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When and How to Pray

Hey, Winn here. Welcome to episode 7 of AskDrWinn.

In today’s show we are working on two questions that go something like this: When Did Jesus Pray and How does Jesus suggest that we pray?

This episode is a pre-recorded presentation and we enter with the presentation in progress.

Sons of God

Listen along as we try to provide a beginning answer these perplexing question.


I had a wonderful mom. I remember good and bad things that she taught me. When I was a kid and did a boo-boo, a part of my punishment was praying. When I would do something inappropriate which was infrequent, she would go into the back yard with me at her side to a chinaberry tree, pick of a branch, take the leaves off it, and turn it into a weapon of punishment. So I got to watch her pick the weapon of punishment, whip me, and then tell me to get down on my knees and pray, asking God to forgive me and don’t get off your knees until God has forgiven me. After a few moments I would get up only to hear, “You get back down there, you haven’t been there long enough for God to forgive you yet.” As if it takes God such a long time to forgive. Such things we learn in life form us into the folks we become. We have to be very intentional to undo things taught to us inappropriately.

Most folks prayer centered around a crisis. We don’t think about praying when things are going well. Actually this morning I have combined 10 stories of Luke and one story of Matthew into one presentation.


The whole of scripture is a story. Within God’s story are many smaller stories. We have been taught to fragmentize scripture into a small part that was not a part of God original inspiration, namely verses. From these verses, we have produced principles to live by. A part of my task is to help you think in new ways about scripture.

As an example: we have been taught to take supposed scriptural principles and apply them to our personal lives. Rather, let me suggest that scripture as story does not present principles to live by but stories to live in, or better yet, a story to live in, where we actually become characters in the ongoing story of God based soley on his revealed story.

FIRST, Luke. The Story Teller

Luke is a grand storyteller in the New Testament. His two books take his readers on an extended odyssey through the life of Jesus and the early church. Inside his overarching story are many smaller stories about the life of Jesus. We need to grasp the stories and begin living in them in our lives. Our goal today is to take you on a whirlwind tour of ten of those smaller stories in the life of Jesus that center on Luke’s presentation of Jesus and prayer.

SECOND, The Diciples learn how to pray. Often called the Lord’s Prayer, it rather is a model for how his disciples are to pray rather than what to pray.

Ten Stories of Jesus Praying in Luke

Luke suggests that Jesus found prayer a necessity. How necessary is it for you? If we want to live in the story of God is would be good to see a slice of the life of Jesus and ask oursleves how can I begin to live in that story.

Luke recorded ten stories about when Jesus prayed. Seven of these stories do not record the prayers of Jesus. In addition to these ten stories of Jesus actually praying, Luke recorded two parables (stories) that only appear in his Gospel which is about prayer (Luke 11.5-8; 18.1-8). The prayers in the life of Jesus are all associated with important events in the ministry of Jesus.

At His Baptism (Story 3.1-22; Focus 3.21-22)

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened  22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.”

While or as Jesus was being baptized, TWO things happen, first the Holy Spirit descended on him and second he hears a voice speak. The actual prayer that he prayed was not recorded by Luke. It may be useful to ask if the words of the Father which are recorded by Luke are not in some way a response to whatever Jesus may have been praying. First, Could it have been that Jesus was praying for empowerment because that is what happened. Secondly, from the voice response, could Jesus have been questioning who he really was. Am I really who I think I am? Am I really the Son of God? Then the heavens open and the voice confirms to him who he really is. So what might we begin to learn from this story? You can be assured that your prayer will get a response from God. This does not put God in the precarious position by humans who think that every answer to every prayer of request is going to be answered positively. Sometimes God says NO! Sometimes GO! Sometimes SLOW! Sometimes GROW! And often times NO!

After a Day of Miracles (Story 5.1-39; Focus 5.15-16)

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

“…He withdrew to the wilderness to pray.’’ We are not told exactly by Luke what Jesus prayed. He does tell us where he prayed and possibly why he prayed. Luke 4.42f. tells us that Jesus may have been unwilling to stay in a given place after he had ministered, lest he might become a popular idol. His communion with his Father was the mainspring of his life. He must have found strength and guidance when he prayed.

There are several things we might learn from this small story.

  1. It is just as important to pray after an event as it is to pray before an event. Could it be more important?
  2. Being secluded would provide the one praying unobstructed access to God.
  3. Prayer, after we minister, will no doubt refocus our attention on God as the source of ministry.

Before Choosing the Disciples (Story 6.1-16; Focus 6.12-13)

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

Luke recorded that Jesus prayed all night on this occasion before he made this momentous decision. He does not record what Jesus said, only that he prayed. Prayer before important decisions are to be made is important.

Before Instructing (Story 9.1-27; Focus 9.18-22)

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Jesus models prayer for his disciples. While the words are not recorded, it may be possible that Jesus was asking God for guidance before he shared the revelation about his suffering. It was a risk to share this information. He might have wanted to know if it was the right time. When preparing to teach, it is important to talk to God before doing so.

At the Transfiguration (Story 9.28-36; Focus 9.28-29)

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.

Jesus went to a secluded place with three close friends to pray. While he was praying, his friends receive a revelation of who Jesus is.  Luke does not record what the prayer was, but he does record what the result of the prayer was. While he was praying, Jesus was transformed before their very eyes. They had not seen Jesus in this way before. It must have caused great anxiety among them. They saw in Jesus the very presence of the glory of God. Supernatural events and prayer are often inseparable. Prayer often opens us to see what is supernatural.

On the Return of the Seventy-Two (Story 10.1-42; Focus 10.17-21)

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Jesus was full of joy at the return of the seventy-two disciples (10.21). His prayer was a thanksgiving psalm in which Jesus gave praise to God for something he had accomplished. Jesus gave God praise for making his words and works obscure in their significance to one group, while at the same time being revealed to his disciples.

One can almost hear the excitement in the voice of Jesus: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Prayer after God has accomplished something in your life.

Before Teaching Disciples How to Pray (Story 11.1-13; Focus 11.1)

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.”

Jesus prayed. Afterward, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. It may very well be that the reason they asked was because they had seen the results of the prayers of Jesus. We have called this prayer the Lord’s Prayer. It is really a model for prayer for his disciples to follow. This is not a prayer to pray; it is a model to follow. It may be important to train other to pray by allowing them to watch you pray.

For Peter and the Disciples (Story 22.1-71; Focus 22.31-32)

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Satan entered Judas, a believer and one of the twelve (22.1ff.). In the story of the Last Supper Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift all the disciples. Luke’s choice of words implies that Satan demanded the surrender of the disciples (asked equals demand the surrender of). The background thought is surely Job 1.6ff. When sifting occurred, it was to determine which wheat was good and which wheat was bad. Satan wanted to sift Peter and the disciples so that he could discover their weakest point, their point of surrender. He wanted to find an access point. Jesus prayed that the fall of Peter would not be fatal. The throbbing heart of Jesus as pastor can be seen in this story. He knew his disciples and he knew their weaknesses. This knowledge no doubt enabled him to pray with some specifics. Pray for those in the body who have weakness-challenged.

At the Point of Suffering (Story 22.1-71; Focus 22.39-46)

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

We are most familiar with this prayer of Jesus. Jesus gave his disciples instructions on how they should pray. He left and went a few steps away to pray. Luke helps his reader encounter Jesus in the agony of the moment, understanding that death on the cross was just a few moments away. Jesus, the true human, knelt to pray. He struggled to find some other way to accomplish God’s will. He was faced with the human desire to avoid the difficult path of suffering. However, he accepted God’s will and direction for his life despite his own desire that it might be otherwise carried out.

In the midst of the struggle when the will of Jesus and God was aligned, God sent an angel to minister and strengthen Jesus. The result of this heavenly angelic visitation was that Jesus was able to pray more earnestly. He was not removed from the battle of prayer. The attack of the enemy to find another way was overcome by more prayer. When the intensity of the battle is at its most heated point, it will often be won or lost by prayer. The most powerful spiritual battle in all history was occurring in prayer. What was won in the garden in prayer would soon be played out on the stage of the physical world. The intensity of the battle is seen by Luke’s record that the sweat of Jesus appeared like drops of blood falling on the ground. This is a metaphorical expression. Jesus was not bleeding while he was praying. This would have undermined the crucifixion. His blood would be spilled in the violent death he would suffer on the cross. Prayer at the point of suffering is valuable. It helps get our will and the will of the Father in alignment.

On the Cross (Story 23.1-56; Focus 23.34, 46)

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

On the cross, Jesus prayed two prayers. First, he prayed for his enemies (v. 34). Then he prayed for God to receive him back at his side (v. 46). It is important to pray for our enemies and to give our life to God.


Ask the Spirit how you can get into these stories in your day to day life. How can your life as a character in God’s great drama be informed by the stories Luke shared about Jesus and prayer. He’s looking forward to having this conversation with you.

The Disciples learn how to pray. (From Matthew Gospel) Story 6.1-34; Focus 6.9-13

Remember, the basic background of the teaching of Jesus is that of the invasion of God’s rule into the kingdom of Satan. This provides an adequate key for understanding what Jesus is teaching.

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “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 men. I tell you the truth, 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ “(Matt. 6.1-13)

Jesus taught his disciples about acts of righteousness and the place they should be accomplished (v. 1-4). The place for doing acts of righteousness is in secret, not in public. The pattern for prayer is the same. Jesus said, Do not be like the play actors when you pray…this is how you should pray... (v. 5, 9). The address is not a put-down of prayer, but a put-down of the showboating style of prayer which would call attention to the one praying!

There are five petitions in two sets in what is often called the Lord’s Prayer. Actually, it is a model for the disciples to use in their prayers. The first set, petitions one and two, are concerned with the establishment of God’s purpose on a cosmic scale. The second set, composed of the last three petitions, regards the personal needs of the disciples. All five petitions are imperatives. Remember, the basic background of the teaching of Jesus is that of the invasion of God’s rule into the kingdom of Satan. This provides an adequate key to understanding what Jesus is teaching.

Petition 1. Let your name be hallowed.

The first petition is the hallowing of God’s name, which means not only reverence and honor given to God, but also to glorify him by living in his story and not ours or our cultures.

We can speak to God about helping us to act in such a manner that his reputation is not slandered. God let my conduct in daily life bring honor to your name.

Petition 2. Let your kingdom come, your will be done.

The second petition is that God’s Kingdom would come and be practiced on earth what is in heaven. At some point in past time, Satan was cast out of heaven along with a host of beings. The war which arose in heaven had been cast down to earth. Jesus was teaching his disciples and us to ask the Father: “Just as you have expelled Satan from heaven, establishing your rule there, that you continue to bring about that same rule on earth.” Everything was now all right in heaven, Satan was cast out—now he is to be pursued on earth.

Pray for God’s Rule in our life, work, children, family recreation.

Petition 3. Give us today the bread of tomorrow.

The third petition comes in verse 11. Give us today our daily bread… This, unfortunately, is an inadequate translation. It could better read, …Give us today the bread of tomorrow…. Hunger is a work of Satan. Jesus took the work of Satan seriously. He requested the Father to bring to his people today some of the abundances of God’s rule from tomorrow.

Give us today the bread of tomorrow. We can pray for the specifics which we need in our lives. We can pray for spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, and social needs.

Petition 4. Forgive us our sins.

The fourth petition is …forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. This is a prayer for the forgiveness of sins. This petition has a condition attached to it. Matthew 6.14-15 makes this petition clear. These verses do not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. They mean that God forgives only the penitent and one of the chief evidence of penitence is a forgiving spirit.

This is the arena to pray for forgiveness of our sins.

Petition 5. Do not let us succumb to the attack of the evil one.

The fifth petition is …And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Here again, a better translation could be: Do not let us succumb to the attack of the evil one, but deliver us from the evil one and his attacks. Jesus was giving instruction to his disciples on how to pray when Satan comes to attack. Satan was surely going to attack them in their ministry.

Stand against the attack of the evil one.

The entire “how to” prayer of Jesus is based on his conviction that this present world is under the control of the evil one. The praying of the disciples in this fashion was one more tool in their arsenal.


So there are 10 stories about WHEN to pray AND

five categories to learn HOW to pray.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help you think through these stories and begin living in his story in your life.
  • The good news is that the Spirit is ready and willing to help you. So go ahead, risk it! Get in his story. Your life will be changed forever.
Winn Griffin’s participation in the church spans about 60 years, ministering in four different denominations, serving on the staff of three mega churches, and functioning as a pastor in four churches. He has a BA, MA, and two Doctor of Ministry degrees. In addition, he has authored two books and eight eBooks. Winn's focus on AskDrWinn is to give space for folks to ask about Bible stuff that they have questions about. He is married to Donna Faith and they have two adult children and live in Washington State. » Read Winn's Full Bio
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