Teach us to pray #LukeActs2014

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1, NRSV)

I was reading John Stott’s book on preaching this morning. In it, he describes what he sees at the four-fold task of a pastor – feeding, guiding, guarding, and healing.

I’ve also been reading Luke-Acts as part of Bishop Ken Carter’s invitation to all United Methodists to spend a year with those two books. As I turned to Luke 11, after reading Stott’s book, it struck me that prayer touches all four or those tasks.

Prayer feeds the people of God. It guides them. It guards them from attack. It heals them. Praying and teaching people to pray is fundamental to the pastoral vocation.

So, that leads me to a question. How do we do that? How do you do that? What ways have you taught people to pray? What ways have others taught you?

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3 thoughts on “Teach us to pray #LukeActs2014

  1. I have spent a considerable amount of time praying about the best way to teach others to pray. As a retired pastor, I felt called to serve the congregation I have been attending since I retired through prayer. For several years, I would go over to the church on Saturday mornings and “prayer walk” around the building. I would pray for the people who would be sitting in the pews, leading worship, attending Sunday School etc. Certainly, I would pray for the congregation during the week, but prayer walking became part of my routine. After some time of doing this, I began to realize that it was not enough. I needed to find ways to help others learn to pray too.

    Suddenly, one day, during my morning devotional–a metaphorical light bulb went on in my brain. It seemed perfectly logical that the best way to teach others to pray was to use Jesus’ method and Jesus’ words. The Lord’s Prayer seemed to be the key for me.

    Normally as a pastor, my first inclination would be to preach a sermon or a sermon series on The Lord’s Prayer. But as a retired pastor, that avenue was not open. I also didn’t want to simply teach a class on prayer or The Lord’s Prayer. I wanted people to EXPERIENCE praying.

    So, I puzzled and prayed over how to do this. I met with the associate pastor of the church and we began discussing ways to develop the prayer ministries of the church. We met with a few other people and tossed some ideas around; but nothing seemed to be jelling. Then, I had a “brain storm”, or revelation, or insight… I wanted to set up a prayer walk in the church on the second floor of our new worship center (an area used for Sunday School and small groups). Six rooms would each represent a petition of The Lord’s Prayer. People could enter the room, and there would be various active ways to engage in meditation about each petition. It was framed somewhat like the stations of the cross. An artist in the church painted a picture of each petition, and the painting was place on the outside of the door. Then with the help of a team of creative artists (about 10 of us) we each chose a petition to be responsible for. We set up 6 meditation rooms. The first room (Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name) was pretty dark, but a “star machine” lit it up like heaven. Florescent paint was used to write various names of God (Abba, Father, Daddy) on poster boards and these were taped to the ceiling. Pieces of yarn were hung from the ceiling and people were invited to write their name on a 3 by 5 card and clip it to the yarn. Then they were asked to pray for others who had written their names on the cards..

    Each room was unique. We invited people to draw their image of the Kingdom of God on a quilt square in the second room, and later a woman in the church pieced the quilt together (it is now hung like a banner in the hallway). I wasn’t in charge of this project anymore. It was a creative community effort. Many hands and hearts worked together to create a space for prayer and meditation. Then, during Holy Week, we opened up the meditation space to the congregation to come and go as they pleased. About 300 people came by that week.

    Later, I did actually teach a few small groups on The Lord’s Prayer. We used a study book by John Ortberg entitled, “Praying With Power–The Lord’s Prayer”, and I supplemented that reading with works by NT Wright and Will Willimon. I was pleased that these efforts bore some tangible fruit. In fact, I was surprised to learn that a new, vital ministry of the church was sparked by these classes. It was something I couldn’t plan, but something for which I am grateful.

    So I think my answer is that we need to model prayer for our congregation. Pastors need to pray so others begin to ask, “Teach me to pray.” Then we need to take up the challenge. For me, The Lord’s Prayer was the ideal starting point to engage my congregation in prayer with Jesus.

  2. Just a note….as the creative team was developing this idea we discovered that the children’s ministry was focusing on teaching The Lord’s Prayer to the 1st -5th graders of the church during Lent. So we quickly began to collaborate with the children’s department. Children worked with their small groups and drew pictures to illustrate one of the petitions. Then as people entered the prayer area on the second floor, they walked past an art display of the children’s work. That became an important part of our meditation area. We also developed a prayer guide for families to pray together as they went on the “Walk Through The Lord’s Prayer”. The children’s art display was not my idea at all, but it was God’s hand at work.

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