I love to listen to the prayers of others. I listen to how they pray and what they say. The language they use reflects their understanding of God. Some refer to God as "Father" in their communication with Him reflecting a profound sense of intimacy. Others approach Him as "Sovereign God" or "Lord," titles which suggest a healthy dose of respect for God. The depth of some believers' relationship with God saturates their prayers and lifts you up to heaven with them.

Unfortunately, the prayers of others often reveal how little they know about the God to Whom they pray. Their prayers betray an understanding of God that renders the Creator of the universe subservient to their temporal needs and concerns. Their God is often little more than the Big Guy in the Sky, the Man Upstairs. He's the heavenly Santa Claus who's keeping score, trying to find out who's been naughty or nice, so that he can determine the magnitude of His generosity before He answers. With such a low view of God, is it any wonder so few Christians experience the joy of having their prayers answered?

According to many surveys, most people pray. In fact, surprisingly large numbers of them claim to pray weekly, even those who profess little faith in a recognizable religion. Yet, a quick survey of an Internet bookstore reveals that most don't know how to pray. Tens of thousands of books on the topic can found on one website alone. The stunning silence one hears in church when the call goes out for volunteers to pray aloud bears testimony to this spiritual ignorance. Rather than seeing prayer as a privilege, far too many Christians see it as a task for which they are woefully unprepared.

The great Martyn Lloyd-Jones rightly diagnosed this weakness in the common Christian:

There is no question but that this is our greatest need. More and more we miss the very greatest blessings in the Christian life because we do not know how to pray aright. We need instruction in every respect with regard to this matter. We need to be taught how to pray, and we need to be taught what to pray for. [i]

The first disciples were not prepared for prayer, either. They watched quietly in the wings time and time again as Christ prayed. They saw His example. They heard His cries. Yet, they failed to learn their lesson. That is, until the day one of their number admitted his ignorance and sought instruction. "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

Ever the gracious teacher, Christ did not chide the disciples for their immaturity. He did not lambast their spiritual silence. Instead, He granted their request and provided the greatest manual on prayer ever given to man. He gave them the "Lord's Prayer." He taught them to pray.