Who best to show us the potential of teaching prayer by example than Jesus!
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say . . .” (Lk. 11:1-4)
From Jesus, we can learn at least two factors involved in teaching prayer by example.
- You need to be consistent in praying for others to take notice that you pray.
- You need to be available to mentor or disciple people at teachable moments.
Look for more on these factors in future articles. (Subscribe to receive e-mail updates of new posts.)
Before delving into those aspects of Jesus’ practice, we need to first make sense out of praying for others to observe.
Jesus Himself warned against praying to be seen by others.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt. 6:5-6)
Yet, how will people know that you are a person of prayer if they do not see you praying? If they don’t see you consistently praying, how will your prayer life generate teachable moments?
Pay close attention to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6. Notice how He focuses in on a person’s motivation. Jesus is referring to those who love to pray in order to be seen by others … those who pray for show. If He is calling them hypocritical, then they are doing something that lacks authenticity.
From Jesus we also learn the key to teaching prayer by example that makes sense of the other factors: Authenticity
Modeling prayer isn’t something you purposefully do to set yourself up as an example. Rather, it is something that happens because you truly are devoted to prayer (Col. 4:2), because you really do pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), because you actually are fervent or passionate about praying (James 5:16). This is the kind of teaching that cannot be contrived. To be an example in praying, you must pray to be heard by God, not to be an example in praying.
When your prayer life is authentic, others will take notice not because you are trying for them to see but because they can’t help but see. The disciples saw that prayer was a priority to Jesus. He would set apart special times of communing with the Father. He would also pray spontaneously. He raised prayers of praise and thanksgiving and He also interceded and petitioned God. We do not read of Jesus saying “Look at me” yet the disciples did look. Prayer was so much a part of Jesus’ life that they noticed.
If you want to teach prayer by example, don’t focus on yourself. When we focus on being an example, we open the door for pride, hypocrisy, and faulty motivations. Pray because you want to commune with your heavenly Father. Pray because you want to work in cooperation with God. Pray because you want to trust the Lord to work in all situations. Pray because you want to let Him know that you view Him as worthy of all honor and praise.
Pray because you want God to hear you, not to impress others. Being noticed by others for your prayer life is a byproduct that happens when you are authentic and can lead to teachable moments as others observe your example.
For Personal Reflection: Do you love to pray or do you love to be seen praying?