The Submissional Life // Matt Tebbe

living in submission, leading from below, loving as mission

Learning to Pray (Part 1)

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Lk 11.1)


I want to do a series of blog posts on things we assume we know how to do…like pray, listen, worship. Today – we’ll start with prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray” – what a stunning question from the disciples. They’d been praying their whole life – probably memorized much of the Psalter and other traditional Jewish prayers. It wasn’t like they didn’t know how to pray; they did. But – they wanted to learn how to pray like Jesus from Jesus.


Do we assume we know how to pray? I was in a conversation the other day with a friend and he decried the lack of authentic prayers in the church and in his life. He was upset that we don’t hear genuine, authentic language when we approach God; rather we often hear mumbled religious phrases or our voice takes on a spiritual tone much different than our everyday speaking voice. I’m all for our hearts and minds being connected in prayer. I resonate with his groanings. Authenticity and vulnerability in prayer are a must. We can’t trust God in falsity and pretense because we aren’t really ourselves. So – this is part of it.


But…but…Jesus actually gives us words to pray whether we feel like or want to pray them or not. He doesn’t say, “Let it flow – whatever you’re thinking just talk about that. Make sure you’re honest.” Perhaps he assumes that we can’t be authentic or genuine without a training in trust. Or perhaps he assumes a right heart and genuine desire as prerequisites. I can’t say…but what we do know is that he gives us what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer” – very simple, very profound:


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. 

Prayer is learning trust, but it’s also training into that trust. We are given a prayer to pray to teach us how to trust. As we submit ourselves to the Lord’s Prayer we learn trust; we are trained by the prayer on how to trust, what to trust, what trust lives like. Prayer is formational in that we must come into it as a disciple (i.e. a ‘learner’). Our posture is one of “teach me how to do this as I do this.”


How easy it is to come to prayer as just an open mic before God! Or – read through designated prayers as though God were a jeanie who needed right words said in the right way to be appeased and roused from his apathy! Prayer is a training in trust. We submit how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking to God in prayer and Jesus gives us words – simple, profound words – to do so.


As an exercise – I invite you to pray the Lord’s Prayer for 30 days. Not as “the right way to pray” or as “this will please God” or telling yourself before/during “I gotta psych myself up to feel/think this stuff before I say it.” No – pray it as a training in trust. As a practice of submission. As an offering your body as a living sacrifice on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. As a declaration of how you long to desire the reality that the Father has inaugurated in his Son, Jesus.


Next post I’ll share how I pray this genuinely, authentically – how I submit to the words given but allow my real life – where I’m really living – to come through. But for now:


What is your prayer experience like? 

Do you feel more comfortable praying written prayers or are you better with extemporaneous ones?

In what ways have you found prayer to be a ‘training in trust’?

Categorized: Prayer, Small Groups, Spiritual Disciplines Tags: