, the love, the shared experiences, the common ground with the Father. He prayed often, going off by himself away from his followers and his mentorees.

On one key occasion, documented in Luke 11:1, Jesus had been praying. It seems that this time he had been praying with the disciples nearby because when he finished, one of his disciples (we don't know which one) asked him, "Teach us to pray." I believe this disciple heard something, maybe saw something, that he wanted in on. Hearing Jesus pray, talking with his Dad, something incredibly compelling was going on.

Jesus responded by praying what we call the Lord's Prayer, giving us a model for how to approach the Father—with gratitude and humility. We don't know if Jesus was kneeling, sitting, or face down. But because he was a devoted God follower and a student of the law, we can guess that he was in a position of reverence and submission.

Peter walked with Jesus throughout his ministry. He saw Jesus pray many times, and when he wrote his books of the Bible, he reflected the attitude that he must have seen in Jesus: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).

He saw Jesus humbled and bowed down. But then he saw him lifted up, first on the cross and then as he ascended into heaven. What a picture! What a contrast.

It's good for me to kneel when I pray. It reminds me that he's God and I'm not. It reminds me that I'm lower than God, that this isn't a conversation between buddies or equals. This is humbling myself, acknowledging his superiority, putting myself below him spiritually but also physically.

Many of the guys that I've mentored have never knelt to pray in a small group. Most have done the "kneeling bench" drill in a church sometime, but few have actually gotten down on their knees and prayed out loud with other guys.

That's what I'm trying to do—to break the ice, to use my influence as a mentor, and to use the peer pressure (and safety) of a group context to open them up to new dimensions of their faith.

One other key point: much has been written about the importance of how we see God. Do we see him as King, as Judge, Healer, or in other ways. There's not a question to be answered here—2 Corinthians 6:18 is clear: "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons."

God is my heavenly Father. That's the way I address him; that's the way I view him; that's the framework of our relationship; and that's the way Scripture describes him to me. Underlying my entire approach to mentoring younger people is this truth: he's your Father, a perfect Father. Talk to him that way. Think of him that way.

Jesus Was a Praying Man

You would think that a God-man wouldn't need to pray. After all, he's been with the Father from the beginning, participated in the creation, seen and experienced it all. But Jesus prayed often and for extended periods of time.

Scripture tells us that one of his longest prayer times came when he was picking his mentorees, his disciples. We know he would go off by himself to pray and often. "As was his practice," he would go to remote places early in the morning to be with the Father and pray.

A mentor can't be a mentor like Jesus without prayer. Here's just a short list of the things that prayer does for me as a mentor:

  • Praying for my mentorees keeps me focused on them and their needs, not just my own.
  • Praying for their needs gives me insight into their hearts—what they care about and are focused on.
  • Praying for them is a way of actively loving them.

And here's a big one. I need to pray for myself

It's so easy to pray for all those other people, but I also need to pray for me. God has given me influence with these guys. I need his protection, his wisdom, his courage to be who God created and saved me to be. If I fall, I damage all that he's built up in the people I've influenced. So it's important for me to stay spiritually healthy, on the same page with the Father and focused on the right things in my life.

Listening as Well as Talking

It seems weird for us to listen to God. How do I know it's him? Doesn't the devil counterfeit God's voice?

I confess, when I hear someone say, "God told me … ," I pause big time. That's not to say that God isn't still speaking. I know he is. But it's pretty hard to hear his voice and consistently identify it. And at times it's even more difficult to hear and interpret what he's saying.

In the first days after I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, a dear friend sent me a sermon series called How to Listen to God. That series became a book by Charles Stanley, and I have never forgotten the six C's that provide a grid to help me test if what I've heard is from God. In my abbreviated fashion, here they are:

  1. Is the answer/instruction consistent with Scripture? God will never direct us to do something that conflicts with his Word.
  2. Will the answer challenge your faith? If the direction is the easy way out and doesn't require faith in God to execute, put a check on it.
  3. Does the answer conflict with human wisdom? Often God's ways are not our ways, and what he directs us to do seems really weird to our twenty-first-century culture.
  4. Does it require courage? God's path is rarely the easy one. So it's not unusual for his direction to require guts to follow and act on.
  5. Does the direction clash with my fleshly nature? Sometimes God will lead me into things that require extraordinary effort or self-discipline. I'll have to go against what comes naturally.
  6. Will obeying God require courage? He's often giving assignments where we'll have to take risks, to trust Him. He's doing that to build our faith.

—Regi Campbell; excerpted from Mentor Like Jesus, © 2009 by Broadman & Holman. Used with permission.

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