Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation." (Luke 11:1-3, ESV)
Such familiar words ... and so many thoughts behind them. While these might not have been the best educated of men, they were "good Jews" from their youth and they certainly had said their prayers since they were old enough to talk. Yet, here they are asking the question of their Master and it should give us pause to think. Just why did they choose this time in their relationship to ask Him that question?
I asked my Sunday School class about this today. We talked about how long they had been together (we speculated somewhere around a year or so) and what they had seen. In Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, he offered that they had seen something in Jesus that was different. We discussed the authority and power with which Jesus prayed - direct prayer for people that resulted in lives being changed. And, it made us think a bit about our approach to prayer.
In James (specifically 4:3), the brother of our Lord says the believers of his day didn't see results from their prayer because they asked the wrong way for the wrong reasons. We discussed this a bit in terms of treating God as some "cosmic slot machine" or a "genie" of some sort. But it is more than just "asking the right way". It extends to our hearts as we approach God's throne.
Foster says, "Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of spiritual life." I think that really meshes well with the thoughts we've shared in class and on this forum regarding meditation (having our hearts in the right place to be able to hear God when He speaks) and silence/solitude (putting ourselves physically in a place away from the noise of life so we are more apt to hear God when he speaks). Prayer, in this frame of mind, is a natural extension of our hearts as we commune with God.
The Crooked Path is varied. It brings so many different things into my experience, all of which are seen by God. He wants me to seek him diligently and deepen my relationship with Him. This is more than mere "talking to God" - it is an active practice of moving closer to Him. In choosing to do that, I need to echo the words of that disciple quoted in Luke ... "Lord, teach me to pray."