Jesus taught all of His disciples, including modern-day followers of Christ, that prayer is about fellowshipping with God through praise and supplication, without the desire to be seen or noticed by people.
Throughout the Gospels, we see the example of Jesus’ prayer life. We see a general idea of how long He prayed, how often He prayed, how He prayed, and even how He taught us to pray.
I have already covered in another article the prayer life of Jesus, so in this article, we are going to cover how Jesus taught all of His disciples, including us, how to pray.
There are many passages throughout the four Gospels that reveal what Jesus taught about prayer, but the best passage is without a doubt Matthew chapter 6.
In this chapter, Jesus first explains how not to pray, and then He gives all of His followers a template on how we should pray.
First, Jesus tells us that we should not do two things when we pray: (1) we shouldn’t pray to be noticed by people, and (2) we shouldn’t use vain repetitions thinking that we will be heard by God.
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words (Matthew 6:5-7).
In other words, Jesus is trying to explain to His disciples that prayer is primarily about intimacy and fellowship with God and that it should never be about us being seen by others as “holy”, or about how long or how great your prayers can be. (Related article: Dwelling in the Secret Place: What it is and How to do it).
When we have a true sincere relationship with a person, we develop that relationship because we desire to. We want to spend time with that person because we enjoy it. We don’t spend time with a true friend just to be seen by others as cool or important.
This is exactly what God desires with us. He wants us to spend time with Him in prayer because we want to and because we enjoy the time we share with Him.
After Jesus teaches on how not to pray, He immediately goes into how we should pray. And when He explains how we should pray, He decides to give us a template of what prayer should look like.
“In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts. As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation. But deliver us from the evil one.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Notice first that Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore, pray.”
By saying this, it reveals that this prayer is meant to be a way in which we pray, not a word for word prayer that we vainly recite. Because remember, Jesus just told us a few verses ago that we shouldn’t pray with vain repetitions.
Instead, this prayer is meant to be a template and a guide on how we should pray.
After He says this, Jesus then tells the disciples that we should start our time of prayer with worship and praise. That is what was meant when He said, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed (Holy) is Your name” (v.9).
After worship and praise, Jesus tells us that we should pray for God’s kingdom and will to be done on earth. This is what is called intercession, because we are intereceding on behalf of others by praying for God’s will to be done in the world and in their lives (v.10).
After the prayer and intercession for God’s will to be done on the earth, Jesus tells us to then pray for our own needs. Natural needs and spiritual needs (v.11-13).
Finally, at the very end, Jesus tells us to end our time just like we started it; in praise and worship. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (v.13).
So, in short Jesus taught His disciples through this template, that our prayer times should consist of four basic stages:
- Praise and worship
- Praying for our own needs
- Praise and worship
And it’s important to remember that this prayer is only a template and a guide to our prayer lives. We can deviate from it because prayer is about relationship with God, but as a general rule it is a great way to have a fruitful prayer life.
Why did the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray because they noticed the importance and priority prayer had in His life, and they took note that Christ’s prayer life was, in many ways, the source of His holiness and power.
Lets put ourselves in the disciples shoes for a moment and try to imagine what it was like walking with Jesus.
You start your day by waking up in the morning wondering where Christ went, only to find out that He was awake for hours praying (Mark 1:35).
You walk into a town with Him and you physically watch Him heal all of the sick and demon possessed people in the town, without fail. (Matthew 4:23-24)
You then watch Him teach all day with profound truths and you watch Him respond to the Pharisee’s with wisdom that confounds them.
And the one thing you notice throughout the day is His consistency in His prayer life. You notice that He is departing often from the crowds, and even from you, to pray. (Luke 5:16)
You notice that He is waking up early and staying up late, even after a long day of ministry, just so He could pray. Sometimes only getting a few hours of sleep just so He could be with God. [Related article: How long/often should Christians pray? (Biblical Answer)]
And you even pieced together the fact that after He prays longer than normal (i.e when He prayed all night), people simply touch Him and they get healed. (Luke 6:12-19)
After seeing all of this, the only logical conclusion is that “my Master and Teacher is One with God and clearly has power with God, and His prayer life obviously has a lot to do with it. I need to ask Him to teach me how to pray”
Why did Jesus teach the disciples the Lord’s prayer?
Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s prayer because he wanted to give His disciples (including us) a template on how we can spend time with God in secret prayer.
As mentioned above, in the first section, the Lords prayer is not meant to be a recited prayer that we say multiple times per day.
The reason I know this is because moments before Jesus gives us the Lord’s prayer, He explains that we should not pray with vain repetition, but that we should pray from the heart and in faith, believing that God has heard us the first time that we speak.
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).
Instead, Jesus gives us the Lord’s prayer as a template and a guide for us to have so that we could develop a beneficial prayer life. One that has intimacy and a relationship with God. [Related article: How to Pray Like Jesus (For Beginners)]
And the reason we know that the Lord’s prayer is meant to be a guide and not a recitation is because Jesus calls it a “manner” of prayer.
To be exact He says, “In this manner, therefore, pray” (Matthew 6:9).
So the Lord’s prayer is meant to be a manner, or a way, in which we pray to the Father. And Jesus taught His disciples this way of praying so that we could have a guide of what effective praying looks like.