“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 NKJV).
Let me preface my comments by stating that I have attended worship assemblies in the church since infancy. My father was an elder and Bible Class teacher. I have attended Christian elementary and Junior High schools, as well as Christian universities. I have also served as minister, evangelist, and missionary for almost 50 years. Given that background, perhaps it is understandable that it sometimes surprises me what some people – those younger, the “unchurched,” or even casual believers – do not know about God, Jesus, and the Bible.
Having prayed regularly, both privately and publicly, for decades, it seems somewhat odd for someone to say, “I don’t know how to pray.” What is so difficult about telling God that you admire him, love him, and need for him to grant you blessings? Yet, when I stop and think about it, I realize that there is much in that activity that is intimidating. Just how does one address the Creator of all things, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal? Is there a protocol of address, similar to that which applies to human royalty and rulers? It seems logical that there would be, so we fear that we might violate some rule of which we are ignorant.
When Jesus’ disciple asked for a lesson in prayer, he had just witnessed his master deeply engaged in that very act. He knew of prayer from John’s example, but now he sees and hears someone far greater than John. I cannot imagine how impressive it must have been to watch the incarnate Son speaking intimately with his Heavenly Father. No wonder the student wanted more instructions. Could we not interpret his request as “Jesus, please teach me how to talk to God the way you do?” Would we not all enjoy and benefit from such a lesson?
As I work in nations where the gospel has been preached only in recent years and among people who have only just come to know the name of Jesus, I realize how powerful the example of a mature Christian can be to them. No, I am certainly not Jesus, nor are the other missionaries and evangelists whom they may come to know. But our experience with Scripture and in following Christ is longer and deeper than theirs. By God’s grace we have done more and drawn closer to him than they have yet had opportunity to come.
When they see me, or others like me, pray, study, preach, or simply make spiritual decisions, they may well feel the need to request that we teach them to do what they see us do. Whether we call that mentoring, being an example, or just teaching, it is a vital part of our ministry to a lost world, and to younger churches.
Paul acknowledged that role and accepted it for himself: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Again, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
He also commanded the young preacher Timothy to use this principle as a methodology for evangelism. “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
All of us share a two-way obligation. First, we must be open to opportunities to learn from those more knowledgeable and mature than ourselves. Secondly, we must be willing to teach those who are less mature. We are both teachers and students. And we are blessed in both roles.
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