When I was very young, I remember not knowing how to talk to grown-ups. I was about four years old, and I was just a little confused by the basic adult question of “how are you doing?” Eventually, I learned the little phrase, “I’m okay”. It was simple, direct, and easy. The disciples of Jesus are like little kids who don’t know how to talk to God. In the Gospel of Luke, the 11th chapter, Jesus is asked by his first followers how to talk to God. Jesus teaches them (and us) to pray with form, with impudence, and with grace.

First of all, Jesus encourages praying according to a very simple form. We often teach kids to fold their hands and recite memorized prayers. Clear steps are so helpful for beginners, even though as we grow in prayer, we learn that God doesn’t actually demand closed eyes or even memorized words. But it helps to have a posture to try for focus and words to say when this is all new. Bowing, kneeling, or lifting hands are all postures mentioned in scripture. Try reading through Luke 11:1-4 as a personalized prayer. This text is usually called “the Lord’s prayer”. The form is very helpful for beginners. Memorizing it as it’s written can be a good start, but also try translating it into your own words. Consult different Bible translations, and a thesaurus. Jesus gave it to his disciples in at least two different versions (compare the variation in Matthew 6:9-13). Speak to God as a good father. Honor his leadership and holiness. Admit your sin, forgive others, ask for daily provision. Another great prayer to memorize and recite is Psalm 23. Forms and patterns are very helpful for getting started with prayer!

Jesus recommends the structure of form prayers in Luke 11:1-4, but then he adds an encouragement to stay desperate! So his next point in Luke 11;5-9 is important. Jesus encourages shamelessness in prayer. Some versions of Luke 11:8 use the word “impudence”! Jesus illustrates how we often worry about being overly needy with friends and neighbors, but we can never be too needy with God. Don’t give up on asking him for help. Keep asking him for more of his presence and power in your life. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Be honest about your desperate neediness before God and recognize he loves to provide. “Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life” (A Praying Life, by Paul Miller).

The third thing Jesus helps us to see is that God the Father is genuinely gracious. He doesn’t withhold from us and coldly wait until we clean ourselves up. God loves to give us himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. Jesus invites us to ask for the Father’s  graciousness. Jesus describes how even second-rate earthly fathers usually like to do nice things for their kids. How much more gracious is the Heavenly Father that all other fathers are measured by? Be amazed by his kindness and grace. Jesus not only teaches this as a fact in Luke 11:10-13, but he also proves it by his life, death, and resurrection.  “…The minimum bar to be enfolded into the embrace of Jesus is simply: open yourself up to him. It is all he needs…Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; he says, “I will give you rest.” His rest is gift, not transaction.”  (Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund).

Forms and patterns can help us pray—try building a new habit. Shamelessness helps us keep going as we believe that God is not annoyed by us—keep asking! The grace of God will begin to transform us as we believe in his kindness and love through Jesus—trust in His grace!

When I was young, I didn’t really know how to talk to adults, but I learned to pretend that I was okay. Now that I know Jesus, I can talk to God anytime, even when I’m not okay. Especially when I’m not okay! I can talk to God like a child, because I know with confidence I’ve been adopted in love by my perfect heavenly Father.

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Dave McMurry

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