Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak."
-- Matthew 26:41
We read in Luke's Gospel that one day Jesus was praying in a certain place. After He had finished, one of His disciples made a simple--yet profound--request that Christ-followers remember to this day.
"Lord," the follower began. "Teach us to pray, just as John (the Baptist) taught his disciples."
Jesus' famous response is what we know today as The Lord's Prayer:
"When you pray, say: Father, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom. Give us each day the food we need. Forgive our sins, as we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. And keep us from being tempted."
Jesus wasn't teaching His followers some magic formula to make God grant their wishes. Instead, He was modeling an intimate, ongoing conversation with His Father. And the religious leaders of the time were highly offended by the notion. "After all," they said, "Who dares go before God but our High Priest?"
The answer, of course, was much closer to them than they could imagine.
Jesus also taught His 1st Century disciples that He could do only what he saw His Father doing. That's a reminder to 21st Century Christ-followers that to do God's will in our communities--and the entire world for that matter--we need to be in constant conversation with Him. Through ongoing prayer, our hearts, wills and vision become closer to the Father's. And His ways become our ways.
Prayer evokes different images to different people. If you grew up attending a traditional church, you might recall kneeling on pews (with eyes closed and heads bowed) between the sermon and the choir's stirring rendition of How Great Thou Art. To others, prayer is something done aloud with hands outstretched and eyes looking skyward. But Jesus' lesson to us is that prayer boils down to the simple act of talking with God. And it's a remarkable concept. The Creator of the Universe--the One Who knows the number of hairs on our heads--wants a personal relationship with you and me!
In these dark days marked by distant wars, economic uncertainties and infectious diseases, it's reassuring to know that every Christ-follower has a direct line to the Father.
"I was in terrible trouble when I called out to you," wrote the Psalmist. "But from your temple you heard me and answered my prayer."