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In an old rock song the lyrics ask, “Who is God and what’s on his mind?” John answered that question in the opening words of his Gospel.
He wrote, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1.18).
As we observe Jesus’ behavior and listen to his teaching on the subject of prayer, we can ask two questions.
(1) Does God hear and answer prayer?
(2) What attitudes and actions did Jesus teach about prayer?
What did Jesus teach about prayer?
If we wonder what Jesus thought about prayer, all we have to do is observe him as he prayed.
He began his public ministry by praying at the time when John the Baptist baptized him in the Jordan River (Luke 3.21).
Near the end of his public ministry, Jesus prayed two prayers while hanging on the cross. He asked the heavenly Father to forgive those who were putting him to death (Luke 23.34).
As he was drawing his last breath Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23.46).
In the three years between the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry, Luke records more examples of his prayer life.
Luke noted that “He would withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5.16).
Before calling the the twelve disciples, Luke recalls how he spent the night in prayer. He wrote, “Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God” (Luke 6.12).
There were times when the disciples knew he was praying all by himself (Luke 6.12).
The disciples were so impressed with Jesus’ prayer life that they asked him to teach them how to pray. Luke writes, “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).
There should be no question about prayer for people who want to live their lives like Jesus lived his. Prayer was an integral part of Jesus’ life and it should have a prominent place in ours, too.
Does God hear and answer prayer?
Not only did Jesus model for us an exemplary prayer life, but he also helps us understand the crucial question of whether God hears and answers prayer.
Right in the middle of the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray is the petition, “Give us each day our daily bread” (Matthew 6.11; Luke 11.3).
Following the model prayer, Jesus told a parable that was focused on the need for bread.
He said, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’
“And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’
“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11.5-8).
This parable answers the question about whether God hears and answers prayers by using the “How much more . . .” argument that was common in Jesus’ parables.
Everyone in Jesus’ audience would have known the answer to the parable. The rules of hospitality and honor would have made sure that the homeowner provided bread for his friend.
The “How much more . . .” argument makes this point: “If a man gets up from bed and helps a friend, HOW MUCH MORE will God answer prayers from his children for what they need.
Praying for Bread
My friend, Rudy Ross, believes that to pray for “daily bread” is to ask God to give us daily direction and guidance from the Bible. If we pray for God’s word to be the guiding principle of our lives, God will be happy to answer that prayer.
I agree with Rudy, but I also think that “bread” can refer to the daily needs that we all have. Just as the man needed literal bread in the parable, we need the ability to pay our bills and feed our families.
I don’t think we are limited by what can can ask. We can ask for daily guidance from God’s word. We also can ask for our daily needs to be met.
Prayer and Worry
How do we overcome the worries of life that press in upon us? We pray, trusting in the goodness of God who is MUCH MORE willing and able to provide for us than a friend at midnight.
Consider Jesus’ words about worry and anxiety from the Sermon on the Mount, as you connect the prayer for daily bread with God’s willingness to answer our prayers.
Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
“And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith?
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.26-33).
Let’s be encouraged to pray both by the example of Jesus and his message in the parable. God loves us and desires to hear our prayers.
As a loving Father, he will hear and answer our prayers for all that we need. Let’s confidently bring to him all of our needs and trust his care.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.