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The Importance of Prayer

06 Jun
Prayer - 2

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The Scriptures show us that prayer is a powerful and extremely important form of communication with God. Nevertheless, most folks today seem to neglect to make prayer the important part of their lives that it should be. The Apostles seem to have been impressed with the effect of Jesus’ own prayers and came to Jesus in Luke 11:1, asking him to teach them to pray, just as John the Baptist had taught his disciples. Aside from this Scripture, we have no knowledge of John’s prayers or how they may have affected his disciples, but, apparently, just as Jesus’ prayers were powerful, John must have been a powerful prayer warrior. So, the Apostles came to Jesus, apparently hoping they could, also, enter into this kind of powerful activity.

The certain place where Jesus was praying (Luke 11:1) was probably on Mount Olivet. He had been at Bethany, less than two miles from Jerusalem (Luke 10:38), and he often spent time on Mount Olives, which was just east of the Temple. This is significant, in that it shows an additional Passover[1] that Jesus celebrated at Jerusalem. Most commentaries have Jesus traveling all around Galilee, Samaria, Judea and back to Galilee without ever entering Jerusalem, until the week he was crucified. This simply isn’t so, and represents a very poor interpretation of Jesus’ movements, probably in an effort to make Luke 9:51 show Jesus was intent on going to Jerusalem to be crucified.[2] Nevertheless, an honest reading of the text will show beyond all reasonable doubt, that Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of his teaching on prayer, celebrating the Passover, one year before he was crucified.

As it pertains to prayer, and because one of Jesus’ disciples approaches him to ask Jesus to teach them to pray, Luke makes it clear to his reader that men really don’t know how to pray, not then and certainly not today (Luke 11:1; cf. Romans 8:26, 34). We simply do not have a proper appreciation of God’s love for us and our relationship to him through Jesus.

No doubt the Apostles were impressed with the occurrence of many remarkable things following his prayers. Perhaps they even thought there may have been a kind of formula to get God to act in their favor. The pagan religions are based upon this sort of thing. In Greek thought the world of the gods is the reality, while our world is its reflection or the shadow of that reality. Everyone knows a reflection or shadow can move only as its reality moves. If a person stands still, so does his shadow. The theory was, if in worship, the reflection did something, then it follows that the reality **must** have done the thing its reflection did, because reflections and shadows can only follow how the reality moves. Therefore, the Greeks would act out their requests of the gods in their worship exercises. If what they did was done correctly, and the proper sacrifices were offered, the gods would do as their reflections did in worship, or so it was believed.[3]

While I am not trying to say that this is what the Apostles had in mind, something similar in Jewish thought would have had to have been the case, because God was understood to be far off or not listening to most people. The Apostles wanted to know how they could cause God to favor their prayers. Why doesn’t God answer prayer? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Obviously, there must be a reason, so, “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Obviously, at least on some level, the Apostles assumed that God is unwilling to answer their prayers. Yet, Jesus seems to be very effective in prayer. Therefore, “teach us…” to be effective!

The question immediately arises then, as we read the Scriptures, since Jesus did teach the Apostles how to pray, was he then admitting that a formula is needed in order to arouse an unwilling God to look upon our request with favor? Certainly not! Rather, Jesus showed the Apostles what attitude to have when they approached an already willing God, who desired to supply his people with everything they needed (Luke 11:13).

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[1] I’ll be speaking more about this in future studies concerning the Scriptures: Luke 9:51 to Luke 13:9.

[2] If, in fact, it was Jesus intention to travel to Jerusalem to be crucified in Luke 9:51, he changed his mind after he got there. I intend to elaborate upon this idea once we come to Luke 13.

[3] See John N. Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths; Zondervan, 2009; pages 41-42, 51.

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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Gospel of Luke

 

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