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Teach Us to Pray

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Blog title card; topic is learning to pray.
Teach Us to Pray

It’s interesting that in the model prayer, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about prayer, they didn’t say “teach us how to pray,” but instead “teach us to pray.” Like with the disciples, the biggest problem with the prayer life of most Christians is not that we don’t know how to pray; it’s that we don’t pray.

In Luke 11 the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.” I suggest that John the Baptist’s disciples must have had a reputation for being prayer warriors, while Jesus’ disciples knew that they, by contrast, would fall asleep in prayer, or that they were inconsistent in their prayer life. Many of us today are just like Jesus‘ original disciples. We also struggle with inconsistency in our prayer life. In Luke 11, those disciples humbly asked Jesus to help them achieve a regular prayer life.

So how did Jesus answer their question? I suggest that He basically said three things. First, He gave them several specific petitions that they can pray (verses 2-4), and that are often emphasized from this passage. But then, second, Jesus taught them to pray with “importunity” (verse 8).

Their problem in prayer was that they would ask God for something and then quit praying. So Jesus instructed them to begin to pray with a measure of boldness and shamelessness. That’s what importunity means. Jesus is saying not to ask God once, but to keep asking. Don’t just seek God, He says, but keep seeking. He tell us, “Don’t just knock once on His throne room door, but keep knocking.” This is what it means to pray with importunity.

If you are brokenhearted over a wayward child, I encourage you to pray with importunity. If you are confused, or concerned about a health situation, pray with importunity. If you are disappointed over the direction of this country that we love, pray for the USA with importunity. Whatever is overwhelming your heart, keep asking, keep knocking, and keep seeking!

Third, Jesus told His disciples to pray like a son, not like a friend. In verses 5-13, Jesus illustrates the difference between a man asking his friend for something and a son asking his father for something. It is much easier to tell a friend “no” than when your child, for whom you have a sense of responsibility, asks for something. Familial love is deeper love than friendship love.

Listen dear Christian, if you have been saved, you have been adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:14-17). You are His child and He is your Father. Personally, I want to help my friends when they have needs, but so much the more does a good father want to provide abundantly for his children when they have needs.

It is interesting to me that in verse 5 as Jesus begins this illustration, He starts with the phrase, “which of you shall have a friend.” But then, in verse 11, Jesus says, “if a son shall ask bread.”

Relationship matters more than the request and the relationship impacts the response. I’m saying that our position as sons is what allows us to receive provision from our Father. If you consider the first 13 verses of Luke 11, you can see that Jesus is contrasting a man requesting something from his friend with a son requesting something from his father. A man usually has other friends he can request things from, but each of us only has one father. I am the only earthly father that my children have, and I am responsible for providing for their needs.

We only have one Heavenly Father, and we as Christians are His children. If earthly fathers “know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more shall your heavenly father give good things to them that ask him” (verse 13)?

So pray like a son, not a friend.

In conclusion, those disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray“ and Jesus’ answer was essentially, “Make sure you request the right kind of things from your Father (the things listed in verses 2-4), and pray with importunity. Don’t forget to pray like a son not a friend.” After all, dear Christian, you are “joint heirs with Christ,” and you have received “the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba father’.“

Apply these biblical ideas and allow Jesus’ teaching from Luke 11 to be strength for your prayer life.


The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at

Every Tuesday, SFL publishes relevant Bible-based content. Check back next Tuesday to read the next SFL article.


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