Lord, Teach Us to Pray

We went out to eat with some friends a while ago. And to be honest I don’t even remember where we ate, or what we ate. What I do remember is the friendship. I am blessed to have enjoyed the company of some very good friends earlier this evening. These are friends you may not see for a long time but when you get back together it’s like you never missed a beat. I hope you all have such good friends. Mike and I are like that.

Anyway, there we were at some restaurant, somewhere. Our server brings the food and we fold our hands and bow our heads to pray.

“Mommy,!” Three year old Addison blurts out excitedly, “Can we teach Dave the Superman prayer? We gotta do the Superman prayer!”

“Superman prayer,” I wondered to myself. And then, ever so bravely, I asked, “What is the Superman prayer?” And Addison teaches me the Superman prayer, a prayer which is sung to the main theme from the Superman movies.

Remember that this is a three year old we are talking about. He hasn’t yet learned to be embarrassed in front of people. He isn’t worried about people watching him. Before we begin, his eyes aren’t glancing about the room wondering what others will think. He is carefree. He loves his family. He loves his God.

So with that excitement only a child can bring, he leads us in a very strong voice: “Thank you Lord for giving us food. Thank you Lord for giving us food. For the friends we meet. For the food we eat. Thanks for the food!”

There in front of God and who knows how many people, led by a child, we thanked God for friendships and for food.

Do you remember the first prayer you ever learned? Though maybe not the Superman prayer it was perhaps a prayer of blessing over a meal.

God is great. God is good.
Let us thank him for our food…
By his hands we all are fed,
Give us Lord our daily bread, Amen.

Or maybe it was a prayer before bedtime:

Now I lay me down to sleep,…

Or a prayer you learned in Sunday School.

Jesus once taught his disciples a prayer. Luke tells us that Jesus had just finished praying when one of his disciples says to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The question seems innocent enough. But look at the reason behind the question.

“John taught his disciples how to pray. We want to be like John’s disciples. They have a prayer. We don’t. Teach us a prayer, pulleeze?”

This isn’t the first time people of God have been envious of other people. In the Old Testament, Israel takes a look at its neighbors and then a glimpse in the mirror and notices that they are different from their neighbors. All the other countries have kings.

We don’t have a king.
Everyone else has a king.
Why don’t we have a king.

We want a king.

So the elders of the people of Israel go to Samuel and demand a king.
Samuel prays. God tells Samuel not to be upset with the people and to give them what they want.

“Their request for a king is not a sign of them rejecting you,” God tells Samuel, “They are rejecting me from being king over them.”

Give us a prayer, Jesus. We want to be like John’s disciples.

Jesus teaches his disciples a prayer. The Model Prayer, we call it. Though the prayer recorded in Luke is shorter than the one from Matthew we are familiar with.

But Jesus doesn’t end with the Amen. There’s more to prayer than just words and phrases. And with a story Jesus reminds his disciples (and us) of the goodness of God.

Gordon Atkinson tells a story about early in his ministry training. He had only recently completed his Master of Divinity and was working as a hospital chaplain in a Clinical Pastoral Education program. He says of people facing death that they don’t care about “your interpretation of 2 Timothy. Some take the ‘bloodied, but unbowed’ road, but most dying people want to pray with the chaplain. And they don’t want wimpy prayers, either. They don’t want you to pray that God’s will be done.

“NO! People want you to get down and dirty with them. They want to call down angels and the powers of the Almighty. THEY ARE DYING and the whole world should stop.
“”I threw myself into it,” my friend writes. “I prayed holding hands and cradling heads. I prayed with children and with old men. I prayed with a man who lost his tongue to cancer. I lent him mine. I prayed my (butt) off. ..”
“I started noticing something. When the doctors said someone was going to die, they did. When they said 10 percent chance of survival, about nine out of ten died. The odds ran pretty much as predicted by physicians. I mean, was this praying doing ANYTHING?
“I’m sophisticated enough to understand the value of human contact, but prayer is supposed to affect the outcome, right?
And my faith started to falter.
“Then I met Jenny.
“Thirty something. Cute. New mother of two little kids. Breast cancer. Found it too late. Spread all over. Absolutely going to die.
“Jenny had only one request.’I know I’m going to die, chaplain. I need time to finish this. It’s for my kids. Pray with me that god will give me the strength to finish it.’
“She showed me the needlepoint pillow she was making for her children. It was an ‘alphabet blocks and apples’ kind of thing. She knew she would not be there for them. Would not drop them off at kindergarten, would not see baseball games…No weddings, no grandkids. Nothing.
“She had this fantasy that her children would cherish this thing- sleep with it, snuggle it. Someday it might be lovingly put on display at her daughter’s wedding. Perhaps there would be a moment of slince. Some part of her would be there.
“I was totally hooked. We prayed. We believed. Jesus, this was the kind of prayer you could believe in…
“A couple of days later I went in to see her only to find the room filed with doctors and nurses. She was having violent convulsions and terrible pain. I watched while she died hard. Real hard.”
“As the door shut, the last thing I saw was the unfinished needlepoint lying on the floor.

We’ve all been there- haven’t we? We have stood in that hospital room. We have sat anxious at the bedside of a loved one praying and longing… longing for the miracle that would never come. We’ve had the C-Word “Cancer” spoken over our own bodies and have asked God why. We have family members who have lost jobs. We have watched helplessly as our lifesavings has shriveled up these past few months. Our nest egg has lost 40, 50, even 60 percent or more and we feel so helpless.
“Please God, take this pain from me.”
“Please God taken this sickness from me.”
“Please God, take this uncertainty from me.”

Even our Lord prayed that God would “take this cup from me.”

But God isn’t Santa Claus to whom we can come with our long list of wants. Have you been a good boy this year?

God isn’t a genie who grants our wishes. There is not a magical book of phrases we can turn to that we might get God to do what we want.
This isn’t about us in any way at all.
It isn’t so much about the words we pray. No. It is more about the character of the one to whom we pray.
In C. S. Lewis’ classic tale, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Beavers are describing the great lion, Aslan, to the children.
Mr. Beaver says, “You’ll understand when you see him.”
“But shall we see him?” asked Susan.
“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.
“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”

Times are tough. Life is not safe.
But the king is good.
God is good all the time.

And all the time God is good. Amen.


About Dave

My name is Dave Hawes. Originally from Virginia, I have called western North Carolina home since graduating Gardner-Webb University where I met my wife, Vanessa. I continued my studies at Gardner-Webb graduating in 2002 with my M.Div. I am a husband, minister, outdoor lover, writer, actor and child of God. I like to look for God in unexpected places. An avid hiker and backpacker, I like to think of the Christian life like life on the trail: one step at a time. Who knows who you'll meet along the way. Let's hit the trail!
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