Another time Jesus was praying, and when He finished, one of His disciples approached Him.
Disciple: Teacher, would You teach us Your way of prayer? John taught his disciples his way of prayer, and we’re hoping You’ll do the same.
Luke 11:1 The Voice (VOICE)
I can imagine the yearning in the disciples’ hearts to enter into the close communion with God that they could see their Master had, and how far away they felt they were from it. It is the yearning of every disciple’s heart to have close communion with the Lord, hence the request: “Teach us your way of prayer.”
What was Jesus’ way of prayer? He certainly gave a number of instructions to his followers on that topic: praying in private, not ostentatiously so as to be seen by people (Mat 6 v 6); not using a superfluity of words to try and impress God (Mat 6 v 7); believing that we have received what we are asking for in prayer (Mark 11 v 24); making sure we forgive others, so that God may forgive us (Mark 11 v 25).
He gave us the Lord’s prayer, which can be used as a framework, or recited as a prayer itself. And he thoroughly modelled devotion to prayer before his disciples, rising while it was still dark and going off to solitary places to pray.
So, as a disciple yearning for close communion with God, how do I pray? How do I learn and follow the Lord Jesus’ way of prayer?
I have read many books written by or about great saints of God, and marvelled at their deep lives of prayer, their sensitivity and closeness to the Holy Spirit, and the amazing works that God has done or is still doing through them.
Having tried for many years to put the principles they espouse into practice, I have come to the conclusion that within the framework of Scripture’s instructions, one person’s way of prayer will never be exactly the same as another’s, because we are all different, all unique, and we relate to God differently.
Some people can commune deeply with God while lying on their beds. Others (and I fall into this category) need to lock themselves away in a room where they can kneel, walk around, praise, pray or even weep without fear of disturbing or being disturbed.
We hit a period in our house when it was so full that it was difficult for me to find that space. The only room not normally occupied by people was cluttered with suitcases, files, old Christmas decorations and goodness knows what else, and clearing it out was not an option at the time. But God had reiterated to me the importance of guarding my time with him above all else. I went in there, shoved things about and created a prayer space in it for myself – now I could close the door and meet with my unseen Father in secret.
So for me the first and most important lesson in Jesus’ way of prayer is that he put it above and before everything. I cannot reproduce the lives and works of the great saints I have read about, because I am not them. But I can make creating time and space to commune with my heavenly Father a priority, and then trust Him to do through me whatever seems pleasing to Him.
Modupe Omideyi is CEO of Liverpool Lighthouse, an urban gospel arts and community centre in Liverpool, and co-pastors Temple of Praise with her husband.