The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, are records of Jesus’ life on earth. In it we read about many of the miracles He performed. We take note of Jesus, the great storyteller, revealing spiritual truths through everyday experiences and examples. We see Jesus and His busy schedule: teaching His followers, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, preaching in the Synagogues, debating the religious leaders of the day, casting out demons, even settling disputes among His disciples.
Yes, Jesus was a very busy person, teaching many truths about successful Christian living. However, throughout His ministry, it is interesting to note that Jesus points only to one crucial thing that is necessary to living the abundant Christian life. There is only one thing we must practice in order to know His peace, courage, strength, joy, and direction through all our days.
We have no record that Jesus ever taught a seminar on sermon preparation. There is no record of Him giving instruction on how to conduct a feeding program and helps to the poor. He never gave a lecture on healing ministry, He never suggested a tea cafe to reach the community or a daycare center for the children. There is no record that He gave instruction on conducting a youth camp at the Sea of Galilee. All of the above are wonderful tools today, that when led by the Holy Spirit, the love of God can be shared. Even so, there is no record of Jesus giving any teaching on these matters.
He taught one necessary thing: it’s a tremendous spiritual truth that is absolutely essential in order for any of the above to be effective in leading others to know Jesus. It’s a necessary thing in order for any of us to maintain inner peace in the midst of turmoil. It’s a thing often ignored; it’s often put aside until a later time; it’s often hurried through on the busiest of days. It’s the thing called — prayer.
How to pray is what Jesus taught, and it is what He showed us by His own example. Even on His busiest of days, when He was ministering all day and into the night, it is recorded that “Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.”Luke 1:35
Jesus tells us how to pray in Matthew 5:9-13. We call it The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a tremendous model on how we should pray. There is another instruction on prayer that Jesus gave us, recorded in Matthew 7:7-8, “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.”
There are those who would read these words and quickly say that they have asked, sought, and knocked, and God did not answer their prayer. Here is an important truth: God always answers our prayers. Sometimes He says, yes. Sometimes He says, no. Sometimes He says, wait a while. In the meantime, we are instructed to keep asking and seeking and knocking. Why do this if the answer is wait or if the answer is slow in coming? Because asking and seeking and knocking is for our benefit. Those actions keep us focused heavenward. When we focus heavenward, our very thoughts take on a more godly attitude. When we take on a more godly attitude, then God is able to build strength of character in us. When strength of character is built in us, then faith and trust in our Father grows more secure.
Too often we focus on that which we don’t understand, and we quit praying. Jesus urges in His teaching to — keep on keeping on. That determination and obedience is what sharpens our spiritual ears to hear Him when He speaks. If we aren’t ready to listen, it stands to reason that we will never hear. When we do not hear, discouragement sets in, and we declare that God doesn’t answer our prayers. It’s a spiritually debilitating circle. It doesn’t have to be so!
Let’s determine today, and each day as we awake, that we will obey the teaching of Jesus and we will pray; we will talk to Him, telling Him quite simply how we feel about things going on in our lives, what we feel we need, perhaps how we are worried about those around us, what we would like to happen in our world, etc. Ask God for help with everything that troubles you or confuses you. Just talk. Pour out your heart in your own words. When we do this, we will grow to understand that prayer is for our very best. We will grow to a greater understanding of God and His ways. We will come to know a joy so great it can never be measured. Remember this — of a certainty, such immense joy can never be found — without the one necessary thing — prayer.