You meet all kinds of people these days who claim to be on a spiritual search.  Some of them go to church.  Some of them think church is a waste of time. 


"We're not into religion, we're into spirituality."


            "Do you pray?"


"Of course."


            "Who do you pray to?"

"O, I connect with the Life Force"……."I Open myself to the Universal Energy---Hummmmmmmmmmm….Hummmmmmm"


But before we get too hard on our New Age friends, what about the kind of prayers we pray?  Do we know how to pray?  Are we getting through?


We can call ourselves spiritual.  We can claim to be disciples of Jesus.  But the life we actually live is only as good as our prayers.  If our prayers are half-baked, weak, infantile, or vain, so is our connection with God.  And so is the life we live as a result. 


He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples."

                                                            Luke 11:1


This disciple could see that, for Jesus, prayer was the rock-bottom foundation of everything he did.  After he fed the multitude, he immediately went off into the hills alone to pray.  One evening in Capernaum, people gathered at the door of Peter's house with their sick and afflicted for Jesus to heal them.  So Jesus spent the evening laying his hands on the sick and setting the afflicted free from their demons.  Early the next morning Jesus was off by himself, praying.  While Jesus was in this body of flesh and blood, prayer was his connection with the Father.


"Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples."


One thing these men had figured out, first by watching John the Baptist and his disciples and now by watching Jesus, was that we can never have God's life in us, God's direction, God's power---until we know how to pray.


Not showcase prayers, like the Pharisees pray.

Not flowery prayers like the religious professionals pray.

Simple prayer that connects with God.  Prayer that brings heaven down into this world.  "Show us how to do it, Lord!"


So Jesus gives them, and us, the three basics of prayer:


  1. The Pattern.
  2. The Approach.
  3. The Ultimate Request.


First Jesus gives us the pattern for prayer.  We already have this pattern in our heads.  It's been there since we were children:


"When you pray, say, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name."


Simple.  Clear.  To-the-point.  This is how you start your prayers every day.  It's not "vain repetition."  It's putting things in order.  The perfect way to get over yourself and draw near to God.


"Father, hallowed be thy name."    Father!…. He's not a tyrant, waiting for a chance to throw us into hell.  He's not the Wizard of Oz in some far-off place.  He's not a Cosmic Blessing Machine that we can learn to manipulate.  He's our Father!


He knows each of us as if each were the only one in the world.  He knows how many hairs are on your head, how many breaths you have taken since birth.  He loves us, wants the best for us.  Watches over us.


But we can only draw near to our Father when we learn to take off our shoes.  We're standing on holy ground when we pray.  "Hallowed be thy Name."   Our Father is holy.  We bow before him in awe.


And now, if we really want to pray, we need to get in tune with our Father----instead of trying to make the Holy God dance to our little tune.   "Thy kingdom come." Your program, Lord God!   Your will, not mine.   Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.    Your redemptive will, done in this world….done in our lives!

Your kingdom come!


And then, after fitting into God's program afresh, we start praying for our basic needs.  


"Give us each day our daily bread."


Our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he wants us to ask.  Everything we need:  food, clothing, shelter, money, friends.  "We're looking to you, Lord God, to provide for us, one day at a time."

And then…..


"Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us."


Our Lord Jesus always connects prayer with forgiveness.   Forgiveness is the doorway that releases our prayers.   Without this doorway our prayers remain locked within us. 


"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  


What better way to start the day?   What better way to get over the attitudes and grudges that poison our souls?  


And finally:


"Lead us not into temptation….Save us from the time of trial…..deliver us from evil."


There are things out there that we cannot handle.  Pressures, temptations for which we are too weak.   "Father, don't let us go there.  Spare us!"


The Lord Jesus gave us this prayer to use.  So let's use it.  It's the pattern.  It's the doorway to prayer.  It's the way we get out of ourselves and into God. 


At the beginning of the day, here's where we go: to this prayer.  When we don't know how to begin or what to say, this is where we go:  to this prayer. 


When we wake up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep, this prayer comes to our aid and comfort……."Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name!…….."


First Jesus gives us the pattern.  Then he teaches us the approach.  How do we approach the Father?   We approach him with the persistence of a little child.


Of course there are prayers that are answered instantly.  But let's get used to it, most prayers are not answered instantly. 


And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'?  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs."

                                                                        Luke 11:5-8


If the man had given up at the first rebuff, he would have walked away with empty hands.  But he persisted.  He kept at it.  He gave his friend no peace, until he got up and brought him the bread.  


Yes, take off your shoes before God.  But don’t be a wimp!  Prove to yourself and to God that you mean what you're praying for.  Wimpy prayers are not prayers.  Put something into it.  Keep at it!  Don't give up!


And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.'  For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'"  And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you he will vindicate them speedily."

                                                Luke 18:1-8a


Don't pray like a wimp!  Pray like this widow pestering the judge.  Keep at it.  Be persistent!


First Jesus lays out the pattern.  Then he teaches us the approach: persistence.  Now, finally, he teaches us to focus on the ultimate request, the one gift above all others that we need to pray for.


"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?  If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

                                                            Luke 11:9-13


We ask for the gift of the Spirit above all other things, because the Holy Spirit is the One who helps us to pray.   We don't know how to pray!  We need help.  Listen to the Apostle Paul, after years and years, preaching the gospel, healing people, starting churches.  Paul admits quite frankly that he needs help to pray.


"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

                                                                        Romans 8:26-27


We don't know how to pray.  We never become "experts" at prayer.  All our lives we depend on the help of the Spirit, as we struggle to focus and concentrate and confess and intercede.   And there he is---deep within us---interceding for us with "sighs too deep for words…..groanings which cannot be uttered."


So we ask for this gift every day, every time we pray.  "Father, let me walk in the Spirit, think in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit!  Pour out your Spirit upon me afresh!"


So how do we know that this prayer for the Spirit was answered?  

Do we "feel something" inside?

Do we get "goosebumps"?

Do we see "visions"?

Do we "speak in tongues"?

Maybe.  Maybe not.


You simply launch out in faith, trusting that the heavenly Father will not let you down.  You launch out in faith and just start to pray.  And as you pray the Lord's Prayer----for starters---and as you pray with persistence; and as you pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes like a wind at your back and lifts you out of yourself into prayers that he inspires.


Now you are no longer alone.  The Spirit of God is in there with you, helping you to break through the barrier of unbelief into the world of faith.  And things will start to happen in you, and around you, that only happen when God's children pray.


And you will wonder why you waited so long to find this treasure, this gift of all gifts.


So there it is:


You have the pattern:  the Lord's Prayer.

You have the approach:  persistence.

You have the ultimate request:  the gift of the Holy Spirit, yours for the asking.


"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?  If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"