Luke 11:1
One day in a place where Jesus had just finished praying, one of His disciples requested, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
A Prayer About PrayerT. R. Stevenson.Luke 11:1
Acceptable Prayer, the Gift of ChristJ. Jowett, M. A.Luke 11:1
Barrenness in PrayerBishop Boyd Carpenter.Luke 11:1
Christ the Teacher of PrayerB. Beddome, M. A.Luke 11:1
Desire and PrayerD. Davies, D. D.Luke 11:1
Forms of PrayerJ. N. Norton, D. D.Luke 11:1
Forms of PrayerD. Moore, M. A.Luke 11:1
Forms of Private PrayerJ. H. Newman, D. D.Luke 11:1
Giving God His Own in PrayerArchdeacon King.Luke 11:1
How to PrayLuke 11:1
How to PrayAlexander MaclarenLuke 11:1
InfluenceDr. W. Graham.Luke 11:1
Jesus the Teacher of PrayerDr. Stanford., Dr. Stanford.Luke 11:1
Lord, Teach Us to PrayW. H. Lewis, D. D.Luke 11:1
PrayerJohn Whitty.Luke 11:1
PrayerJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 11:1
Prayer Necessary to Maintain the Spiritual LifeT. Guthrie, D. D.Luke 11:1
Praying from a CopyArchdeacon King.Luke 11:1
Teach Us to PrayW . B. Wright.Luke 11:1
The Abridgment of the Whole GospelArchdeacon King.Luke 11:1
The Christian Taught to PrayG. Bradley, M. A.Luke 11:1
The Difficulty of True PrayerEd. Coleridge's Table Talk.Luke 11:1
The Disciples' RequestT. Kidd.Luke 11:1
The Influence of Devout Example, EtcW. Clarkson Luke 11:1
The Instructions of the Bible as to the Matter and Manner of PrayerG. Spring, D. D.Luke 11:1
The Lord's Prayer Little, Yes GreatArchdeacon King.Luke 11:1
The Lord's Prayer PerfectWilliam Gouge.Luke 11:1
The Parts of the Lord's PrayerArchdeacon King.Luke 11:1
The Praying ChristA. Maclaren, D. D.Luke 11:1
The Rule of Direction in PrayerT. Boston, D. D.Luke 11:1
Thought in PrayerP. Brookes.Luke 11:1
Lessons on PrayerR.M. Edgar Luke 11:1-13

The fact which is stated in the first verse of this chapter suggests -

I. THE INFLUENCE OF A DEVOUT EXAMPLE. "As he was praying.., one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray." It was the sight of his Master in the act of prayer which prompted this disciple to make his request. Thus devotion in him begat devotion in them. All actions, good and bad, are contagious. Bad actions entice the evil, and good ones attract and inspire the holy and the pure. An oath is an encouragement to the profane, a prayer is an incentive to the devout. Only infinite wisdom can tell whether we produce the greater effect by the unconscious influence of our life, or by the result of direct, verbal persuasion. But we can all see that they go well together; that persuasion to piety with the drawback of a prayerless life would be of very small account. But to be a man of prayer, to be (without ostentation) known to be such, to be evidently "at home" with God, to be felt to be one that continually seeks Divine guidance in the daily conduct of life, - this is to be influential for good. it is to be saying in the most effective way," It is good for me to draw near to God," and indeed to be saying most forcibly also, "It is good for you to draw near to God." The man of sustained piety, of devout habits which he never lays down, who compels men to feel that in his view God is not to be forgotten or his service relegated to the second place, is a power for good; he is living a truth of vital consequence, he is a blessing to the society in which he moves.


1. Not to instruct in sacred truth, high as that is, enlightening the mind on the greatest of all subjects.

2. Not even to cause disciples to meditate on their spiritual condition, and to consider how they are themselves affected by the truth they have learned.

3. But to lead to God in direct and immediate devotion: the teacher or religious friend who helps another to unburden his heart in prayer to God, to pour out his spirit in submission or in dedication to the Divine Savior, is rendering the highest possible service one human being can render to another.

III. THE OFFICE OF THE DIVINE TEACHER. This is not only or chiefly to instruct or to cause us to inquire, but rather to lead us to God in direct, spiritual communion. This Jesus does by:

1. Opening the way to God; becoming the one and only Mediator between God and man, through whom we have constant and perfect access to the Holiest One.

2. Showing us the efficacy of prayer; and this he does

(1) by his own most strong and satisfying assertion (vers. 9-13); and

(2) by revealing God to us as a Father who distinguishes each one of his children from all others, earnestly desires the return of each absent child, and purposes to renew and transform every son and daughter into his own likeness. Such a Father could not but listen and respond when his children cry to him.

3. Giving to us a deep sense of the need of prayer; and this he does by his own example, and also by his teaching. In this he so impresses us with the value of each human soul, with the sinfulness of sin, with the possibilities of spiritual worth and sacred usefulness, and with the grand opening for the faithful soul in the higher spheres beyond, that we are impelled to come to God for his redeeming, sanctifying, strengthening grace. - C.

Lord, teach us to pray.

1. A conviction of the importance of prayer. This, in this ease, seems to have had its origin in the habits and example of Christ. He prayed often and much; in sorrow, and in joy; alone, and with His disciples.

2. This request implies also some knowledge of the real nature of prayer. The disciples had heard their Master pray. They had witnessed His fervour, the seriousness, the abasement, and perhaps something of the elevation, of His spirit in His supplications, and their understandings were opened. Prayer appeared to them in a new light. Before, it was a ceremony; it was now an inward, spiritual service. They regarded it for the first time as the work of the heart, and conscious that their own hearts had hitherto been but little engaged in it, their request was, "Lord, teach us to pray." They wished their prayers to be in future of a higher and more spiritual character, and, beyond this, they scarcely knew, perhaps, their own meaning or object.

3. An impression, too. of the difficulty of prayer is plainly to be traced in the disciples' words. And this undoubtedly sprung out of their conviction of its importance, and their newly-acquired knowledge of its real nature. That which is so important must, they concluded, be done aright; and that which is so spiritual, they were conscious they could not do at all; and thus they were constrained to seek help and instruction.

4. Besides intimating a conviction of the importance, the real nature, and the difficulty of prayer, it plainly indicates also a desire for an increased ability to pray.

II. How MAY WE EXPECT SUCH A PETITION AS THIS TO BE ANSWERED? In the instance before us, it was answered at once. We owe to it the well-known prayer we call the Lord's prayer — a model of supplication, which claims at once our admiration and gratitude. But with all its excellencies it is in itself powerless. It could not teach these disciples to pray. It showed them indeed what their prayers ought to be, but it did not communicate to them the power of making their prayers like it. Our Lord well knew this. Accordingly, as soon as He had given His disciples a pattern for their supplications, we find Him immediately directing them where to go for the ability to follow it. He sends them to the Holy Spirit for the inward principle of prayer, urging them to importunity in their petitions for His grace, and assuring them at the same time that their importunity shall not be lost. How then does this Holy Spirit teach us to pray? In many ways. Among others, in these four:

1. By discovering to us our spiritual poverty; showing us our wants and helplessness, or giving us a more lively sense of them.

2. Affliction, too, is often made to answer the same gracious end.

3. At other times Christ stirs up the soul to prayer, by glving it an enlarged view of the Divine promises and goodness.

4. Sometimes the Holy Spirit carries us yet farther. He teaches us to pray by giving us clearer views of Christ as a Mediator and Intercessor. You are aware, brethren, that I might still go on. I might say, Christ teaches us to pray by much that is passing around us, by what we call accidents — events that make, perhaps, a whole parish or nation start; crushing, and crushing in an hour, the hopes and prospects and happiness that seemed almost out of the reach of decay or change. And He teaches us by deliverances, by bringing us to the edge of some precipice, and then, as our foot goes over it, snatching us away from it; showing us in the same moment our danger and our deliverance.

(G. Bradley, M. A.)


1. This was a pertinent request, considering them as dependent, needy, sinful, and dying creatures.

2. A seasonable request, as Christ had been just now praying before them, and was shortly to be taken from them.

3. A short and comprehensive request, much being contained in a few words.

4. It would also appear to have been an acceptable request, for it was immediately answered, and that in a very gracious manner.


1. A consciousness of the importance and necessity of prayer. The breath of the newborn soul. Prayer softens our affections, sweetens our enjoyments, and is the principal means of keeping up an intercourse with heaven. God approves of it, and the soul is every way benefited by

2. A sense of weakness and inability, and that this duty cannot be performed aright without Divine assistance.

3. It also implies that those who are appointed of God to instruct others, will, among other things, teach them to pray.


1. None ever prayed like Christ — so pertinently, fervently, and effectually.

2. As none ever prayed, so none ever taught like Christ.

3. It was Christ who taught John to pray, else He could not have taught His disciples. He teaches those who are teachers of others.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THIS REQUEST? Clearly it implies —

1. A conviction of the propriety of prayer.

2. It implies a sense of their need of being taught.

3. It implies a sincere desire to learn.

4. It implies something of the true spirit or disposition of prayer already possessed.

5. The request implies a high opinion of the ability and grace of Christ.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE REQUEST WAS REGARDED. We may observe, in the general, it was answered. The disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray." The Lord Jesus did teach them.

1. By convincing us more clearly of the necessity of prayer,

2. By giving us more impressive views of our wants.

3. By strengthening our faith in Divine promises.

4. By instructing us in the great utility of His own mediation.

5. By increasing our pleasure and delight in the duty.

(T. Kidd.)

After listening to a fervent prayer we sometimes say, "We wish we could pray like the person who has offered it"; how much more should we have thus wished, if we had heard Jesus Christ pray! No doubt His manner was very impressive, sincere, fervent, reverent.

1. "Lord, teach us to pray," because we are ignorant in asking. St. Paul says, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought." A consciousness of inability to pray aright grows with a Christian's growth.

2. Again, a sense of our sinfulness, as well as of our ignorance, should cause us to offer the petition in our text. Who does not feel at times as if it was a wonder of mercy that God does not cut us down in anger, even while in the act of praying, so miserable and defective are our purest offerings! What a gift of prayer would it be if our God would enable us always to delight in the duty, restrain every wandering thought, and fix our whole soul in sweet and full communion with Him! Can you think of many things more desirable in this world, Christians, than the perfect spirit of prayer? If we could enjoy always as much as we do in our happiest devotional seasons, that would be a blessed privilege; but, alas! our happy seasons are few and far between, and even in them "there was much imperfection. "Lord, teach us to pray."

3. To make us prevalent in prayer, we have need also to offer the petition in our text. We might have unnumbered mercies more than we do enjoy if we prayed for them aright. There are favours in God's right hand for ourselves, our children, our friends, and fellow-creatures, the bestowal of which is suspended on our faithfulness in asking. Here is more than life, here is eternal welfare resting on our prayers to God.

4. And who can so well teach us how to pray as that blessed Saviour to whom the request of our text was addressed! Prayer was His frequent work on earth, intercession is His employ in heaven. He knows what pleas will prevail with God, and He can put them into our hearts and order them aright upon our tongues.

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

1. It would be difficult, I think impossible, to prove that our Lord ever commanded His disciples to pray. He always assumes that they pray; teaches them plainly that unless they pray they cannot do what they must do. He moved His disciples to pray, not by telling them to do so, but by exciting in them desires which compelled them to supplication. You cannot pray by direct force of resolution. You must put yourself under conditions which will inspire desire for communion with God.(1) Because for most men it is hard to pray, and easy to pretend, we are warned against that easily besetting sin. The hypocrites wanted of the king only to be seen in his company. They stood at his door that they might be mistaken for his friends. The same temptation assails us at all times, and is acutely dangerous now. It is insidious as malaria.(2) Most of us say grace before our meals. If we realize who feeds us, we cannot help doing so, unless we are brutes. Most of us have family worship. If we are alert to spiritual facts, it will be more natural to omit our meals than our devotions. But what are the motives we often hear unblushingly advanced for continuing these spiritual exercises? The children will be surprised if they do not hear grace at table I For the sake of the example upon them, daily prayers must be inexorably maintained! But is it permitted to pray that we may be seen of children, and forbidden to pray that .we may be seen of men? The "closet" is the cure for hypocrisy in prayer.

2. When we pray, we are forbidden to use vain repetitions as the heathen do. There are men, good men, men meaning to be honest, who think their prayers must be right if couched in Scriptural phrases. Many say prayers every night and morning, who never pray except when they are scared. Repeating David's or Isaiah's petitions, or even our Lord's Prayer, is not necessarily praying because we do it on our knees. Saying over even the Lord's Prayer is for us a vain repetition until we so understand its meaning and so sympathize with its spirit that the words express our real desires. For "vain repetitions" are simply "empty phrases," sayings which do not express what we really mean. The cure for this habit of making vain repetition lies in creating right desires. We must learn to know what we need, and to desire that. Therefore we are told —

3. When we pray, to pray after this manner. The prayer tells us what we need, but rarely crave. If we were sure that one wish, and one only, would be granted us this day for the asking, would that wish be the petition which stands first in the Lord's Prayer?(1) We shall not pray effectively until we pray according to the mind of God.(2) Few of us do greatly desire the things God desires for us.(3) We need such a change of heart as shall make us crave what God declares we need. And this is only another way of saying —

(a)That we cannot pray effectually until we can sincerely pray in the manner of our Lord's Prayer,

(b)That few of us can yet do that.

(c)That we need to learn to do so.

(W . B. Wright.)

There are, no doubt, many who have experienced at times an intense dissatisfaction with their prayers. They seem so lame, so cold, so profitless, till you are inclined to exclaim, "What a weariness, what a mockery it is!" You are constantly disappointed with yourselves. The heart that seemed so full has run empty ere you reached your knees. You have nothing to say; all your thoughts have fled from you; and the intense longing comes across your heart that some one would teach you how to pray. I do not pretend to supply the want here indicated; but I wish to touch upon some of the causes of this trying sense of barrenness in prayer.

I. SELF-CONCEIT. We are very slow to learn the lesson of our own inability. We feel at some time, perhaps, that our hearts are prompted by an earnest desire to pray. We grow keenly alive for the moment to our own wants; but when we attempt to pray, we find the edge of that sense of need is gone. The heart appeared full, but when we knelt we found it empty. Vexed and disappointed, we murmur at our privation, but are too blind to see its cause. We cannot see that our own self-conceit lies at the root of our failure. We thought we could do it of ourselves — we anticipated rich heart communion; but we were miserably mistaken, because we did not realize that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our whole sufficiency is of God. We need, then, to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the very dawn of spiritual light, the very threshold of prayer.

II. SELF-IGNORANCE. They tell God that they have sinned, that they have grievously broken His commandments; they ask God to give them true repentance, and to forgive them for Jesus Christ's sake. Such a prayer might be from a certain heart a true and noble expression of spiritual longing; but with the persons alluded to this prayer is the stereotyped plate from which all their prayers for themselves, morning and evening, are struck off. With very little variation, and in the most conventional way — though, perhaps, with very real desire — they confess that they are sinners, unworthy and polluted, but there is not the confession of a single definite sin, or if there is, it is perhaps the result of some very rare circumstance which has impressed some special transgression more vividly upon their minds. To realize our sinfulness, we must adopt a more particular mode of dealing with our own hearts, taking them to task; recalling each special sin, and confessing it before God.

III. SELFISHNESS IN PRAYER. By this I mean that spirit in prayer which confines all our supplications to our own individual needs. Often God visits us with barrenness because we fail to grow in heart-sympathy and Christian longing for the welfare of others. It is the very law of Christ that His love should spread, as it is the law of hydrostatics that pressure should circulate in all directions through a volume of water; and when we in a stingy forgetfulness of others violate that law, we are met with the punishment of a straitening in ourselves.

(Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)


1. The first of them is a due sense of our wants. Christ alone by His Spirit, teacheth this first preparatory lesson. "Lord, teach us to pray," by revealing to us our guilt and misery, our vileness and our helplessness.

2. The second qualification which is indispensable, as preparatory to acceptable prayer, is an acquaintance with the true way of access to God. Alas! the tendency of our corrupt hearts is, to resist this Divine appointment. O, then, what need is there to ask of the Lord a right understanding, a cordial approbation, of that way which He hath appointed.

II. Supposing you, then, to have made some proficiency in these two preparatory lessons, I proceed, in the second place, to mention SOME PARTICULARS, WITH RESPECT TO WHICH EVEN THE WELL-INSTRUCTED CHRISTIAN WILL HAVE PERPETUAL OCCASION TO USE THE LANGUAGE OF MY TEXT, "Lord, teach me to pray"

1. The power of devout attention while praying is one of those gifts which we must obtain by prayer.

2. Spirituality in our devotional exercises is another gift, for which we must often pray.

3. Furthermore, the Christian has need to pray for simplicity and godly sincerity in his prayers.

4. We must request of the Saviour that a patient confidence in God may accompany all our prayers.

(J. Jowett, M. A.)

I. WE NEED DIRECTION IN PRAYER. This is evident from —

1. God's greatness.

2. Our own guiltiness.

3. The importance of the subject.

4. Our weakness and aptness to go wrong.

5. The danger of mistaking and miscarrying in prayer.

II. WHAT RULE GOD HAS GIVEN for our direction in prayer.

1. A general rule in the whole of the Bible, where His will is revealed.(1) It furnishes us abundantly with matter of prayer, in all the parts of it — petition, confession, &c. (Psalm 51:4, 5; Philippians 4:6). And whoso has the Word of God dwelling richly in him, will not want matter for prayer, for himself or for others. There is a storehouse of it there, of great variety; and we are welcome to the use of it, agreeable to our own case.(2) It fully directs us as to the manner of prayer: as, for instance, that we must pray with sincerity (Hebrews 10:22); with humility (Psalm 10:17); in faith (James 1:6); and with fervency (James 5:16). And there is no qualification necessary in prayer, but what we may learn from the Holy Word.(3) It furnishes us with the most fit words to be used in prayer. Do ye want words to express your desires before the Lord? He has given us His own words in the Bible, that we may use them according to our needs (Hosea 14:2).

2. There is a special rule given us by Jesus Christ for that end, namely, that form of words which Christ taught His disciples, commonly called "the Lord's Prayer."(1) The Lord's Prayer is given us as a directory for prayer, a pattern and an example, by which we are to regulate our petitions, and make other prayers.(2) It may also be used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other praying graces.Inferences:

1. How gracious and ready to hear prayer is our God, who has been pleased Himself to direct us how to pray to Him!

2. Let us acquaint ourselves with the blessed Word, that contains such a full rule of practice as well as faith; and study the Holy Scriptures, that we may be the better instructed to pray.

3. See the absolute necessity for prayer in a Christian life.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

What is prayer?

I. IT IS AN OFFERING UP OF OUR DESIRES TO GOD. These are, as it were, the soul of prayer, without which the most elegant and warm expressions that can possibly be invented and used would not be acceptable to God.

II. Our request must be FOR SUCH THINGS AS ARE AGREEABLE TO THE WILL OF GOD. Things which are not so it is not fit we should receive; and for that reason we should not be rash and hasty to utter anything before God.

III. Our prayers are to be offered up to God IN THE NAME OF CHRIST; for His sake; in dependence upon the merit and intercession of the beloved Son of God, in whom the Father is well pleased.


V. A THANKFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD'S MERCIES justly claims a place in this part of Divine worship.

(John Whitty.)

I. WHAT IS PRAYER? The presenting of our requests to God, and breathing out our desires before Him. In prayer —

1. The heart must be the agent.

2. God is the object.

3. Jesus Christ the medium.

4. Prayer must be our constant exercise.


1. Because of the importance of prayer.

2. Because of our natural ignorance of this duty.

3. Because God desires us to be proficient in this duty.


1. Because He was distinguished for this holy exercise.

2. Because He is our Master, and in all things we are to hear Him.

3. Because with Him is the spirit of prayer.

4. Because He is our great High Priest.Application:

1. Let us cultivate the gift of prayer.

2. Covet the true spirit of prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5).

3. Commence and conduct all our affairs in connection with prayer (Philippians 4:6.)

4. Continue instant in prayer (Luke 18:1).

5. In the exercise of faith look for the returns of prayer.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

In the case of public prayer the need of forms is evident; but it is not at first sight so obvious that in private prayer also we need use written forms, instead of praying extempore (as it is called); so I proceed to show the use of them.

1. Let us bear in mind the precept of the wise man, "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few." Prayers framed at the moment are likely to become irreverent. What need have we of humble, sober, and subdued thoughts I as becomes creatures, sustained hourly by His bounty; as becomes lost sinners who have no right to speak at all; and still more, as grateful servants of Him who bought us from ruin at the price of His own blood. Therefore, to avoid the irreverence of many or unfit words and rude half-religious thoughts, it is necessary to pray from book or memory, and not at random.

2. In the next place, forms of prayer are necessary to guard us against the irreverence of wandering thoughts. A chief use of them is that of fixing the attention.

3. Next, they are useful in securing us from the irreverence of excited thoughts. They are accused of impeding the current of devotion, when, in fact, that (so called) current is in itself faulty, and ought to be checked. To be excited is not the ordinary state of the mind, but the extraordinary, the now-and then state. Nay, more than this, it ought not to be the common state of the mind; and if we are encouraging within us this excitement, this unceasing rush and alternation of feelings, and think that this, and this only, is being in earnest in religion, we are harming our minds, and (in one sense) I may even say grieving the peaceful Spirit of God, who would silently and tranquilly work His Divine work in our hearts.

4. Further, forms are useful to help our memory, and to set before us at once, completely, and in order, what we have to pray for. It does not follow that when the heart is really full of the thought of God, and alive to the reality of things unseen, then it is easiest to pray. Rather the deeper insight we have into His majesty and our innumerable wants, the less we shall be able to draw out our thoughts into words.

5. And further, the use of a form as a help to the memory is still more obvious, when we take into account the engagements of this world with which most men are surrounded. The cares and businesses of life press upon us with a reality which we cannot overlook. Shall we trust the matters of the next world to the chance thoughts of our Own minds, which come this moment, and go the next, and may not be at hand when the time of employing them arrives, like unreal visions, having no substance and no permanence?

6. And this use of forms in prayer becomes great, beyond power of estimating, in the case of those multitudes of men, who, after going on well for a while, fall into sin. Chance words and phrases of the Church's services adhere to their memories, rising up in moments of temptation or of trouble, to check or to recover them. And hence it happens, that in the most irreligious companies a distinction is said to be observable between those who have had the opportunity of using our public forms in their youth, and those whose religious impressions have not been thus happily fortified; so that, amid their most reckless mirth, and most daring pretence of profligacy, a sort of secret reverence has attended the wanderers, restraining them from that impiety and profaneness in which the others have tried to conceal from themselves the guilt and peril of their doings.

7. Such is the force of association in undoing the evil of past years, and recalling us to the innocence of children. Nor is this all we may gain from the prayers we use, nor are penitent sinners the only persons who can profit by it. Let us recollect for how long a period our prayers have been the standard forms of devotion in the Church of Christ, and we shall gain a fresh reason for loving them, and a fresh source of comfort in using them. I know different persons will feel differently here, according to their different turn of mind; yet surely there are few of us, if we dwelt on the thought, but would feel it a privilege to use, as we do (for instance, in the Lord's Prayer), the very petitions which Christ spoke. He gave the prayer and used it. His apostles used it; all the saints ever since have used it. When we use it we seem to join company with them. Who does not think himself brought nearer to any celebrated man in history, by seeing his house, or his furniture, or his handwriting, or the very books that were his? Thus does the Lord's Prayer bring us near to Christ, and to His disciples in every age. No wonder, then, that in past times good men thought this form of prayer so sacred, that it seemed to them impossible to say it too often, as if some especial grace went with the use of it. Nor can we use it too often; it con-rains in itself a sort of plea for Christ's listening to us; we cannot, so that we keep our thoughts fixed on its petitions, and use our minds as well as our lips when we repeat it. And what is true of the Lord's Prayer, is in its measure true of most of those prayers which our Church teaches us to use. It is true of the Psalms also, and of the Creeds; all of which have become sacred, from the memory of saints departed who have used them, and whom we hope one day to meet in heaven.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Common sense tells us, that when people unite together in public worship, if their thoughts are to run in the same channel, they must agree beforehand what is to be the subject of their petitions, and the very words in which they are to be offered, if there is to be any certainty, satisfaction, and regularity in devotion. To sing out of a book is the same in principle as praying out of a book, and if the one is spiritual and right, so is the other also. Public worship should embrace confession, penitence, implorations, ascription, and thanksgiving. The prayer offered to God in His holy place should be sober, solemn, reverential, filial, scriptural, offered in faith, through the merits of the Divine Redeemer. Such, most emphatically, are the devotions of the Prayer Book. A Presbyterian minister, no less distinguished for his abilities than for his Christian charity, has lately given this little sketch from his pastoral experience. In looking up scholars for a mission-school, he was led to visit a poor woman, on her sick-bed, in the upper room of a crowded, comfortless tenement-house. The room was entirely dark, the only inlet of illumination being the swinging, twopaned ventilator overhead. Waiting until his eyes became accustomed to the dimness, he discovered that the apartment was merely a small closet, about six feet square. A shapeless mass of humanity was buried under a heap of coarse, tumbled coverlets, the victim of rheumatism; having occupied the same comfortless room for fourteen years. Although a member of the Church, no minister of the city knew of her existence, she having come from another place, and bringing no certificate of membership to commend her to pastoral care and oversight. When asked by the visitor whether she had ever given up her faith and hope, her pale, shrivelled face lighted up, as she answered, very decidedly, "Never!" She declined his kind offers of pecuniary aid, but thankfully accepted his proposal to pray with her. He was struck with the fact that, in his repeated visits, she avoided speaking much of herself, and seemed to prefer to spend all the time in talking of God's love, and the Saviour's abundant grace. Remembering the strong attachment of Churchmen for the Prayer Book, the Presbyterian minister learned several of the beautiful collects by heart, and one day, while praying, suffered his voice quietly to run into the form. The sick woman recognized the first sentence of the dear old words with a start of surprise; then she began to repeat the petitions aloud with him; and when he finished she sobbed aloud, with humble, grateful tears. It was a repetition of good George Herbert's dying expression of childlike affection for his spiritual mother: "Give me the prayers of my mother the Church, no other prayers are equal to them!"

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Would you pray to God in a proper way —

1. React a few verses of the Bible before you pray. Much of the language of Scripture is in the form of prayer, and by using it we find help in our approches to God.

2. Always go to God with faith in Jesus Christ. In His name you may ask for every blessing; and through His merits, and for His sake, you may find all that can make you happy in this world, with a pardon of your sins, and a good hope of heaven.

3. Seek for the aid of the Holy Spirit, for He will show us what we need, help our weakness, put right desires into our hearts, and teach us how to pray aright.

4. Have something to say to God. Do not say words in an unmeaning way. Spend a few minutes in thought before you begin to pray, that you may not "mock God with a solemn sound."

5. Leave the answer to the love and wisdom of God. He will give to us those things which it is best for us to receive.

We owe our knowledge of the prayers of Jesus principally to the Evangelist Luke. This fact tallies with the many other characteristics of the third Gospel which mark it as eminently the story of the Son of Man. Consider, then —




1. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as a rest after service.

2. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as a preparation for important steps (Luke 6:12, &c.).

3. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as the condition of receiving the Spirit and the brightness of God. There were two occasions in the life of Christ when visible signs showed His full possession of the Divine Spirit and the lustre of His glorious nature — Baptism, and Transfiguration. Now on both these occasions, our Gospel, and our Gospel alone, tells us that it was whilst Christ was in the act of prayer that the sign was given (see Luke 3:21-22; Luke 9:29).

4. The praying Christ teaches us to pray as the preparation for sorrow. Gethsemane.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Prayer is an attestance of desire, and desire is so natural to man that no man who lives is quite without it. Our human life is created in great part by desire. When men, who have been created to desire, turn themselves towards a Being who is supposed to have power over their destinies, desire naturally renders itself into prayer. The Son of God imparting to His disciples the true knowledge of the Father, did not fail to teach them concerning prayer. In His own practice He sets an example of earnest and sustained prayer. He deliberately taught His disciples to pray; He bade them pray out of the fulness of their hearts, and not only so, but He gave His sanction to the use of forms by prescribing to them a form of words which would show them the desires they ought to entertain, and be a perpetual encouragement to such desires. We may derive a double benefit from our Lord's lofty teaching; we may be delivered from the covetous, self-regarding prayers which dishonour Him to whom they are offered, and have no healing or exalting influence on the worshipper who offers them; and at the same time the true spirit of prayer, which is effectual with God, and on the wings of which we may rise upwards towards Him, may through His teaching be breathed into our hearts. The most Christian kind of prayer will be the utterance of a desire in our souls which is in harmony with God's purposes, and which we may believe to be breathed into us by God's Spirit. And though the essence of prayer is inward and spiritual, we rightly put it into words, and even use fixed words of prayer, because it belongs to our nature to translate our thoughts into words, and because forms are necessary modes of our life, and especially indispensable for whatever we are to do jointly or in common.

(D. Davies, D. D.)

I. WHY JESUS IS TO BE REGARDED AS THE TEACHER OF PRAYER. It should be taken for granted that knowing how to pray is the first of all essentials. If we want information we may have it. There was once a man in Palestine who said that He was the Son of God, and what He did proved that what He said was true. When we would know how to pray, we, like the first disciples, think that if any one can tell us He can. He is the Teacher of prayer. That is His business. Now He is ascended, His disciples are always learning to pray, and He is always teaching. In all our approaches to the Infinite Unseen, we have first to do with Jesus; every prayer must reach His ear before we have the answer to it.


1. Sometimes by means of an overheard prayer. It was so in the chapter of events to which the text belongs.

2. Jesus teaches us to pray by our troubles. "Nature in an agony is no atheist."

3. Jesus teaches prayer by revealing Himself as the one medium of prayer.

4. Jesus teaches us to pray by making His own Spirit the spirit of our lives.

5. Jesus teaches to pray by quickening the sense of difficulty.

(1)One difficulty is realizing God.

(2)Another is the frequent coldness of desire Godward.

(3)Another, the effect on our souls of the atmosphere in which we have to live.

(4)Another, vain thoughts. If, said Philip Henry, "our prayers were written down and our vain thoughts interlined, what nonsense there would be!"

(5)A kindred difficulty is the restlessness we often feel in the act of prayer.Every one of us can understand the entry made by homely William Smith of Coalville, in the diary of his soul: "While at prayer my mind was rather shifting. I had to bring it back and ask it to sit down." We are baffled and weighted by ignorance, by infirmity, and by countless things, which together make such a total that we feel inclined to think with Coleridge that "the act of praying, in its most perfect form, is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable." The difficulty does not begin when we begin to pray under the teaching of Christ, but the sense of it does; and this He uses for carrying on His purpose. When you have made acquaintance with a thing through difficulties you are more sure of your ground. By quickening the sense of difficulty the Angel wrestles us into strength, and teaches the suppliant to say, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me."

(Dr. Stanford.)It is remarkable that Jesus only teaches prayer, never the philosophy of prayer. The sentiment of not a few appears to be, that this philosophy is the very thing that we have first to learn. The first questions, even of Christians, are too often simply speculative; and in almost every one of the many treatises on prayer they have given to the world in recent years, a large space is taken up with the discussion of such questions. More than they are aware, they are influenced in this direction by the spirit of the times. Each young believer is now likely to be brought more or less in contact with some theorist who owns no higher teacher of religion than science, who smiles down upon him, assures him that the discoveries of science prove the alleged power of prayer to be impossible; and says, "It is useless for you to expect that the laws of nature will be set aside because you pray!" "Who wants the laws of nature to be set aside?" might be the reply. "Assuredly I do not. I know very little about the laws of nature, and even you know very little more. For aught your science can show, it may be quite possible for God to answer prayers, without in the least degree touching the settled constitution of the universe." Our conviction is that we find wrought into our very nature, as one of its primary principles, the instinct that prompts to prayer.

(Dr. Stanford.)

In this verse there are certain arguments for and encouragements to prayer, worthy of careful attention.

I. PRAYER IS INSTINCTIVE. Four classes of persons here mentioned. In some respects very different from each other. One thing, however, they had in common, namely, prayer. Christ prayed. His disciples prayed. John prayed. His followers were like him. The world here in miniature. Man a praying being.

II. PRAYER IS CHRISTLIKE. Prayer was His habit. "I give myself unto prayer," was the experience of both David and David's greater Son. To some this is perplexing. They cannot understand why our Lord should pray. There would, however, have been far more mystery had He never prayed at all. The holier we become, the more frequent and fervent is our communion with our Heavenly Father.

III. PRAYER IS CONTAGIOUS. The word is used for want of a better. What led His disciples to say, "Teach us to pray"? Had the Master been speaking of prayer? Not a word. It was on quite another occasion that He said, "Men ought always to pray." How was it, then, that the desire for increased power in devotion was awakened? It was through hearing and seeing our Lord pray. Prayer begets prayer. One live coal kindles another. There is an Eastern proverb, as true as it is poetic, "I am not the rose; but I have been with the rose, and therefore I am sweet."

IV. PRAYER IS EFFECTUAL. "Teach us to pray." That petition was granted. And real prayer is always answered. It cannot fail. As Bishop Hall says: "I am sure that I shall receive either what I ask, or what I should ask."

V. THE EXPRESSION, "AS JOHN ALSO TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES," HAS MORE IN IT THAN AT FIRST SIGHT APPEARS. It is not the cry of false conservatism. We shall err if we suppose that he who uttered it simply wanted our Lord to follow in the track of another. Surely there was an argument, and a fine one, in the words. What did it mean? Something like this: "John was Thy servant, and he helped the devotion of his followers; wilt Thou, great Master, do less? John was only a herald and a forerunner, but he watched over his disciples; wilt not Thou, the promised and predicted One, do the same to us?" It was good reasoning. Better logic cannot be imagined. Let us take the benefit of it. Inspired by the faith which it teaches, be our prayers both frequent and fervent.

(T. R. Stevenson.)

We have here a simple illustration of the silent involuntary influence of our Lord. One of His disciples had observed Him praying, and struck with the grandeur and sweetness of the act, he asks to be taught how to pray. Without a commandment but by the power of His example, He influenced His disciple.

I. IT IS A REAL INFLUENCE THAT OF EXAMPLE. He who is most a child of God in faith, hope, and love, is most of a king for God over himself and over others, wielding an irresistible power, and gaining widest triumphs.

II. EXAMPLE OF THE INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE. You see it in Christ in this incident. Teach me to pray, said the disciple; but he had more than half learned the lesson when he had looked on Christ praying. The evangelists never pause to extol the life of the Master. To tell the life was best to praise it. On the way to the cross, Jesus does not recommend patience — He is patience. On the cross, He does not speak of love — He is love as He never was before.


1. TO those who need encouragement. Some feel much the uselessness of their lives — no money, little knowledge, or eloquence. But you are not useless if you are true to what is pure and gentle and brave — true to Christ. Influence is not the less powerful because it is silent.

2. This truth speaks to those who need warning. Remember that no one lives to himself. The influence of selfish aims, unregulated tempers, illiberal gifts, goes forth where you little think, and does evil you would dread to acknowledge. What a minister for evil the very presence of an unrevered man is wherever he goes. But if you come to Jesus, though with souls most feeble and most sinful, you may become through Him most magnetic and mighty for the highest issues and the widest influences.

(Dr. W. Graham.)

The first true sign of spiritual life, prayer, is also the means of maintaining it. Man can as well live physically without breathing, as spiritually without praying. There is a class of animals — the cetaceous, neither fish nor sea-fowl, that inhabit the deep. It is their home; they never leave it for the shore; yet, though swimming beneath its waves, and sounding its darkest depths, they have ever and anon to rise to the surface that they may breathe the air. Without that these monarchs of the deep could not exist in the dense element in which they live, and move, and have their being. And something like what is imposed on them by physical necessity, the Christian has to do by a spiritual one. It is by ever and anon ascending up to God, by rising through prayer into a loftier, purer region for supplies of Divine grace, that he maintains his spiritual life. Prevent these animals from rising to the surface, and they die for want of breath; prevent him from rising to God, and he dies for want of prayer. "Give me children," cried Rachel, "or else I die." "Let me breathe," says a man, gasping, "or else I die." "Let me pray," says the Christian," or else I die."

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

— "I have no difficulty," said he (Coleridge), "in forgiveness; indeed, I know not how to say with sincerity the clause in the Lord's Prayer which asks forgiveness as we forgive. I feel nothing answering to it in my heart. Neither do I find, or reckon, the most solemn faith in God as a real object, the most arduous act of the reason and will. Oh no, my dear, it is to pray, to pray as God would have us; this is what at times makes me turn cold to my soul. Believe me, to pray with all your heart and strength, with the reason and the will, to believe vividly that God will listen to your voice through Christ, and verily do the thing He pleaseth thereupon — this is the last, the greatest achievement of the Christian's warfare upon earth. Teach us to pray, O Lord!" And then he burst into a flood of tears, and begged me to pray for him.

(Ed. Coleridge's Table Talk.)

A prayer must have thought in it. The thought may overburden it so that its wings of devotion are fastened down to its sides, and cannot ascend. Then it is no prayer, only a meditation or a contemplation. But to take the thought out of a prayer does not insure its going up to God. It may be too light as well as too heavy to ascend. I saw once, in a shop window in London, a placard which simply announced, "Limp Prayers." It described, I believe, a kind of a prayer-book in a certain sort of binding, which was for sale within; but it brought to mind many a prayer to which one had listened, in which he could not join, out of which had been left the whole backbone of thought, and to which he could attach none of his own heart's desire.

(P. Brookes.)

I. And, first, on the use of prepared forms of prayer for public worship, or liturgies as we call them. That these were of Divine appointment under the Jewish dispensation there can be no question. The songs of Moses and Miriam, and the titles prefixed to a large number in the Book of Psalms, bear evidence of being composed for congregational use. Besides, through the writings of Josephus and other Hebrew historians, no inconsiderable part of the ancient Jewish liturgies have been preserved to us, and a remarkable coincidence has been discovered between the order and method of these early compositions with our own Book of Common Prayer. The forms of which we know the most are two — one for the service of the Temple, and the other for that of the Synagogue. In the synagogue form the order of public worship was prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and preaching. Their prayers, though not always the same, were always pre-composed, the most commonly used being eighteen, said to have been composed by Ezra at the time of the Captivity, all containing many sentences out of his Book. These forms were in use among the Jews in our Lord's time, and both Jesus and His apostles joined in them. Unsafe, therefore, as it might be, as a rule, to base an argument on the silence of Scripture, yet we can hardly suppose, that if our Lord had intended that in such an important particular the Christian worship was to differ from the Jewish, He would not have told His disciples so plainly, rather than first join in such pre-composed devotions Himself, and then institute a form, which from being expressed throughout in the plural number, must have been supposed to have been intended for public and social use. Here, then, is good reason to believe that the only recited congregational prayer preserved in the New Testament — I mean that contained in the 4th chapter of the Acts — was a form commonly used by the early Christians as suited to a time of persecution, for the whole assembly recited it together — "Then lifted up they their voice to God with one accord." The scriptural evidence, therefore, as far as it goes, is clearly in favour of set and prepared forms of public prayer. If we join to this the testimony of ecclesiastical history, there is no more doubt about the apostolic usage as a question of fact, than there is as a question of fact about the persecution of Domitian or the siege of Jerusalem. Even Pliny's letter to Trajan, at the beginning of the second century, alludes (contemptuously, of course) to these Christians meeting for daily worship, and reciting, as he says, a composed form; whilst the liturgies attributed to St. Mark, St. Peter, and St. James, respectively, from which a good deal of our own liturgy is taken, whether really composed by those apostles or not, can be traced to a period sufficiently early to make the alleged authorship by no means impossible. Other testimonies might be cited, more convincing, because merely incidental, all assuming the usage itself to be one of common notoriety.

II. Let me advert to a point which we shall all feel to be of great importance, namely, the use of prepared forms in our private devotions. Let me proceed, then, to point out some objections to prepared forms of private prayer, however spiritual and excellent they may be, if they be used exclusively. Thus it is obvious we are thereby confined in regard to the matter of our prayers, we restrict our conversation with heaven to a fixed routine of subjects, and preclude the mention of those hourly spiritual experiences, which though unseen, and unknown to the world, make up the great incidents of the soul's life, and may give, day by day, a new complexion to its prayers. We live in a world of change, and in the countless vicissitudes to which mind, body, and estate are alike exposed; the soul is subject to infinite varieties of emotion, for .which no prepared form can provide corresponding expression. Again, there is a danger lest the exclusive use of forms should have a tendency to deaden the spirit of prayer. Let me conclude with a few practical directions which, whether with or without forms, cannot be neglected by those who would be taught how to pray.

1. As first, when you enter your closet, be composed, and reverent, and thoughtful.

2. Again, be honest and faithful with yourselves; let there be a great searching both of heart and life.

3. I say, aim to be comprehensive and yet specific.

4. Lastly, we must be earnest and persevering. The confession is humiliating, but it must be made.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

The best of men need direction in prayer. Who may not adopt the language, "Teach us what we shall say unto Him: for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness"? The Bible is a sufficient rule of conduct in all things pertaining to life and godliness. The subject-matter for prayer is to be found in the Word of God. There is not one of its doctrines, in all their richness and variety, that does not contain truths which the lips of prayer may make use of, and turn to good account at the throne of grace. The point is too plain to require either illustration or proof, that the mind must be furnished with the truth of God in order to be furnished with matter for prayer. The precepts of the Bible also teach us how to pray. They describe the spirit of prayer; while they teach us what graces to ask for, and for what duties we need strength. The promises of the Bible are revealed for our instruction and encouragement in prayer. They teach us what blessings God is willing to bestow, and how willing He is to bestow them. The threatenings of the Bible teach us what we have reason to fear and deprecate; while the very sins that are there recorded teach what we should pray against and deplore. God has also recorded a multitude of facts in His Word, that are comments upon its truths, its promises, and its threatenings, of which He condescends to permit His people to remind Him, and which furnish them with powerful considerations in pleading at His mercy-seat. There are instances of prayer, too, there recorded, which show us its spirit, its comprehensiveness, its appropriateness to times, and places, and circumstances, and men, as well as its fruit and power; and which show us for what it is to be offered, and God's readiness to hear and answer. More than this; the Bible teaches us where to go for assistance in prayer. "For through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father." In every act of true devotion, there is a concurrence of the Spirit's influence. Let your mind be richly furnished with all God's truth, and let your bosom be filled with devotional emotions, and then freely utter your requests before God. There is thought in prayer; strong thought, and often close, compact, and connected thought. There is emotion, too, heavenly emotion. There is memory, too, in prayer; and there is conscience and even imagination. This formula, commonly called the Lord's Prayer, contains the substance of prayer for His disciples. A question arises here, if we may not use this form in our supplications at the throne of grace? The Christian ought not to be so much the enemy of forms, as to depreciate this most beautiful form of prayer; nor so much of a formalist, as not to pray without it. Jesus Christ has nowhere authorized a restriction to any set form of prayer. The prayers of Abraham were not written prayers. Nor was the prayer of Eleazar at Haran; nor the prayer of Jacob at Peniel; nor the prayers of Moses and Aaron for Egypt and Israel. The prayer of Joshua at the defeat of Ai, the prayer of Manoah, of Samson, of Hannah, of Samuel at Mizpeh, of Elijah at Mount Carmel, of Hezekiah against Sennacherib, of Jabez, of Ezra, of Nehemiah, of Job, of Daniel, of Jonah, and of Habakkuk, were none of them dictated by the pen. Nor was the prayer of Zacharias, nor that of the publican, nor that of the disciples in any one exigence of their history. In the next place, forms of prayer invert the order of prayer; they make the words lead the heart, and not the heart the words. True prayer flows from the heart; the heart is the seat of supplication. Another objection to forms is, that they check the teachings of the Holy Spirit. Still another objection to forms of prayer is, that no set of prayers is, or ever can be, adequate to the necessities of the Church. It has been said that the example of the Primitive Christians is in favour of forms. Much has been written to prove the antiquity of liturgies, and Bishop Bull has strongly urged the probability of their being of Apostolic origin. The posture of the primitive Christians in prayer was such as to render it impossible to read prayers. They stood with their arms crossed on their breasts, their heads back, and their eyes often closed. It is confidently asserted by those who have made close search, that there is not such an expression as "reading prayers," to be found in the history of the first four centuries. In favour of forms, it is also said, that it is important to have matter to ponder upon, to pray with intelligence. We have only to reply, most certainly it is so; but then there is more matter in the Bible than in a Book of Common Prayer. It is further urged, and we confess the objection has some weight that in extempore prayers, too much latitude is given to the speaker, that, on the one hand, his prayers may often be barren and dry; and on the other, they may be redundant, and sometimes filled even with wild and extravagant notions. This is true; it is an evil to be guarded against: and we have only to say, that we expect too much, when we expect perfect prayers from imperfect men. Once more, it is objected to prayers that are not thus formed, that the people cannot join in them.

(G. Spring, D. D.)

Such plentiful rivers stream from this seven-headed fountain. So that as the seven arms of Nilus watered and made fertile all Egypt; so doth this prayer, springing from seven petitions, which are deprecative or optative, water the whole Christian world, preventing and deprecating all mishaps, and supplying our wants. So that in this short prayer, as in a little orb, the Sun of Righteousness moves; from hence doth every star, every faithful servant and counsellor of Christ (for they are incarnate stars) borrow a ray of light to illuminate and sanctify the body of his meditations. The Church in her liturgy and the preacher both enjoined to use it. A small quantity of this leaven seasons a great lump of devotion, and a few spirits give taste and quickness to much liquor. This prayer is a quintessence extracted by the greatest chemist that ever was, from Him that brought nature out of chaos, separated light from darkness, and extracted the four elements out of nothing. All parts of it are spirits. Quae enim spiritualior oratio? And the mixture of a few grains thereof with our prayers proves the strongest and best Christian antidote.

(Archdeacon King.)

It is a familiar and friendly tribute to present God with His own; a petition clothed in Christ's words, will find the ready way to heaven, and a speedy access into the ears of God.

(Archdeacon King.)

So consider this prayer as it now lies all together, the plates and joints and several matters make but one Christian buckler to ward and avert all necessities that may befall us; yet resolved into parcels, every limb and member, and gradation, is a perfect buckler to bear off our particular wants. It is like that famous target of Ajax that was Clypeus Septemplex, consisted of seven folds; this is Oratio Septemplex, a prayer consisting of seven requests. That buckler was dart-proof, impenetrable, and this prayer an impenetrable shield to resist the fiery darts of Satan. If I would insist upon the allusion to the number of these petitions, I might compare this whole prayer to the constellation of the Pleiades, or seven stars in heaven; or to the seven stars in the right hand of the Son of Man, being fit lights and tapers for the seven golden candlesticks there mentioned, to be set up in those seven Churches, and not in them alone, but in all the Churches of the world, where Christ's name is known and adored. Or I may liken the parts of this prayer to the seven planets, eminent above all other stars of the firmament. For as some of those planets move nearer to the earth, others higher and farther off, so is the motion of these seven petitions; some of them move and solicit God for earthly things, as the four last of them; others for heavenly and eternal, as the three first, "Hallowed be Thy name, and Thy kingdom come," &c. Saint hath taken their just height and motion, Tres petitiones superiores aternac sunt, quatuor sequentes ad hanc vitam pertinent.

(Archdeacon King.)

I do not deny him a good artizan that works by the strength of his own phantasy: yet all will grant he works truest that works from a copy. And though a voluntary expressed upon an instrument show the sufficiency of the musician, yet I should think that musician who undervalues all set lessons in comparison of his voluntaries hath more of arrogance than skill. Just so is it in prayer. I prejudice no man's gift, and let me advise no man so much to prejudice this excellent gift of Christ's Prayer as to exalt his own meditations above it.

(Archdeacon King.)

The matter is every way found complete and perfect. Every word in it hath its weight. There is not a superfluous word in it that could be spared. Nor is it any way defective. Whatsoever is lawful, needful, and meet to be asked in prayer is therein contained: yea, whatsoever is to be believed or practised by a Christian is therein implied.

(William Gouge.)

The sense of it is as large as the body is little.

(Archdeacon King.)

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