"When Reuel prays, I feel like I am in the very throne room of heaven, witnessing a conversation with someone who knows God personally and has a holy comfortableness in his presence."
More than a few people shared these sentiments about an older friend and legend named Reuel. We tried to analyze what it was that made us feel this way. The words he chose were often startling in their simplicity, the voice he had was raspy and whiny, and the subjects he chose were not mind-boggling. Yet, there was a palpable sense that God heard him better than the rest of us. When Reuel prayed, he prayed "as one speaks to a friend." (Exodus 33:11).
Jesus prayed such prayers. Some were brief exclamations as he confronted difficult situations (John 11:40-41) or was blessed by something that happened (Luke 10:21). Other times, the Lord could pray all night (Luke 6:12) or pray for hours on end (Mark 14:32-42). Jesus' closest followers all knew of his prayer life — something he regularly did, early in the morning before daylight (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). His prayer time and place were so predictable that Judas could use this daily discipline to find the Lord in the Mount of Olives to betray him (Luke 22:39).
When Jesus wanted to teach his closest followers to pray, he shared the heart of prayer. It was prayer tuned to the music of God's nature and grace:
[Jesus taught his disciples,]"This, then, is how you should pray:
"'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'"
Jesus made two of his primary concerns for prayer clear as he taught his disciples to pray.
First, prayer is about our relationship with our Abba Father. Prayer is not about impressing other people with our piety and fancy religious talk (Matthew 6:5-6).
Second, the Lord wanted us to realize that prayer is also about sharing God's grace, not about the potency or number of our words (Matthew 6:7-8).
As Jesus shared his simple example of prayer, he revealed a third and crucial point about prayer. Jesus wanted our prayer life to be tuned to him, his teaching, his example, and his love for God and people. He demonstrated that prayer needed to be tuned to the two great commands:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:35-40).
After noticing Jesus' two areas of focus in his model prayer, his teaching on prayer suddenly takes on a powerful new light. We approach God as our Father (Matthew 5:6, 8, 9, 14, 15) with two sets of concerns:
|Love God||Love Neighbor|
|Your name reverenced.
Your will be done.
Your Kingdom come.
|Give us our daily food.
Forgive us our sins.
Deliver us from temptation.
These two key concerns also frame the Lord's model prayer. Jesus' words preceding his model prayer focused on pleasing God (Matthew 6:5-8), and his words at the end of his model prayer remind us to bless and forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15).
Jesus' concern, the Lord's holy passion, was to help his followers know what is most is central and most essential to living a life that honors God. Becoming JesuShaped is about honoring God and blessing others. It is about reflecting the holy character and undying compassion of our Father in heaven. It is about living a God-touched life of holiness that connects and touches those around us with our Father's grace. Throughout the Scriptures, God is described as full of faithful lovingkindness, having righteous character, and being graciously compassionate. Jesus was the demonstration of this kind of life. He calls us to follow in his steps.
Jesus didn't just teach these two truths about loving God and loving others; he also demonstrated them. Jesus gave us "The Lord's Prayer" to draw us back to the heart of God and align us with God's will for us. Learning to pray this kind of prayer is necessary as we seek to be JesuShaped!
In our often individualistic and isolated world, prayer is our gritty reminder of our twin areas of relationship. Living a JesuShaped life is about a personal connection to our holy God as our Abba Father. It is also about our necessary and vital link to others around us as we share this faith in our spiritual family and before a watching world.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
What role does prayer play in your life — is it a daily thing, a weekly thing, or a random thing?
What do you wish you knew more about prayer?
Why do you think Jesus stressed simplicity in our prayer life?
How does Jesus' concern for honoring God and living with others help you pray more balanced prayers?