Often Jesus prayed aloud. There are numerous examples of this in the gospels, so many that we have come to think that He invariably prayed aloud, not only when the Greeks came to meet Him, or in the Upper Room, or in the Garden, or on the Cross. This is one of the reasons He needed to get away from the apostles early in the morning, that His praying did not disturb them, particularly His praying about them. So on one occasion, when He had finished praying, one of the disciples who had been listening to Him asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
What we see here is that you can ask the Lord Jesus to teach you what you need to know. He has said, “Learn of me,” and so you can say, “Teach me about discipleship or about your death on the cross or about heaven or whatever.” He will respond to you as He responded to this disciple. I’m so glad that He asked that question because in teaching him to pray, Jesus is teaching all of us.
Only Christians feels how inadequate their prayers are and they tell their Saviour their concerns, and ask that Jesus should teach them about access to God. The world doesn’t feel such helplessness, does it? It thinks it knows about prayer. The world sings, “The moment I wake up, before I put on my make-up—I say a little prayer for you.” A woman like that has no problem with praying, with knowing how to pray and what to pray for. She simply says a “little prayer.” Muslims have no problem in knowing how to pray. They are firmly instructed about when to pray, on five occasions daily, and what sentences to repeat, what direction to face when they pray, how to stand, when to put their hands on the knees, how to prostrate themselves on the floor, and so on. They are sure that they know about praying. They don’t ask Allah to teach them. They know everything about prayer. Orthodox Jews are exactly the same; they believe they have been given details of every aspect of prayer. They are masters of praying. Tibetan Buddhist monks are the same. The one thing that characterizes every religion in the world is that they think they know what prayer is.
With Christians it is totally different. We are humbled if we’re asked about our praying. We often feel that we don’t know what to pray for as we ought and we find ourselves saying to God what an old minister said in my hearing on Friday morning, “Teach us to pray”, because for us, prayer is impotence grasping at Omnipotence. It is the adoration of a being of unsurpassable glory and greatness, and yet it is talking to Him who has become our heavenly Father, and it is as real as talking to our own parents or our husbands and wives, or to our children. But the reality is that He is the personal infinite God, so holy and great, while we are so insignificant and bad. How are we to communicate with Him? it cannot be by repeating some phrases over and over again, day by day. Imagine talking to your wife or parents in repetitive robotic phrases! That is precisely what Jesus warns us about in His references to “vain repetitions.” Millions have never learned that.
You need to go to Jehovah Jesus with deep longing and say to Him, “Teach me to pray.” Have you done that? Have you learned from Jesus what prayer is? There was a man who lived until he was 73 and every night for almost 70 years, he would repeat at the close of the day a little verse about laying his head down to sleep. That was his only attempt to connect with God. But then God began to deal with him, and the man heard the gospel and came under conviction of his need of Christ. It was then he learned that while he’d repeated a prayer for decades, he had never prayed at all. How many are like that? Don’t we need to go to Jesus and say to Him, “Lord, teach me to pray?”
– Geoff Thomas