Learning to Pray

Prayer is learned. It is what the justified do at the entrance into God's kingdom as we seek him for his mercy in Christ (Lk.18:13-14), and it is how we continue to live in the way of his kingdom until he comes again to find faith on the earth (Lk.18:1-8). Throughout life lived in Christ prayer is learned. By observing a prescription for prayer given by Jesus in the gospels we understand prayer is learned.

We are taught the "Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. In Matthew's account Jesus is teaching his disciples and the many who have gathered to hear him on the many faceted life in the Kingdom of God. One of the facets of kingdom life is prayer. He teaches them to "Pray like this..." (Mt.6:9). It is an unsolicited teaching how to pray in Galilee with people coming to him from all around. In Luke's gospel account Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in response to the disciple's request, "Lord, teach us to pray," (Lk.11:1). In Luke's gospel it is a disciple who is asking to be taught to pray. Prayer is learned.

The incidents of Jesus' teaching on prayer are both different, but the content is the same (except that Luke excludes "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."). Therefore it seems that Jesus taught his disciples and others how to pray using this method of prayer, but even taught it differently at different times and even to different people. Prayer is learned.

This is certainly not the only way he taught his disciples to pray. He taught them to pray as he modeled it before them going away from them to pray, as he let them hear him pray and as he gave examples of what he delighted in as prayer. In all of the explicit teaching and modeled life of prayer we understand that prayer is learned.

Prayer is learned by praying. You learn to cook not by watching cooking shows, but by watching cooking shows, writing down recipes and going into your own kitchen to cook. You learn to fish not by watching fishing shows or reading about fishing, but by going fishing. Prayer is learned through a lifetime of praying.

A person in union with Christ will go through many different experiences in life and in all those experiences he will learn to pray. A person will learn to pray differently in the many different experiences of life God leads them. They may use the constancy of God's Word as the content of their prayers, but they will continue to learn to pray as God weaves them into the fabric of his Kingdom.

Image bearers of God are learners. We want to arrive. We want to complete things, master them and get them right. But in this life we have never arrived. We are always learning, and Christians are always learning the language and communication of the Kingdom of God, prayer. God gives his image bearers prayer as a means to the lasting experience of the fullness of himself and all the benefits of belonging to him in his salvation. Therefore, pray is learned for the continual re-ordering of our loves as we continue all our lives toward maturity in Christ.

We must give ourselves to learn to pray as he gives us himself to teach us to pray.


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