“Now it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, that one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples'” (Luke 11:1).
Isaac from Africa writes to ask that we pray for his son who is suffering from critical, life-threatening illness. Another writes desiring that “anyone who knows how to pray” please remember his situation before God. The need and desire for prayer is universal and great. The feeling of inadequacy in prayer is also almost universal, and almost equally great.
Paul teaches us that any feelings of inadequacy, or fears that we may pray incorrectly, are completely unnecessary.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
What a wonderful promise! It is acknowledged that we do not know how to pray. We are human, weak, imperfect. God is divine, eternal, holy, all-wise and all-just. We are unworthy to approach him, even to speak with him. The truth is that it is not just the new or weak believer who is inadequate in prayer. It is not the less educated, the non-theological thinker only who does not know the right things to say. No human can pray “well enough” to be acceptable to God. But no one has to. God has provided an interpreter who knows all the right words. He has us covered.
Not only do we have an interpreter to straighten out our prayers. We also have an advocate or intercessor who opens the lines between us and God, making it possible for those prayers to enter his presence.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The function of the priest under the Old Covenant was to speak for the people to God. He offered their sacrifices, mediated their worship, and represented them before the Creator. In the New Testament system, Jesus is our eternal Priest. He is both sacrifice and the priest, providing the means and the method of sanctification from sin. Because of him we are no longer imperfect and unholy. We can approach God boldly, without shame or fear. No one who is in Christ is any longer unworthy or unable to pray. We may boldly approach the throne of grace. God is always ready to hear and answer us.
Jesus promises, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7), even when we don’t really know how to ask, or for what. God has that all taken care of.