As worshippers of God, we love, honour and depend on him and express this as we pray - individually and together in community.
We pray as an impromptu response to needs and opportunities. We pray for others and we offer prayer as one way of serving others around us.
As we pray we recognise that God is the orchestrator of mission in his world, and he is our source of power and strength.
When we read about the life of Jesus, in the bible, there are many wonderful things that he did and said. But it is easy to overlook something very important which crops up here and there, as a one-liner before or after another story... something like this:
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked....
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him, and went up onto a mountain to pray
You get the idea! No wonder then that it gets to the point where we read this:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray...'
They had clearly been watching what he was doing, and realised there was something different about the way he prayed.
It wasn't like the disciples had never prayed before. And they would have seen many other people praying too, over the years, as they had lived in those Jewish communities... but there was something about the way that Jesus prayed that made them think - we really haven't cracked this at all! Something about the way he prayed, and the things he prayed for.
And so they ask him to teach them and he gives them a kind of agenda for prayer.
Father, hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Give us each day our daily bread
Forgive us our sins
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us
And lead us not into temptation
These are the big issues a healthy prayer life should be grappling with. These are the things that matter. We often call this 'The Lord's Prayer' and recite it, which is good, but it was meant for more than that. It's an agenda for prayer as we think about God, our world, and our lives. This is something we have talked about in Urban Life before, and one way of working with this agenda is to pray through it, bit by bit, bouncing off each phrase and talk to God about each one.
We can also learn about prayer in other passages of the bible. So we looked at Matthew 6. We looked at some of Paul's prayers in Philippians 1 and Ephesians 1. We looked at the early church in Acts 4. And we looked at Jesus's Parable of the Persistent Widow, where he teaches us to always be praying and never give up.
Prayer is so important for us. It is part of our relationship to God himself. It is an expression of how much we need him, and so it is really worth spending time thinking through how we approach him, and how we make space, like Jesus Christ himself did, to spend time with him.
Exactly when and where is not prescribed for us. But the need to make space in our lives to pray to our Father in Heaven, is very clear. Sometimes we do this together, praying in our meetings, praying with another as they tell us about a need, but aswell as these times, we also make space to get alone with God.
This prayer thing is not just some kind of dry rule - just a routine we have to have - no, it's really good for us. Time spent with the Father in this way, strengthens us and empowers us to go and live our lives with more joy, more peace, and more purpose. We get in line with what the Holy Spirit is doing in his world, and we bring blessing to those around us as we pray for them and with them.
Without it, we are like two friends who claim to be close but never talk, or like a couple who say they love each other but never spend any time engaging together.
I think lots of us have experienced the fact that when we do make the time after a dry spell, we come back wondering why we left it so long. And when we regularly make space in our lives for this, we are clearer, happier, more centred and better people! Honestly - it's a privilege and a source of joy to us as we connect in this way. Let's make space to pray!
Father we come to you and ask that you will keep us dependent on you.
Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.
Spirit fill us and guide our prayers. May we always be ready to turn to you as a natural instinct as we face all that comes our way each day, and live it all for you.