The Request: “teach us to pray…”

“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1).

Jews, even the unlearned, knew how to pray. Among Jews of the first century there were prayers common to all, that crossed the social and religious divisions.

When Yeshua/Jesus called His disciples, he called average men. While many Pharisees would become disciples, those closest to Him were not scholars or well placed in the community. Average.

This request made by the disciples reminds me of stories associated with Rabbi Yisrael Ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

For many years of his life, he kept the depth of his learning and revelation of God quiet, assuming a manner and position of a humble, ignorant clay digger and wagon driver. He lived among the Jewish masses, impacting their lives by example, and being present.

When he did begin teaching publicly, he taught unlearned Jews how to draw close to God, how to infuse holiness and meaning in their daily lives – encouraging them to not to be something they were not: learned. Just keep God before you.

He taught them how to pray.

This, of course, did not gain the approval of Jewish religious academies. Yet, those who followed his teaching, both scholar and pauper, flourished in learning, even while segregated by oppressive regimes.

“Teach us to pray … “

We must note the respect the disciples had for Yeshua; as Luke includes this detail, that the disciples waited for Him to finish praying (Lk. 11:1). Then, they made their request.

It was common practice for disciples to make requests of their rabbis. This request, “teach us to pray,” was not due to a lack of familiarity with prayer. Jews had some standardized prayer, and often practiced spontaneous, extemporaneous prayer; but mentioning John tells us, and we know this from other sects as well, that teachers often taught disciples a prayer that was unique to them, their practice, and their teacher.

There is a Talmudic teaching that says, “A man should associate himself with the congregation,” (BT Berakhot 30a) meaning, man should not pray alone.

As I noted in a previous meditation on the Disciples Prayer: “Can we pray it alone? Certainly, but our hearts and minds must be aligned with our broader setting: covenant community.”

Yeshua authored a unique prayer that His disciples, past and present, could pray and unite with, even when apart. Imagine the comfort the apostles felt, when thousands of miles from the Promised Land, their culture, and the congregation of Jerusalem, that they had the words of their Rabbi and Lord, penetrating the isolation and uniting them with distant brethren.

These few, but powerful words kept the Kingdom, His will, His provision, His faithfulness and forgiveness, His power and presence, and His eternity ever before them.

It kept the voice of Jesus, Who answered a humble request from His disciples for a prayer unique to them, speaking in their hearts and mind.

The fruit of that request is our heritage: the Disciples Prayer. The prayer authored by the Word made flesh, the author of life, our Savior. Hallelujah.

It matters not your position in this life, He is your value, and when you pray His words, He is there, praying with you, His disciple. So pray it; and keep Him before you.

I’ve prayed this prayer in several nations, and languages; and it is still weaving His disciples together, even across languages and cultures. His Word, to His disciples. Amen.

Be well. Shalom.

“Teach us to pray …” the Disciples Prayer

The disciples of Yeshua/Jesus approach Him and say, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1).

He answers with what is usually called “the Lord’s Prayer.” For several reasons it should be known as “the Disciples Prayer,” but that is neither here nor there for this commentary.

The prayer itself is a beautiful example of historic, communal Jewish prayer of the Second Temple period. Written in the words of covenant, it is in the plural, and by definition, intended to be prayed with others: “our Father,” “give us,” “forgive us,” “lead us not into,” “but deliver us.”

Can we pray it alone? Certainly, but our hearts and minds must be aligned with our broader setting: covenant community.

The Hebrew word meaning daily prayer, the Disciples Prayer is an example of this, is תְּפִלָּה/tefillah. The act of praying, in word and song, is לְהִתְפַּלֵּל/hitpa’el. לְהִתְפַּלֵּל/hitpa’el in Hebrew is reflexive, meaning to pray to yourself. So the public, plural prayers that we pray, including the Disciples Prayer, is somehow private in nature? Closed off? Prayed to ourselves?

Yes, but also no. לְהִתְפַּלֵּל/hitpa’el is from the root פָלִיל/palil, meaning to judge. In order to understand this, one must know what a judge does.

A judge takes conflicting information, and in the case of a religious judge he searches biblical truth concerning the matter, and investigates in order to reach a conclusion, thus rendering a verdict. The truth found in the Word penetrates to the heart of the conflict, leading to resolution, if we respond in faith.

What does this have to do with prayer?

When we pray, considering closely the words Jesus taught us, we are often wrestling with conflict of some type. The conflict between our circumstance, and our hopes. Real, pressing, and in need of immediate aid, in the face of His eternal hope.

The root of prayer, daily spoken, calls us to take in the conflicting experience and information, imbue it with holy truth and faith, by which we live the words prayed in the communal setting. When we pray in private, we are still praying in community, because we will live the words prayed in the midst of others.

Reflexive prayer brings an inflow of truth, changing us internally; for an outflow of living, changing life externally.

Yeshua taught us to pray focused on the sovereign presence of God, the author of life; knowing that He will supply the need for every circumstance, and He does so, in community.

You may fill the need, or have it filled; because someone spoke, and lived His holy Word. That is communal, covenant prayer.

Be well. Shalom.

a form of prayer

The apostle Paul wrote, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20).

Why? Conversation is a form of prayer, whereby those speaking bless and glorify the Father in heaven. When we are inclined to argue, we should be thankful. When we are inclined to weep, we should praise. But when we are inclined to gossip, we should be silent – let silence be that prayer.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).

Be well. Shalom.

Thy Will Be Done

The Song of the Mountains Part 36.

His example.

In one of the most poignant verses in the Bible, we find Yeshua/Jesus living out the prayer He taught us to pray, as we read, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Matt. 26:39). He prays these words shortly before His arrest, which leads, ultimately, to His trail, and crucifixion. At the moment when He was in the most need, He calls out to God the Father, and submits to His sovereign will.

In recent articles on Matthew 6:8-10, I have addressed our responsibility to sanctify the name of God, to the advancing of His Kingdom, and this week I focus on, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). 

Our submission. 

Yeshua not only taught, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” but he prayed it in the Garden of Gethsemane as His hour was approaching (Matt. 26:39). His prayer, “Your will be done,” established the Kingdom here on earth. Yet, Yeshua had to accept the cup that the Father prepared for Him to drink; and the entirety of His message comes into focus as He submits to the will of the Father: “seek first the Kingdom … thy Kingdom come … take up your cross … lay down your life …” This cup is easy to take up, but difficult to drink.  

What is the heart of heaven? 

Praying for the will of the Father to be done. Yeshua opens for us the heart of what He has taught us to pray – “thy will be done.” The Kingdom on earth was established by the cross with the death of Yeshua, then daily it is moved forward by His disciples following His example. 

The kingdoms of this world advance, destroy, in order to find victory. The Kingdom of Heaven advances by suffering, self-denial, and service. The victory of His Kingdom is a now but not yet. It is a living reality in the lives of His disciples, and a yet coming realization. As disciples we pray for His advancing Kingdom by committing ourselves to the way of the cross, the example of Messiah, and a life of priestly-service to a world that will largely reject us.   

What we learn. 

To pray the Lord’s “will be done” is to recognize that He: a) has a plan, a will; and b) that He desires us to be part of that plan, according to His design. As Yeshua is teaching us to pray through the Lord’s Prayer, we learn that the Father desires us to seek His Will, His purpose, before we move hastily.

Before we act. 

Before we act, we must consider, and seek out God’s opinion. Yes, God has an opinion. The fact that we pray for God’s will to be done reveals that He has an opinion, a plan, and a direction of action intended. The Greek root of δοξολογία/doxology, words of praise to God, is from the Greek root meaning “opinion.”

Seeking His opinion. 

Some might believe that it is a bit unusual to seek God’s opinion. Yet, there is deep wisdom here. Consider this, when we seek the opinion of those around us – on any matter – we honor them, as it shows that we respect their wisdom and experience. The wisdom of Proverbs tells us, “When there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). We honor those we seek counsel from, and we lean on the wisdom of experience. 

The same is true for praying, “thy will be done.” As we go out to reveal to others the grace, mercy, and compassion of the Living God, we desire to do it according to His will. Additionally, as we live this life of faith surrounded by others, we pray that whatever we might endure will be in accordance to “thy will be done”; just as Yeshua prayed, and lived. 

To pray “thy will be done” is to pray in faith. It is a recognition that we do not know the will of God in all cases, at all times, thus we “walk by faith and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7).  

So how can we, as human beings in reformation, know or conform to the Will of God?  

  1. Read the Bible, a verse, a chapter, a book at a time.
  2. Pray as you work, drive, walk, workout – include the Lord in your day.
  3. Find a Daily Devotional that appeals to you like; or just endeavor to read a portion of Scripture. 
  4. Listen to some type of faith building messages from teachers you trust, and who inspire you to go deeper into God’s Word.
  5. Listen to messianic music; either on the radio or some streaming service. 

At times, I admit, it seems I can be a bit slow. It took me a long time to learn in ministry that when people asked me questions about scripture, or something regarding their lives, that they were seeking my opinion, and not only that, they valued my opinion. I was never one to believe that I had an opinion that was worth anything to anyone; but praise the Lord, He does not have this opinion of Himself, and He is eagerly waiting for us to seek Him in any way we can.

What if? 

What if we continue day after day to pray that the Lord’s will be done? Praying for family. Praying for friends. Praying for situations that are completely out of our control. Praying that righteousness will prevail. Praying for the salvation of the nations. We pray; and we do so whether or not we see them answered. Why?

We are commanded to pray. We are commanded to pray whether or not a result is obvious to us.  

I remember having a conversation with a brother in the Lord after he returned home from a missions trip to Haiti. During the trip the government was overthrown. I asked him if he was at all fearful in such a turbulent situation? His answer has comforted me in my own travels, and in my own life, “I know that it was God’s will for me to be there, and the safest place to be is in God’s will.”

Dear reader, with so much buffeting us today, let us pray and seek that, as much as depends on our own lives, we will desire for “thy will to be done…not mine,” following the example of Yeshua. As the grain of wheat placed in the earth, His obedience to the will of the Father has brought forth much fruit – of which, you are but one example. 

Shalom. Be well.