Sunday, September 1, 2019
Jesus Never Prayed the Way We Do Today
I wonder where we got the idea that God sometimes gives us a "no" answer. How did that teaching sneak into the church? It's Jesus who taught us to pray, and his prayers never got a "no." In fact, he never said anything about the possibility of getting a no from God (well, except when you don't forgive others who have wronged you). All he taught was getting surefire "yes" from God. [Photo above from Simon Schmitt@helloschmitt, Unsplash].
His disciples once asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray." He taught them the Lord's Prayer which starts with a bold and confident "Our Father" and a lot of other things, but nothing about getting a "no" answer or a "maybe" or "later." The prayer talked about "Our Father" asking him to "give us this day our daily bread." And that short 7-word request makes us confident that everything's taken care of. See? Nothing about a "no" answer.
And yeah, what he taught about asking in prayer is a mere 7-word phrase. "Give us this day our daily bread." That covers everything. It's short and generalized, unlike what teach in church today about being "specific" about our requests. So I heard lots of pastors being specific about their prayers, even before meals. Their prayers explain to God what goes on with food after swallowing it.
"Lord, use this food that we're about to take as nourishment for our bodies, to make us healthy and strong." As if God didn't know that. Often I half expect the prayer to include how the digestive system works and how nutrients enter the blood stream and get distributed to the organs on the cellular level.
Jesus taught us a short prayer and prayed short prayers himself. No need to explain to God what happens next. Just ask. Just thank him. When he fed the 5,000 and then 4,000 men, he simply looked up to heaven and said thanks. Simple, short and yet powerful. It fed 5,000 men--perhaps 15,000 if we count the women and kids. When he turned water into wine, he didn't pray at all. I suspect he said an inaudible prayer or probably just mentally declared the miracle in his Father's name.
Nobody prays today like Jesus anymore. It's almost all a show, a contest of who can say the best prayer. You try to pray short prayers and they laugh at you. To religious people, righteous people pray long and poetic prayers. But Jesus had something different in mind. "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."
The one time Jesus said a long prayer was in John 17, praying for his disciples just before his suffering and death. And the prayer isn't something that we'd pray today--it's more of a summary of what they have pre-planned. An overview. It's the prayer of a man who knew exactly what God's plan was, and never once asked for anything material or mundane.
A prayer that declares God's plan. Many prayers today sound more like wish lists than affirmative establishment of what God has planned. Knowing exactly what God intended, Jesus established it in the heavenly realm to alert everything on earth that had to do with it. "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."
That's how a son's prayer should sound. As he prayed, Jesus was showing us how true sons and daughters of God should talk to their Father in heaven. A son's prayers in deeper moments with the Father should declare his ultimate objective for his Kingdom on earth. "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
But church today just pray for their church buildings or projects and petty earthly ministries that merely declare their church denomination in the locality, not the Kingdom in the spiritual and earthly realms. They pray for money to pay their rent with or building renovation or a church vehicle--perhaps a school or seminary in the future. Or money for paying tuition fees to finish a degree in theology.
I can't imagine Jesus asking the Father for a church building or church camel or donkey. Such a waste of time and energy. What Jesus did was to use the donkeys he saw available in the vicinity for his entry to Jerusalem, with the powerful declaration that "The Lord needs them" if someone should accost the disciples about taking them. And anyway, these things can never bring you genuine victory in the spiritual realms. You cannot defeat Satan with your nice buildings and facilities or your church vehicle or seminary title and degree or theology.
And yet the church wastes time asking in prayer for them.
We should pray like Jesus did. We should ask the Father for things Jesus also asked for. What Jesus needed for ministry is all we need for ministry. He is the Way. And how Jesus worked intimately with God to declare and fulfill his plan is how we should also do ministry today.
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