Teach Us To Pray
We Have Found The Messiah
When chosen by Jesus, the apostles had very little grasp of the religious knowledge we often take for granted today. When they were asked by Christ to “Come, follow Me,” they understood less about “Christianity” than even a novice being called into the Faith today. The apostles did not know how to pray correctly. For three and a half years, Jesus would teach them, train them, and reveal the Father to them. This booklet will address the aspects of personal prayer. How do we know if our prayers are being heard? What is the correct way to pray? What is the purpose of prayer?
The Biblical lands of Jesus Christ’s day were not the tranquil, agrarian and pastoral communities often pictured by modern religion. Neither was that society to which Jesus came one of religious harmony. Neighboring peoples and invading foreign powers alike had for centuries influenced the Israelites. Although God had clearly warned His people “Learn not the way of the heathen,” they were easily enticed by attractive pagan practices. Contact with those foreign nations, which did not worship the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, gradually brought about a weakened mixture in the faith originally held by the patriarchs.
By the time of Christ’s birth, the occupants of the promised land found themselves vassals to the brutal Roman Empire as a result of the idolatry and Sabbath violations of their forefathers. The Romans, who feared sedition, were good at putting down revolt and staying in power. Executions, for the purpose of maintaining the Pax Romana, the “Peace of Rome,” were not uncommon.
Roman occupation of the promised land was fairly new. Less than a century before the birth of our Savior, the Roman general Pompey had entered Jerusalem. After him, Herod the Great, the Idumean, who had spent 46 years “beautifying” the Temple, would still be on his throne at the time of the birth of Jesus. Matthew 2:1:
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…”
God the Father could have picked any time or any place in history to send His Son, and yet He chose Judea while it was subjugated and occupied by the most powerful empire that had ever existed to that day. Why did the Father place Jesus in such a hostile environment as that one? Wasn’t it to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and build His church? God demonstrated to us that He is not threatened by malicious powers. Jesus would overcome the world – setting an example for us.
More than anything, the Jews of Christ’s day hated the Roman occupation. They fully expected two things to happen: first, that God would send them a promised deliverer, Who, secondly, would bring about the restoration of Israel. They expected to see their country, once again, rise to national prominence as we see in Acts 1:6.
“Therefore, when they [the apostles] had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’”
Will Durant, on page 534 in his third volume of The Story of Civilization – Caesar And Christ, wrote, “But the Jews lived by their religion, by their faith that Yahveh would someday rescue them from bondage and oppression.”
Today, religious Jews, in the nation of Israel and around the world, are still looking for the prophesied Messiah to come. Just like the Samaritan woman of Jesus’ day, the Jews, some twenty centuries later, are still awaiting the Messiah to come and restore their people and their nation to greatness. We read of this expectation in John 4:25:
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.”
The Greek Christos means “Anointed One,” the same as Messiah in the Hebrew language. The name Jesus means “Savior.”
When He was about thirty years old, Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee and chose His disciples. Disciple is a word which simply means “pupil or student.” He did so with much forethought, very carefully, and after serious prayer and contemplation. The men He chose to become the apostles and to ultimately rule over the twelve tribes of Israel were the following: Peter and Andrew, brothers; James and John, also brothers; Philip; Thomas; Bartholomew; Matthew; James, the son of Alphaeus; Simon the Zealot; Judas, the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who would become disqualified and be replaced with Matthias, who was among those who accompanied the disciples all the time Jesus was among them.
These men were not yet saints. They were not converted. Certainly, they were men of character, intelligence, and good standing. Jesus had observed and scrutinized their reputations within their families and communities. But they were carnal men who knew next to nothing about “Christian living,” let alone anything about becoming spirit-born members of the God Family. They had heard the Old Testament Scriptures read each Sabbath, and they kept the Feast of Tabernacles each year, but these men had grown up under the tutelage of the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees. Except for the repentance that John the Baptist was teaching, Jesus had to start virtually from “scratch” when it came to the proper religious training they would receive.
The expectations of Christ’s disciples were very much like those of the Jews today. They, too, were looking for the Messiah to come, as we see in John 1:41, where Andrew is excitedly telling his brother Peter,
“We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.”
The disciples were being called out of the world in much the same way as we are called out of the world today. In time God would grant these men repentance. He would give them faith. They would be baptized and receive God’s Holy Spirit. If they completed the process of conversion by being “called, chosen, and faithful” until the end, they would become resurrected spirit beings in the God Family at the return of Jesus Christ. The same process is required for Christians today.
Jesus would build His church – a formidable task. It would be an endeavor so all encompassing that, without the direct intervention of God, it could not come to fruition. The “revolt” Christ would usher in, would not only be against Roman occupation, but against all principality and rule. What Jesus would do was totally contrary to what the disciples expected. Rather than becoming the victorious King they wanted, Jesus was destined to die a disgraceful death, in seemingly shameful failure. Hebrews 12:2:
“[Jesus]… endured the cross, despising the shame…”
These handpicked disciples would have to be so well grounded in Christ’s doctrines that their hopes would survive the death of their Leader. Their selection, therefore, was of the utmost importance. Jesus would include these men as a part of the foundation of the church He was building. Earlier, as God of the Old Testament, Jesus had worked with the Prophets, who are also a part of the foundation of the church as we know from Ephesians 2:20.
“Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,”
Without the sure foundation of the Plan of God, a belief in Christ and His doctrines, Jesus knew His disciples would be tossed and turned with every wind of doctrine that came along.
They came from a diversity of backgrounds as we see in a few examples.
Matthew 9:9: “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him.”
Mark 1:16-17: “And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’”
There was so much that the disciples didn’t know about God and His plan for mankind. They didn’t yet understand their need for salvation, or how Jesus Christ would bring it about. They understood almost nothing about overcoming or any of the principles of Christianity that they themselves would come to teach to a new church.
It would be a long time before the disciples understood that Jesus was not coming to bring about the physical deliverance of their country, but as a spiritual Savior who would ultimately deliver mankind from death itself. Their focus was on the “here and now.” They counted themselves as sons of Abraham, but the realization that they would become literal sons of God would be slow in coming.
When first called, the disciples knew next to nothing about the Father, Who He was, His character, His plans, and His expectations. They had no relationship with, or special affinity for the Father. That would come as Jesus, for more than three years, would teach them about “your Father.”
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:45)
Jesus knew His Father and would reveal the heavenly Father to them. It would be a long, slow and difficult process for the disciples to grasp the truth of a personal Father. We see in John 14:7 that, even some three years later, at the very end of Jesus’ public ministry, they would still be trying to grasp the bold new concept.
“‘If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
‘Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”
Contrary to popular belief, the teachings of Jesus Christ are not widely accepted and practiced even today! Indeed, all throughout Christ’s public ministry, the disciples failed to realize the unimaginable changes that they would only finally embrace after their conversion on that first Pentecost.
Just as they didn’t know the Father, they didn’t have a grasp of the Kingdom of God and all its ramifications. For the disciples to know how to pray and be able to establish a right relationship with God, a proper framework of understanding would have to be built. Jesus would begin with the basics: The Father, The Kingdom of God, Salvation, Satan’s destructive nature, etc.
Keep in mind that Jesus was expounding these new concepts to the disciples for the first time. The notion that Jesus was their Eternal Savior was not something they would be able to quickly embrace, nor was the concept that Jesus would become their “food,” their spiritual sustenance. We see in Luke 19:11 that Jesus was aware that their minds were on a physical kingdom.
“Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”
In Acts 1:6 we saw that, even after Jesus died, the twelve would still be looking for the immediate establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Although there are many prayers recorded in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, the disciples of Christ somehow realized that they needed to be taught a more valid way to pray. So they asked Christ to teach them how to pray correctly in Luke 11:1.
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
Jesus Christ took the opportunity to introduce the major concepts that their prayers should revolve around.
What He taught them was not a prayer to be memorized and rotely recited. It was a prayer guideline. God wants real meaningful dialogue with us and isn’t interested in ritual or vain repetition. In fact, God seeks those who worship Him in sincerity and truth. Our relationship with Him must be totally genuine and intimately personal.
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)
God wants a close personal relationship with each of us individually. In the next section, we will take a closer look at the instruction Jesus gave to His chosen men.