You are on page 1of 14

Part One

Jesus Christ:
Our Only Teacher
on How to Pray
Church in the Boro, Rob Wilkerson


When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us how to pray”, they were essentially Jewish
disciples asking their rabbi to teach them how to pray. Undoubtedly, these were young men
who had grown up in the synagogue listening to, repeating, and participating in Jewish prayers,
some of which we know comes from the liturgy known as the Qaddish (or Kaddish). A prayer of
the synagogue, the Qaddish “likely goes back to Jesus’ time” and it begins much like the Lord’s
Prayer, “Exalted and hallowed be his great name in the world which He created according to his
will.”1 Essentially, Jesus was teaching His disciples shortened forms of at least five parts of what
has been called the “Eighteen Benedictions.”2 The parallels are surprising.

There are even more. In the Apocrypha (the Jewish writings written primarily between Malachi
and Matthew, not included in the Hebrew Scriptures), we find a parallel to the last request in
the Lord’s Prayer: “lead us not into temptation.” In Sirach 2:1 we read, “My son, if you come
forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation.” And again in 33:1, “No evil will
befall the man who fears the Lord, but in trial…he will deliver him again and again.”3 Later, in
the Babylonian Talmud, we read of a Jewish evening prayer probably dating back to the time of
Jesus. “And bring me not into sin, or into iniquity, or into temptation, or into contempt.” 4

Fast forward to the last quarter of the first century. Archaeological evidence points to the fact
that as early as A.D. 75 both the Jewish Christians as well as the Gentile Christians probably
would have experienced the Lord’s Prayer as “a fixed element in instructions on prayer in all

Clinton E. Arnold, ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 1: Matthew, Mark,
Luke. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, p. 45. Similarly, the Qaddish continues with a parallel to the third phrase in
the Lord’s Prayer, “May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime…” (ibid). The Kaddish can be viewed online here:
Joseph Jacobs, “Jesus as Nazareth in History,” Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, (New York: Funk and
Wagnalls, 1916), p 102. See also online: See
also Jacob J. Petuchowski and Michael Brock, Eds. The Lord’s Prayer and Jewish Liturgy (New York: The Seabury
Press, 1978), p. vi. “The Eighteen Benedictions” are available online at
Simon Kistemaker, “The Lord’s Prayer in the First Century,” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological
Society 21:4 (1978), pp. 323-28.
Ibid. Berakoth 60b. Online at: See also,
Joacham Jeremias, The Lord’s Prayer, p. 30.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 1
Christendom…Both churches, different as their situations were, were at one on this point: that
a Christian learned, from the Lord’s Prayer, how to pray.”5 For the Jewish Christians, they
would have learned the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew and his gospel, whose version of the
prayer, “is addressed to people who have learned to pray in childhood but whose prayer stands
in danger of becoming a routine.”6 Luke’s gospel, on the other hand, was written to Gentiles,
and his version of the prayer, “is addressed to people who must for the first time learn to pray
and whose courage must be roused.”7

Teaching someone how to pray today seems somewhat out of place, perhaps even weird. The
exceptions, of course, among some circles, such as the one in which I grew up, are the “Sinner’s
Prayer” and the “Lord’s Prayer.” Other than these, prayer is very much a spontaneous,
extemporaneous activity among many evangelical westerners, at least. For the disciples
however, spontaneous prayer would have been foreign, and definitely weird. Per one

“The disciples would not have been used to praying in their own words,
improvising as they went along. To them, prayer was something that had to be
learned, and this is why they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In their
experience, prayer was a formal, liturgical event, conducted by the priests in the
temple or by the rabbis in the synagogue…Furthermore, the prayers in a Galilean
synagogue would have been in Hebrew, which was fast becoming a dead
language in Jesus’ day…If the prayers were in an archaic form of language, they
would almost certainly have been ritualized to a considerable extent – couched in
set phrases that those who led public worship would have memorized as part of
their training…The prayers would therefore have had a carefully worked out

Jesus more than likely took what was already familiar to them in from Jewish synagogue
prayers rooted in the tradition of the Talmud, and freshly reinvested it with the original
meaning rooted in the original occurrence of these phrases and requests in the Old Testament.
This is not unlike what He did elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount with the Midrash
statements. The original commandment not to commit adultery had been in some respects
spiritualized so that someone could keep it outwardly, though not inwardly. Jesus takes a
statement the disciples are absolutely familiar with, and freshly reinvests it with the meaning
Jeremias, p. 23. This author makes an interesting and rather obvious observation about why the Lord’s
Prayer is different in Luke and Matthew. “…*T+he variations are to be seen within a broader context: we have
before us the wording for Prayer from two churches, that is, different liturgical wordings of the Lord’s Prayer. Each
of the evangelists transmits to us the wording of the Lord’s Prayer as it was prayed in his church at that time.”
Gerald Bray, Yours is the Kingdom: A Systematic Theology of the Lord’s Prayer (Nottingham, England:
InterVarsity Press, 2007), pp 14-25.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 2
which was intended from the very beginning. He does the same thing on subjects like anger,
revenge, love, prayer, giving, fasting, etc. To miss this interplay Jesus has with the Jewish
literature of His day is to miss something very important going on here with His disciples. He
shows respect for the liturgy, builds upon it where it is thoroughly biblical and/or faithful to the
original Hebrew passages on the issues. But He also feels free to demolish that liturgy and the
theology behind it wherever it covers up God’s original intention. This is because He is the Lord
and the Savior-King who has come to fulfill all the Old Testament, thereby rescuing His people
from sin, consequently setting up His rule as King over a True Exodus Kingdom.

In the rest of this article, I want to unpack five reasons why Jesus held is the only real authority
for learning about prayer. The first two deal with His position and His practice. The last three
deal with His relationship to the three Old Testament leadership offices: prophet, priest, and
king. The prophets were the authoritative voice of God. The priests were the authoritative
mediation with God. And the kings were the authoritative rule of God. Jesus fulfilled all three
offices, in the sense that He was the consummate, ultimate, perfect prophet, priest and king
out of all who had ever served in any of those offices. This makes Him the prima facie,
summum bonum, the-buck-stops-here teacher on prayer.

Jesus is the Teacher of Prayer Because of His Position

In his little book, Praying the Lord’s Prayer, Terry Virgo writes, “*W+hen it comes to teaching the
subject, none…knows better how to instruct us in prayer than our Lord Jesus Christ.”9 There
are two main reasons for this, as Virgo explains.

First, Jesus is the best teacher on prayer because He’s the only Teacher who is one with the
Father. He’s the only Teacher who is God in a human body. Jesus taught the following truths
about His relationship to and with the Father:

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him…
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:7, 9).

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:10, 11).

“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me,
that they may be one, even as we are one…The glory that you have given me I have given to
them, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11, 22)

Terry Virgo, Praying the Lord’s Prayer (England: Frontier Publishing International, 1987, 1993), p. 14.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 3
What this plainly tells us is that Jesus and the Father are one. That does not mean they are one
and the same. It just means they are inseparable from one another. This means they are two
different persons making up the same God. This is a difficult concept to grasp, no doubt. But it
is as true as anything else in the Scriptures, despite whatever confusion it may create in our
finite, created minds. Jesus is equal to the Father.

God the Father is a God who loves to be known by His creation. So He is a self-revealing God.
He wants to be known so He reveals Himself to humanity. He did so through creation,
Scripture, prophets, priests, Law, kings, etc. But the ultimate revelation of Himself was in and
through Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Colossians that Jesus Christ was, “the image of the invisible
God…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:15). And to the Philippian
church, Paul also writes about Jesus that, “though he was in the form of God, did not count
equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). Absolutely stunning. To have met with
Him, eaten with Him, prayed with Him, played with Him, and ministered with Him was to have
actually eaten, prayed, played, and ministered with the Father, with God Himself! Amazing!
That’s why John began his first epistle this way:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen
with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it,
and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father
and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim
also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our
fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing
these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

True fellowship and complete joy rests on having fellowship with the Father and with His Son,
Jesus Christ. And if true fellowship and complete joy lies there, in that relationship, then so
does prayer. Prayer itself is, in fact, true fellowship and complete joy in a relationship with the
Father and Jesus Christ. And this is just what Jesus came to bring to us from the Father, so that
we could enjoy it with Him and with the Father. Therefore, it stands to reason that if Jesus
came to bring us this true fellowship and complete joy in a relationship with the Father, then
Jesus is really the only One who can teach us how to pray to the Father. Who better to teach us
how to pray to the Father other than the person who is one with Him, equal with Him, and in an
eternal relationship of true fellowship and complete joy with Him?

“Jesus was intimately in touch with the Father. He knew God’s character so He
was fully aware of how the Father would act in different circumstances. He
knew the extent of God’s power and how He wanted to manifest it. He knew
God’s will and how He planned to accomplish it. There is no better teacher than
the one who knows his subject so perfectly.”10


Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 4
There’s no one else who can teach you how to pray like Jesus. No other preacher, teacher,
scholar, theologian, pastor, commentator, or author can really teach you to pray like Jesus. No
other human being in the history of humanity has ever been equal with the Father. Why then
have you and I found ourselves buying and reading so many books on prayer, and listening to so
many messages on prayer? Unless we have first been taught about prayer from the God-man
who is equal to the Father, all other teaching has no foundation to build upon. We start with
learning how to pray to the Father by learning and obeying the teaching of the Son.

Jesus is the Teacher of Prayer Because of His Practice

The second reason Jesus is the best teacher on prayer is because Jesus actually prayed. I always
get a kick out of the old saying by George Bernard Shaw, “Those who can, do. Those who
cannot, teach.” It’s hilarious to me sometimes that there are so many instructors and
professors and teachers utilizing in their degrees to teach others, when they have actually had
no real experience in the field they are teaching. I suppose some of it has to do with
foundational information. A person doesn’t necessarily have to have used math in a career
somewhere in order to teach math.

But I will say this: the teacher who has used math in a wide variety of applications is the teacher
who can help me most, because they can provide real life applications for what are otherwise
just theoretical core classes to be endured toward a degree. Wouldn’t you rather have an
experienced teacher any day of the week, over a professor who has had zero experience with
the subject they are handling? Instructors with life experience teach it better, sympathize
better, use it correctly, and turn it from dry, old, crusty theory into mind-stretching, captivating,
useful information that makes me actually like it, want to use it, and push me to learn more.

Jesus is that kind of a teacher, especially when it comes to prayer. He wasn’t just a teacher. He
was the “prayer warrior”! Jesus didn’t just teach about prayer. He did pray. And He prayed a
lot! Mark’s gospel gives us a few insights into the prayer life of Jesus. Check these out and see
how they strike you.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a
desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Evidently, Jesus was dug in somewhere
pretty deep, because in the next verse, “Simon and those who were with him searched for him,
and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you’” (v. 36). They were so busy
with ministry, a significant truth had not occurred to them yet. And it happened to be the same
truth that had not occurred yet with Jesus’ mom and step-father, Joseph. After the feast in
Jerusalem was over, mom and dad left, but Jesus stayed behind. Mary and Joseph had
travelled a full day, and just figured Jesus had been hanging out with other friends or relatives
on the trip back (v. 44). But when they check on him, he was nowhere to be found. So all the
way back to Jerusalem they went to find him. Three days later, they finally found him in the

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 5
His parents didn't know what to think. "Son," his mother said to him, "why have
you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you
everywhere. But why did you need to search?" he asked. "Didn't you know that I
must be in my Father's house?" But they didn't understand what he meant.
(Luke 2:48-50, NLT).

Mary, Joseph, and Simon Peter all did not get it. Jesus was on a mission from His Father. And
that mission involved being about “my Father’s business,” as the old King James Version
translates it. During His earthly ministry, clearly prayer was the most significant business from
the Father Jesus had to conduct. That’s why He would get up early, before everyone else, and
get out of town for a few hours to some quiet place, where no one could find Him, so that He
could talk to His Father.

I especially love the context of this passage, because it reminds me so often of my own mission
as a minister and leader of a church. My mission is the same as Jesus’ mission, which was the
same as the Father’s mission.11 Our mission is to seek and save the lost, and to minister to the
nations the power of God in the gospel. Jesus was doing just this in the first days of His
ministry. In Mark 1:29 and following, we see Jesus healing people everywhere. Mark writes,

“That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were
brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus
healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many
demons” (Mark 1:32-34, NLT).

It was after a day of extremely intense ministry that we get to verse 35 about Jesus getting up
early in the morning. In short, Jesus was a human being who got tired from the demands of
ministry. And He knew what I know all too well, and that is that ministry will take up as much
time as I give it. Jesus, however, knew something so many of us church leaders have a hard
time learning, and that is that I should say “yes” to prayer with the Father, far more than I say
“yes” to ministry opportunities. In fact, I should say “no” to many ministry opportunities, for
one main reason: prayer with the Father is the most significant part of the mission I am on. Per
Terry Virgo,

“Jesus’ life was packed with activity. God had ‘anointed *Him+ with the Holy
Spirit and power’ and was ‘with him’ (Acts 10:38) in all He did. He triumphed as
a man, yet He never worked independently of the Father. He openly declared:
‘the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father
doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’ (John 5:19). If Jesus
had not kept in touch with God through prayer, He would have been acting on
His own initiative. But this was not God’s way. He wanted to tell His Son what to

See “Praying the Mission (1): The Father as the Foundation of the Mission.”

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 6
do and because of this, Jesus placed top priority on His secret relationship with

That’s why we read elsewhere in Mark that Jesus, “went up into the hills by himself to pray”
(6:46). And in Luke, we find Jesus praying even longer before He chose His apostles: “One day
soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At
daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles” (6:12-
13, NLT). Again Terry Virgo comments, bringing us back to my main thrust on this point.

“Jesus knew that it was only when He had received from His Father that He could
pass anything on to the people. The best teacher not only knows his subject, he
has had personal experience of it”

The God-man with the most experience in prayer, and with the deepest relationship with the
Father to whom we pray is the only Expert to whom I should look to learn how to pray. That’s
why Jesus is the Teacher on prayer.

Moving on the last three reasons as to why Jesus is the greatest Teacher on prayer, when we
look at the Old Testament leadership offices of prophet, priest and king, we find all of them
communing with God. The prophet communed with God in order to communicate God’s will to
the people. The priest communed with God in order to communicate God’s forgiveness and
instruction to the people. And the king communed with God in order to communicate God’s
rule and reign to the people. Obviously, the Old Testament is rippled with stories of unfaithful
prophets, priests, and kings. But the beautiful thing is that the Father sent the Son to be the
once-and-for-all perfect fulfillment of these offices, since no one before Him could do that.

When we come to a text like Luke 11:1 and put ourselves in the shoes of the disciple who asked
for teaching from Jesus on how to pray, we see him addressing Jesus as “Lord.” I see that title
as carrying the connotations of all three offices. Essentially, that disciple was asking…

“Lord Jesus, as the greatest Prophet,
could you teach us what God’s will is in prayer?”
“Lord Jesus, as the greatest High Priest,
could you teach us how You mediate between us and God in prayer?”
“Lord Jesus, as the King of the Universe,
could you teach us about God’s reign and rule on earth?”

I’d like to attempt to break each of these down in the rest of this chapter. They are marvelous,
and have heightened my view of Jesus Christ all the more as my prayer-teacher. I trust it will do
the same for you, too.

Virgo, p 15.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 7
Jesus is the Teacher of Prayer Because He’s God

First, Jesus was the consummate prophet. Prophets in the OT spoke for God. Jesus was God,
so this made Him the prophet. As the voice for God and of God, He was the authority on God.
Understanding this helps us understand the request from one of the disciples to teach them
how to pray. Luke is the one who records the disciple’s request for Jesus to teach them how to
pray. We don’t know which one of the twelve it was, or if it was another disciple altogether.
Regardless, what we do know is that, “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he
finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’”
(Luke 11:1).

The request begins with a title: “Lord.” Originally, this was a title given by John the Baptist to
Jesus (Matt. 3:3; Luke 3:4). It was also the title Jesus Himself gave to God (Matt. 4:7, 10; 5:33;
9:38; 11:25; 21:9, 42; 22:37, 44; Luke 4:8, 12, 18, 19; 10:2, 21; 20:42-44). Finally, it was the title
Jesus gave to Himself (Matt. 7:21, 22; 22:43-45).

Putting it all together, these texts make it obvious that the title “Lord” makes Jesus equal with
God, so that Jesus is actually God Himself. When the disciples addressed Him, “Lord,” asking
Him to teach them how to pray, this was a realization on their part that they believed they were
asking God Himself to teach them how to pray. And I would venture to say that everyone else
in Matthew’s gospel who addressed Jesus as Lord believed He was God.13 It makes complete
sense then that the best person to go to in order to learn about prayer is God Himself.

Now this brings up an interesting point that must be addressed here, because it’s one that has
been quite lacking in much preaching and writing. As a result, it has produced generations of
Christians who have trouble being told what to do by a higher authority than themselves.
When we believe that Jesus Christ is “Lord,” that He is God Himself, and when we acknowledge
that and call Him that, it also makes sense that we would do what He says. The title “Lord”
carries an inherent meaning of authority, and therefore the inherent response that I will obey
and submit. His title throughout much of the New Testament is “Lord Jesus Christ,” so it is a
completely ridiculous notion that one can supposedly accept Jesus Christ as Savior but not as
Lord. As the old cliché goes, He’s either Lord of all, nor not Lord at all. Of course, in reality He’s
really Lord over me and everything else in the universe whether or not I care to acknowledge it
and submit to it.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, the inherent understanding was
that they would actually do what He taught them to do. So let’s stop at this point and make the

8:2, 6, 8, 21, 25; 9:28; 14:28, 30; 15:22, 25 27; 16:22; 17:4, 15; 18:21; 20:30, 31, 33; 21:9; 25:11, 37, 44;
26:22. Luke 5:8, 12; 7;6; 9:54, 59, 61; 10:17, 40; 11:1; 12:41; 13:23; 17:5, 37; 18:41; 19:8, 34; 22:33, 38, 49; 24:34.
As for Matt. 7:21-22, it could be argued that these people did in fact recognize Jesus as God but simply did not
obey Him as such, if for no other reason than that is the point of the text: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord,
Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (See also
Luke 6:46-49). This is what made their sin all the more confusing and condemning, to recognize God in their midst
but choose not to obey Him.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 8
comparison right here: if you say you’re a disciple of Christ, and if you call Him “Lord” is it
inherently part of your thinking that you will just do whatever He says without question or
doubt? If so, then you’re not allowing His Lordship to genuinely function in your life. You’re
deciding when, where, why, and how you submit to His Lordship. You’re obeying on your own
terms, and not on His, which more or less makes you the lord of your life, instead of Jesus.

This point carries much weight before we even get into the Lord’s Prayer itself, for one
important reason: if we are truly disciples of Christ we will inherently want to obey Jesus and
pray like He taught us to pray. We will not want to make up our own formulations and
strategies for prayer. People do this all the time for two main reasons. First, they like to be
always coming up with new stuff. Second, new stuff always sells better than old stuff. It’s
easier and more profitable to come up with new stuff on prayer. But to call Jesus “Lord” is do
do what He said when it comes to prayer.

I can tell you from firsthand experience the joy and peace that comes in submission to Jesus as
Lord when it comes to praying the way He taught. For years my prayer experiences have been
largely frustrating and confusion. It’s like there was this grand ideal of what prayer should look
like in my mind, but when it came down to actually doing it I got distracted, confused,
frustrated, discouraged, and eventually so depressed I just didn’t pray for long periods of time.
I wasn’t measuring up to this ideal I had.

But do you know where the ideal came from? It came from all the biographies I’d read about
godly men and women, missionaries, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. I’d read about their
prayer life, compare mine to theirs, make notes on what I felt like I needed to change, attempt
to make the change, only to hit a brick wall of confusion, frustration, etc. and the whole cycle
would begin again. Each time I’d read another biography I’d fall into the trap of thinking that
this new thing I’d discovered in their life was where it was really at. So I’d try once more, only
to again fall into the cycle.

You’d have thought I might have learned my lesson. But legalism’s powerful hold through
comparison is almost inconceivable. Perhaps you’ve been in the inescapable tractor beam of
legalism before, too. If so, you can relate to what I’m saying. It’s an endless, cyclical nightmare
of comparison and change which never really leaves you with any real sense of confidence
when it comes to your prayer life. Your security in prayer…MY security in prayer, rested largely
on whether or not I was doing prayer the way these other people were. And since I thought
they were pretty godly people, I figured I’d be as godly as they, or at least on the way there, if
my prayer life was like theirs.

But these men and women are not Lord! Jesus is! And the Lord Jesus teaches us to pray, not
these godly men and women. (And if they were alive today, they’d probably slap me for ever
looking to them for teaching on prayer instead of looking to Jesus first!) If your testimony now
is like mine several years ago, it’s because you’re not recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
When you do, you ask the same thing as the disciples did, and you do what the disciples did.
You listen to Jesus teaching on prayer as if it were the most significant teaching on prayer ever

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 9
written (because it is), and then you DO it that way. You do it His way, not yours, and not
someone else’s. HE is Lord.

So the first step to praying is acknowledging Jesus Christ to be Lord. It is to acknowledge Him as
the ultimate source on how to pray and what to pray about. It is not treating what He said
about prayer as just another great teaching on the Christian’s prayer life. It is handling this
prayer as THE quintessential, inspired, most monumental teaching on prayer…ever. And it is
doing it the way Jesus said to do it. That’s how you treat Jesus as Lord when it comes to prayer.

When I started praying like Jesus was Lord of my prayer life, I started praying like He taught me
to pray. And I can tell you that so much of the distraction, confusion and frustration almost
immediately disappeared in my heart and mind. All of the praying I did before was with anxiety
and worry, never knowing for sure if I was doing it the right way. So I’d just sort of grunt my
way through it, hoping the Holy Spirit would just fill in the gaps. And to be sure, He was doing
just that (Rom. 8:26, 27)! But the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9, 11)! Jesus said,
“He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 15:14). It’s
amazing how mystical and complex we turn something like “praying in the Spirit” to be. The
Spirit wants to glorify Jesus Christ, which means the very first place He’s gonna point us in
prayer is the place where Jesus taught us how to pray. So the Spirit was eventually moving me
toward glorifying Jesus Christ by praying the way Jesus taught me to pray. That’s how He
calmed my soul and helps me pray.14

I recall those first days of making the switch. I’d get to my office, put my stuff down, and go to
another part of the office where I would not be distracted. I’d get on my knees, throw all other
thoughts out of my head (fighting hard throughout the process to keep them out), and just start
worshiping God for being my Father. I spent time blessing Him for His fatherly work in my life,
for the way He loves me and treats me, remembering how patient He is with me, etc. I’d then
spend time thanking Him and worshiping Him that I had been called to be a part of His huge
family, so that I could call Him “Our” Father. That would then occupy my worship. Scriptures
would come to mind about this truth which I’d use to exalt God. Then songs would come to

I’d stay right there, worshiping and blessing and thanking God for being my Father, until I either
ran out of stuff, or until my heart was led by the Spirit to bless God for all it means for Him to

This is not to downplay or dismiss in anyway the teaching of the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us in
prayer as taught in Rom. 8:26, 27. There, Paul is essentially teaching that when we don’t know how to pray as we
ought, due to the sufferings we experience while we wait on God to redeem our bodies and this fallen world, we
just end up sort of groaning through the process. And it is there, in that moment, that the Holy Spirit takes our
groanings in prayer and then translates and interprets them to the Father who then hears and answers the
“upgraded” prayers of the Holy Spirit. The beauty there is that the Father is always going to answer any prayer
offered to Him by His Holy Spirit. Therefore, the emphasis is that we will get our prayers answered by the Father,
because the Spirit turns our weak prayers into prayers that are in alignment with the will of God. And there, by the
way, is the missing connection we always seem to neglect in the famous Romans 8:28 verse. God is working all
things out for good because the Spirit is always interceding in our prayer lives!

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 10
be in heaven. I’d meditate on His sovereignty, rulership, transcendence, omnipresence,
omnipotence, immutability, and all these “incommunicable attributes” which make God who
He is.15 That’s essentially what the phrase means, “who is in heaven.”

Following, I’d spend time “hallowing” God’s name. Jesus wants that to happen, so I prayed for
it. We’ll get into this in subsequent weeks, but suffice it to say here that God is interested in
vindicating His name throughout the world as a miracle-worker and nation-gatherer. So I
prayed that God would produced fresh waves of signs and wonders, just like He did in the OT
and NT. That would lead me to recount those stories back to God and praise Him for His work
then, compelling me to ask Him for all that again today.16 I would then recount His love for the
nations, and His miraculous work among the nations as the authentication and motivation to
leave their worthless lifestyles and deities to worship the true God. That would in turn lead me
to pray for the nations, as the Spirit led, so that God would save them.17

I could go on and on about how I prayed the Lord’s prayer. I’ll have more teaching and
recommend more resources later on when we get to that part of our series. Just know that
what I’m telling you from personal experience is that when you decide to submit yourself to the
Lordship of King Jesus in praying the way He taught you to, the fog of frustration and clouds of
confusion in your prayer life will quickly be blown elsewhere. There’s just something about
good, ole fashioned submission that seems to make things simpler and less complex. When you
give the what and how to Jesus to figure out for you, little issues like the when and where sort
of figure themselves out, and the how gets much easier.

Jesus is the Teacher of Prayer Because He’s the Only Mediator

The second office that makes Jesus the only teacher of prayer is His priesthood.

“Incommunicable Attributes” is a theological phrase that describes all the ways that God is not like us.
It works through all the ways in which God is different from us. A very helpful resource along these lines is the ESV
Study Bible chart on the “Practical Implications of the Incommunicable Attributes of God” and the “Practical
Implications of the Communicable Attributes of God” found online at or on page 2512 of the ESV Study Bible
(Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). To dig and pray deeper into the incommunicable attributes of God, study Chapter 11:
“The Character of God: ‘Incommunicable’ Attributes” in Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
by Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), pp. 156 ff.
A quick story from one of the miracle stories in the OT or NT is helpful to spur me on in praying for
God’s name to be hallowed among the nations. Another helpful resource is a quick story from The Miracles and
Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church by Jeff Doles (Steffner, FL: Walking Barefoot
Ministries, 2008).
Jason Mandryk’s brand new, updated version of Patrick Johnstone’s classic work, Operation World is
available now as Operation World 2010: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Biblical Publishing, 2010).

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 11
Jesus is Teacher of Prayer Because He’s the Savior-King

The third office Jesus held which made Him the only real authority from which to learn how to
pray is His Kingship. Jesus was a prophet, a priest, and a king, in fulfillment of the offices, as
well as in fulfillment of every single person who had ever operated in any of those offices. As
the greatest King of kings, and Lord of lords who had ever lived, or ever would live, Jesus has
the supreme right to reign and rule over everything. Yet because He was a prophet and a
priest, He was a different kind of King.

Recognizing Him as Lord meant they recognized Him as King. He had after all, come to
inaugurate His kingdom on earth, and the Sermon on the Mount was His inauguration speech
about the nature of the kingdom. Nathanael recognized this, as did the other disciples, no
doubt. When meeting Jesus for the first time, Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of
God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). So for the disciples, Jesus being Lord was the
same as Jesus being King. They were synonymous titles for the disciples.

“King of Israel” to a Jew translated into Savior of Israel. During the four hundred year silent
period between Malachi (the last book of the OT) and Matthew (the first book of the NT), a
theology had developed with the post-exilic Jews that the prophesied Messiah would come and
deliver them once and for all from the tyrannical rules of countries like Babylon, Assyria, Persia,
Greece, and eventually Rome. The latter kingdom is the place in world history where we find
the birth of Christianity. The Jews hated any kingdom ruling over them, so they were looking
for the promised Messiah to come, destroy the pagan kingdom ruling over them, and
reestablish the kingdom of Israel on the earth, and rule over it personally as their King. This
King would also function therefore, as the Savior of Israel.

This is how Jews thought of a Messiah King during the time period when they had just returned
from exile in Babylon. The walls and temple had been rebuilt and restored, and they were now
a nation trembling beneath the burden of making sure they don’t go into exile again. For them,
a return to Jerusalem was like a New Exodus. Throughout this time period they had in mind
their first Exodus, when through the leadership of Moses God miraculously delivered them
from bondage in Egypt under the dictator, Pharaoh. Now, in this New Exodus, they had been
providentially delivered - through the leadership of Cyrus, Nememiah, Ezra and others – from
bondage in Persia (formerly Babylon) under two not-so-tyrannical dictator-kings, Artaxerxes
and Cyrus. Israel didn’t want to screw things up again, so they buckled down and got serious
about the Law of God again while looking forward to this promised Messiah-King that Isaiah18
and others19 had prophesied about many years earlier.

We think of Savior today in terms of salvation from sin. But the Jew of Jesus day was looking
primarily to salvation from pagan kings. However, the Old Testament promises of the New

Isaiah 2:4; 9:5.
Zechariah 9:9; Micah 5:2; Psalm 2, 110.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 12
Covenant pointed to the deeper need of salvation from sin, which, historically in the Bible, was
what put them under the yoke of bondage to other kingdoms to begin with. In a sense, the Old
Testament was essentially promising that when the internal constraints of sin were broken and
forgiven, the external constraints of pagan kingdoms wouldn’t really matter, because the
message of the gospel could and would overcome them. It was in this way that the kingdom
would come to earth and that the King would reign through His family of born again and
adopted sons and daughters, also called the church. Eventually, the King Himself will return
one day and finalize and consummate His Kingdom. But until then, His church is carrying out
His rule on earth with the scepter of the gospel message.

When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, they were asking a King how to
pray now that the Kingdom had been inaugurated. To be sure the Holy Spirit had not yet come
– whose function, according to Jesus was to take what He said and explain it to them (John
14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15) – and therefore the “dots” had not yet been connected for them
regarding the full significance of the person and work of Jesus. This happened for the disciples
in Luke 24:13-49, prior to His ascension, and even more so after Pentecost when the work of
the Holy Spirit progressed and culminated in the New Testament. Nevertheless, what I’m
saying is that even prior to this illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, there was sense among the
disciples that the Lord Jesus was also the King of Israel, the one whom they expected to come
and deliver Israel from bondage and be her promised Savior.

In Jesus, they recognized a King who delivered Israel from exile in Egypt in the first Exodus, and
from exile in Babylon, Assyria, and Persia in the New Exodus. And now they were looking to
Him as the ultimate and final Savior in the True Exodus.20 It would be very natural therefore,
for them to want to know what to expect, how to behave, and how to pray in this True Exodus
Kingdom. So they come to Him as Lord, looking for teaching as a Rabbi, and wanting orders
from Him as Savior-King.

My point for us is simple. Do we look at Jesus’ teaching on how to pray as orders from the
Savior-King? Do we look at the prayer from inside the context of a True Exodus Kingdom, ruled
by the Savior-King who has come as the final deliverer from any and all bondage? Or do we
look at it from the outside, as a series of phrases to be theologically analyzed, understood, and
appreciated? Do we understand the prayer as taught by the One who has tied together all of
history in His saving, redemptive plan? Or do we read and study and pray it as another valuable
“nugget” given to us by the Greatest Teacher who ever lived?

Perhaps the difference is confusing to you. But consider this. Of the two-dozen plus (and
growing) resources I’ve used to study the Lord’s Prayer, only two recognize the prayer as taught
by a Savior-King of a True Exodus Kingdom people. And of those two, only one really seems to
understand the implications that this historical-redemptive theology has not only on the prayer,
but for the people who pray it. The fact that the prayer is being taught by a Savior-King who
was personally and perfectly embodying the OT history of Israel in Exodus, and the fact that this

See “Introduction: The Lord’s Prayer as a Biblical Theology for the True Exodus” in this series.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 13
prayer is taught in the middle of His inaugural kingdom speech, and the fact that the prayer is
taught to His disciples who were the first citizens of this True Exodus Kingdom, all together
means the prayer is intended by Lord King Jesus to be much more than a formula or system of
praying the right truth about God.

The prayer is taught by a Savior-King who had inaugurated the Kingdom as a part of the mission
His Father had sent Him on.21 That mission was the True Exodus. It was to save His people
from their sins (Matt. 1:21). It was to “proclaim good news to the poor…proclaim liberty to the
captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to
proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). It was to seek and save the lost (Luke
19:10). It was to gather and unify a people for His Father (John 17).

The implications of the prayer as taught to us by a Savior-King are all missional then. We look
to King Jesus to teach us how to pray in the True Exodus Kingdom because this Kingdom is all
about a mission. The mission is the same for us as it was for Jesus, except that His death, burial,
resurrection, and ascension guarantee the overwhelming success of our mission. The question
then is this: As disciples of Jesus, do we listen to His teaching on prayer as a Savior-King, and
therefore pray as those who understand our function in the True Exodus Kingdom? Do we pray
as those who seek to have a full sense and comprehension of the mission King Jesus has put us
on? Do we look to learn about prayer from Jesus as a Savior-King who has included us as a part
of the bigger plan to tie all of history up together in His salvation plan? We want to think this
way about Jesus when we look to Him and listen to Him and learn from Him how we should


See “Praying the Mission (1): The Father as the Foundation of the Mission” in this series.

Praying the Mission (3): Jesus Christ, Our Only Teacher on How to Pray Page 14