Lord, Teach Us to Pray- Shades of Grace | Natalie Nichols

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Have you ever wondered what prompted Jesus’ disciples to ask, “Lord, teach us to pray”?  They must have observed the connection between Jesus’ private prayer life and His public ministry.  No doubt they had awakened countless mornings to find Jesus still in prayer from the evening before.  When He prayed, they saw Heaven open and a power descend that they had never known.

Can you imagine–the lifeless syllables of men committed in the name of “prayer,” the dead ramblings of earthly origin that the disciples had witnessed and spoken their entire lives?  How Jesus’ prayer life stood in stark contrast!  His prayers were endued with the very thoughts and words…and life of the Father Himself.  Jesus’ believing prayers moved God’s will from Heaven to earth.  The disciples had come to recognize and believe in Jesus as an expert, a Master, in the art of prayer. No one could pray like Jesus!

Lord, teach us to pray.

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

As modern day disciples, this must be our chief request.  Of all that we long to learn from Jesus, of all that we long to be and do through His life and ability, none of it will come into being apart from prayer.  Moses gave no instructions or regulations regarding prayer.  The prophets said very little about prayer.  It is Jesus who teaches us to pray.  Andrew Murray describes this Luke 11 scene in With Christ in the School of Prayer:

“It is the secret of power and life not only for ourselves, but for others, for the church, and for the world.  It is to prayer that God has given the right to take hold of Him and His strength.  It is on prayer that the promises wait for their fulfillment, the kingdom waits for its coming, and the glory of God waits for its full revelation.  How slothful and unfit we are for this blessed work.  Only the Spirit of God can enable us to do it right.  How speedily we are deceived into resting in a form of prayer, while the power is still missing! Our early training, the teaching of the church, the influence of habit, the stirring of the emotions-how easily these lead to prayer that has no spiritual power and achieves little. Who wouldn’t cry out for someone to teach him true prayer that takes hold of God’s strength and achieves much, to which the gates of heaven are really opened wide?” (emphasis added) [i]

We have read what took place for the saints of long ago when they prayed-what supernatural wonders came in answer to their prayers.  However, they were under the old covenant.  How much more should we, in these days of fulfillment, receive a definite mark of God’s presence in answer to our prayers?  We have read the promises given to Christ’s apostles about the power of prayer in Jesus’ Name, and seen evidence of their fulfillment in the New Testament church.  Those same promises are for us too.  The Holy Spirit-the Spirit of grace and supplication–dwells in as well.  Christ has also entrusted to us His work.  The coming of His kingdom depends on us and our prayers.  Jesus, reserve a seat and enroll our names in your school of prayer!

Speaking of the coming of Christ’s kingdom, the saving of souls, the expansion of the Church, it is interesting to note that Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, only how to pray. The modern day church in America has completely reversed the order of priority. The weight of our church experience is thrust upon preaching and music, with almost a complete vacuum of the presence of prayer.

Don’t get me wrong; I wholeheartedly believe in the “foolishness of preaching” and the scriptural importance of worship.  If you have been a part of Passionate Pursuit, or followed me on YouTube or Facebook, you know how strongly I crave, seek out and recommend Spirit-powered, uncompromised, undiluted, sin-exposing preaching (see sermons on YouTube and Recommended Listening).  But true “preaching”–sermons like we hear from the prophets in the Old Testament or the apostles in the New Testament–comes by the unction of the Holy Spirit, a direct result of prayer.  It is not contrived from man’s keen intellect or sermon crafting skills. In Why Revival Tarries Leonard Ravenhill laments this spiritual delinquency:

“Prayer is conditioned by one thing alone and that is spirituality.  One does not need to be spiritual to preach, that is, to make and deliver sermons of homiletical perfection and exegetical exactitude.  By a combination of memory, knowledge, ambition, personality, plus well-lined bookshelves, self-confidence and a sense of having arrived-brother, the pulpit is yours almost anywhere these days.  Preaching of the type mentioned affects men; prayer affects God.  Preaching affects time; prayer affects eternity.  The pulpit can be a shopwindow to display our talents; the closet speaks death to display.

“The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.  Oh! the horror of it.  There is a strange thing that I have seen “under the sun”…it is preaching without unction. ..Preaching is a spiritual business.  A sermon born in the head reaches the head; a sermon born in the heart reaches the heart.  Under God, a spiritual preacher will produce spiritually minded people.  Unction is not a gentle dove beating her wings against the bars outside of the preacher’s soul; rather, must she be pursued and won.  Unction cannot be learned, only earned-by prayer.  Unction is God’s knighthood for the soldier-preacher who has wrestled in prayer and gained the victory.  Victory is not won in the pulpit by firing intellectual bullets or wisecracks, but in the prayer closet; it is won or lost before the preacher’s foot enters the pulpit.”[ii]

The same could be said of worship leaders across the nation.  How many simply compile a list of songs and practice them to perfection without consulting the Holy Spirit through prayer?  “Worship” takes place in Spirit and Truth; true worship in the Spirit must come from God Himself, because God is Spirit.  And this endowment of the Spirit can only be received in prayer.

Unfortunately, in the majority of American churches today, pastor, leader, teacher and congregant alike are content to go through motions, void the empowering that comes from the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer.  Pastors are content to contrive eloquent sermons absent the unction of the Holy Spirit because prayer has lost preeminence in their lives.  Lazy congregants, including myself, are content to come to church, put on pretense and play games with God.

Who in the American church is really seeking the power of will of God that come only through prayer?  Not the occasional five–minute prayer in the car on the way to work, or the ten-minute slice of prayer spoken during the lifeless prayer meeting at church.  I am talking about the true ministry of prayer that comes through the Holy Spirit–the wrestling in tears,  diligent seeking, fasting, pouring through scripture for God’s quickened promise to plead, waiting on God and listening for His voice.

Is this taking place in your personal prayer life?  Is it a hallmark of your church body?  If not, would you like it to be?  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you His Spirit of grace and supplication.  Ask Him to pour it out upon your pastor and your church — and the church in America as well.

Jesus, teach us to pray!  No one can pray like you!  Through all you endured on earth, you learned and demonstrated the limitless reach of prayer.  Prayer marked your earthly life and still remains your beloved occupation.  Your life in Heaven, this very moment, is prayer.  Thank you for patiently, lovingly instructing us in the art of prayer.  Nothing thrills you more than to find those who want to accompany you into the Father’s presence.  Nothing gives you more joy than to take us with You there and clothe us with power in prayer.  We are eager and ready to learn!   Lord, teach us to pray.

The Prayer Closet

After Jesus called His first disciples, He gave them their first public teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  In it, He described the kingdom of God.   In this Kingdom God is not only King, but Father.  He is not only the giver of life, He Himself is life.   Knowing and living in relationship with Him is its greatest treasure.  Therefore, Jesus naturally included the subject of prayer and the prayer life as He taught about the kingdom He came to establish.

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.”-Matthew 6:6

The first thing Jesus teaches the disciples is that they must have a place of prayer-a solitary place to be alone with God.  As a disciple, we too must have a place to which we retreat each day to seek God in prayer, wait upon Him and hear His still, small voice.   Do you have such a place? If so, have you been there today? Have you been there regularly this week?

Three times in this passage Jesus uses the name of Father: “pray to your Father”; “your Father…will reward you”; “your Father knows what you need before you ask” (Matthew 6:6,8). It is clear that our primary purpose is to meet the father.  Every request we make is in simple, childlike trust in the Father.

First, “pray to your Father who is unseen.” God hides himself to the natural, fleshly eye.  As long as our own thoughts, desires and efforts dominate our prayer life, we will not meet Him who is unseen.  But to the man who removes himself from all that is of the world and shuts Himself up to God, the Father will reveal Himself.   The King James translation says, “pray to thy Father which is in secret.”  This is an image of the sanctuary, the secret of God’s tabernacle.   It is behind the veil that we encounter the Holy One.

The Father is in secret, waiting for you today.  According to Jesus, this is to be our first thought as we enter the private place of prayer.  No matter how grieved we are at our sin of prayerlessness, no matter the lack of desire we feel to pray, no matter how much we feel we’ve failed, we are to simply shut the door and pray honestly to the Father-tell him candidly about our struggles and let our loving Father meet us and change us there.

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Jesus promises us that secret, unseen prayer is not wasted, fruitless or unproductive.  Its results will be evident in our lives. “…anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The blessing of the prayer closet does not depend upon our knowledge, feeling or intellect, but upon the love and power of our Father who promised to meet us there…and answer.

The Place of the Fast

As Jesus is teaching the disciples about the kingdom of Heaven — its laws and conduct — He mentions the word “when” three very significant times.

1.       ” When you give…” (v. 2).

2.       “When you pray…” (v. 5).

3.       “When you fast…” (v. 16).

Notice that He did not say, if you give,” “if you pray,” “if you fast”. He did not say “if” but “when”. Jesus made it clear that fasting, like praying and giving, is to be a normal part of Christian life. We all know and believe in the importance of prayer and giving.  But sadly our approach to fasting is that it is a dispensable thing — merely an option for occasional implementation, if at all.

This is not a message about fasting, but we cannot be in this passage on prayer, this passage so tied to the Kingdom of God, and not briefly notice these three little words, when you fast.”

A pastor once shared with me his frustration over the lack of spiritual and physical growth of his church.  “I led them in a twenty-one day fast a couple of years ago,” he said, “and was really expecting it to make a huge difference.  I thought God was really going to use it to change the church, but nothing came of it.”

On a human level, I sympathize with his plight; but at the same time, can you imagine the identical attitude applied to our personal finances and tithing?  It would sound something like this: “I’m so frustrated with barely getting by.  I am behind on all of my bills — I just never have enough!  I tithed out of one weekly paycheck a few years ago and was expecting it to really turn my finances around.God says give and He will open the windows of Heaven.  I just don’t understand why it didn’t work?”

Sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?  And very unscriptural.  Yet this is our approach to fasting.  God intends for fasting to be a lifestyle, a regular part of our lives as are tithing and praying. Fasting should be something we do so frequently that it occurs naturally, habitually.  When you receive your paycheck, do you not first sit down and pay your tithe, then pay your bills and make purchases out of what is left?  It is a habit, is it not?  What is your habit in fasting?  Is fasting a way of life-a regular part of your spiritual walk with Christ?

Fasting was a way of life for Jesus.  According to His words, it is the duty of every disciple, every believer, to fast.  When addressing the Pharisees as to why His disciples didn’t fast, Jesus said, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast (Luke 5:34-35)

“In those days they will fast.”  Jesus expected his disciples to do as He had done. “You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so,” Jesus said in John 13.  “That is what I am…I’ve laid down a pattern for you.  What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious.  A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer.  If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it – and live a blessed life.

If we are going to let Jesus teach us in the school of prayer, we must be willing to do as He has done.  “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

A few years ago, I began giving the first twenty-one days of the year to God in a fast.  The Holy Spirit used Jentezen Franklin and Free Chapel to spur me on to this obedience in Christ.   (After I hear one of Jentezen’s messages on fasting, I long to fast.  I hear myself asking the Lord, “when do I get to fast?”  Jentezen has an anointing for leading people in a fast.  I highly recommend his messages and books about fasting.)

As of September 2008, my health had only allowed a Daniel fast, and even at that, I had to incorporate some type of protein. Throughout August of that year, prior to launching Passionate Pursuit, I diligently prayed for the women who would be attending — beseeching the Lord to set them on a diligent, passionate pursuit of Christ.  After the first Passionate Pursuit in September, as I got in the car to drive home, a Jentezen Franklin message on fasting was playing in my car.  Within a few moments the Holy Spirit whispered, “Natalie, I want you to fast.”

“What?” I replied.  “I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

“Natalie, I want you to fast, and to fast completely from food.  You prayed for everyone else to be set on a deep, fresh pursuit of Christ, but what about you?  Pursue me passionately.”  By then I knew He meant business.  Now mind you, I had a car full of leftovers from a chocolate fountain buffet.  Even though I was listening to the fasting message in the car on the way to the event, I never really expected God to call me right then…but He did.  I knew instantly it was His reward.  The spiritual welfare of other women had so dominated my prayers that I forgot to include myself.  Yet God gave this in answer to my prayers.  Those days of  fasting were weak in my flesh, but God used them more than I could have ever dreamed.

One month later I traveled to Romania to minister.  Our team stayed in the home of Liviu and Mary Neagoe.  Immediately upon arriving, we sat down for dinner and a time to get to know each other.  Within minutes, the topic of fasting came up. We quickly discovered that we were all fasting the twenty-one days in January with Free Chapel — oceans apart we were bonded by prayer and didn’t know it.

Conviction quickly sat in as Liviu mentioned that he fasts the first two days of every month before he pays bills or makes business decisions.  He gives God the first two days of the month. The Holy Spirit’s point was well taken.  From that moment on fasting became a constant part of my life — a deeply treasured, sweet part of my fellowship with Christ.  The degree to which it keeps me in continual prayer is unrivaled.  I mention my personal experiences only to say that there is a spiritual blessing inherent in the fast, no matter what external results do or do not immediately occur.

In all honesty, I believe the growth of Passionate Pursuit, the Concert of Prayer and our participation in prayer together right now are fruit from fasting and prayer.  But without any external benefit, the crucifixion of the flesh and increased intimacy with the Father are fasting’s own immeasurable reward. For health reasons, I had to return this summer to a Daniel fast.  Not being able to fast from food entirely was like telling me to no longer open the scriptures in prayer.  Or to no longer fall to my knees in worship.  Fasting has become a sweet, treasured, intimate, holy part of my communion with Christ.  Again, I reluctantly share my personal experiences in fasting that you might be encouraged to consider some type of fast.  It really will rock your world!

So often, when we hear the word “fast,” we can’t help but but make an ugly face.  Immediately we presume a fast to be a solemn, heavy, miserable, lonely, torturous experience.  Every negative connotation imaginable comes to mind.

In the same way, though, before we became accustomed to giving God the first moments of our day in prayer, perhaps we thought, “Oh, that’s horrible! You mean I have to set my alarm and get up early?! I have to stare bored out of my mind at the Bible?!”  But after experiencing that regular, frequent time of fellowship with Christ, your day now seems all awry if you have to miss it, does it not?   It is the same with fasting.  It is a habit that once you start you will look forward to each time.  And the God who sees in secret will reward.

“And no one calls on Your name and awakens and bestirs himself to take and keep hold of You…” (Isaiah 64:7 AMP)

What a grievous statement.  And yet it is true of the majority of the Church in our nation today.  May it not be true of you and me.  May we awaken and bestir ourselves to take and keep hold of God!

To what lengths are you willing to go to take and keep hold of God?  Are you willing to awaken and bestir yourself through a lifestyle of fasting and prayer?  Are you willing to renounce the natural in order to invoke the supernatural?

Christ’s teachings on prayer clearly show that receiving an answer depends upon certain conditions.  These conditions — faith, perseverance, praying in His name, praying in the will of God — are all summed up in John 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

“The power to pray the effectual prayer of faith depends upon the life.  It is only to a man given up to live as entirely in Christ and for Christ as the branch in the vine and for the vine that these promises can come true.  “In that day,” Christ said, the Day of Pentecost, “ye shall ask…in my name” (John 16:23).  It is only in a life full of the Holy  Spirit that the true power to ask in Christ’s name can be known.” [iii]

Making prayer and fasting a regular, habitual part of our lives is central to a life full of the Holy Spirit.

24And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.  25If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” ( Galatians 5:24-25, emphasis added).

I will be fasting each day that we pray together in concert.  I invite you to join me, whether it is for one Thursday out of the month or all four.  If this will be your first fast, or your first fast in a while, it might help you to fast along with others.  It is much easier when we feel the support of others, and the accountability as well.  You might want to fast with others in your family, or your church or prayer group — or of course, with us in the Concert of Prayer each Thursday.

If you are fasting with us in the Concert of Prayer, please take a moment to let me know.  I want to pray for you specifically.  As you email, please let me know you requests and reasons for fasting so that I might join you in prayer.

There are many ways to fast:

  • Full Fast. Drink only liquids, especially water.  On this type of fast you may also take in clear broth and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices.
  • Partial Fast. There are several types of partial fasts

–   Daniel fast: a fast from meats, sweets, breads and any drink except water. Eat fruits and vegetables and drink only water. (Daniel 10:2-3)

–   Other partial fasts:

  • Select foods: Give up one item of food such as caffeine or sweets or give up one meal.
  • Choose to fast from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. or from sun-up to sundown. Consider your work schedule.  The hours that you sleep should not be considered part of your fasting period.
  • Along with fasting food, you might go on a “TV fast,” going without television at specific times.  When you do this, use that time in prayer and the Word.

However the Holy Spirit leads you fast, be sure to incorporate extra time in prayer. Simply going without food is a diet, not a fast.  Forfeiting television or entertainment without committing that time to prayer is merely an exercise of the will.  Fasting is consecration and separation unto the Lord.  We must make extra time to turn to the Lord in prayer and the Word.

The Holy Spirit will guide you and enable you — do not worry how He you will make it through. Once you commit to fast, God sees the desire of your heart and provides you with the grace and strength to follow through.

I look forward to meeting you before the Throne of Grace today at 6:30! As we come in simple, child-like faith, know that our Father is waiting to meet us there and He longs to answer.  Join me in praying the following four things:

Prayer Bullets:

  • Lord, teach me to pray.  Show me if I have been deceived into resting in a form of prayer that does not possess true spiritual power.
  • Forgive me, Lord, for coming before You in pretense-whether corporately or privately — content to play “Christian,” play church and play games before You.
  • Pour out upon the Church in America Your Spirit of grace and supplication that reveals a true vision of Christ, leading to godly sorrow and mourning for our sin. (Zech. 12:10) Pour Your Spirit out upon the church in my state and region, my home church and my heart as well.
  • Father, forgive me for evading the secret place. Give me a hunger to be with you in the prayer closet and the self-discipline to make it a priority.  Help me walk away from the television, the computer, the newspaper, sports, entertainment, my friends and family, even Christian books and Bible study-away from everything that keeps me from the closet time you desire.

Holy Spirit, lead me into the fast the Father has chosen for me.  Help me hear your voice and obey when you issue the call. Help me follow Christ’s leadership in the school prayer and fasting.




  1. Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1998),  317
  2. Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers,  1959), 17-18
  3. Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1998), 466


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