Lord, Teach Us to Pray


Lord, Teach Us to Pray

March 9th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM

And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Luke 11:1

3-9-69    8:15 a.m.


On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Lord, Teach Us to Pray.  The messages these days all have been turned toward one holy and heavenly end.  We are preparing for the greatest evangelistic appeal any church ever attempted in the history of Christendom.  Our people in many ways, in studying, in convocations, in visitation, in census, in thought and purpose, in deed and in actions, our people are preparing to share in the great Crusade of the Americas.  The days are upon us almost when that evangelistic appeal will be made.  And when it comes we shall be eminently ready, God hearing our prayers and God blessing our testimony.

Now the text is a verse in Luke 11:1, “And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples.’”

And the text, “Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1].

There are many of you who have visited the Near and the Far East.  And especially in the Near East, you could not but be impressed with the architectural form of the Mohammedan mosques.  A mosque that is used for a place of worship has on four sides or at least two, a tall minaret in which a Muslim will climb, and five times a day he will call the faithful to prayer.

A mosque that is a shrine or a tomb will not have a minaret.  In Cairo is a great city of the dead with streets and blocks and houses, miles of it.  In it you will see many mosques.  They are tombs.  They are shrines. But they do not have minarets.  The sign of a mosque that is used for worship and prayer is that tall, spiraling, slender minaret.  And five times a day the faithful bow toward Mecca on both knees with the palms of both hands and with the forehead all placed on the ground.  Inside the mosque there is no statue, no idol, no graven image, but there is always an ornamented recess, a niche, on the side of the mosque toward Mecca.  And there the faithful bow in prayer.

And wherever the Mohammedan, the Muslim, may be in those five stated times—at sunrise, at high noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, in the yellowing of the sun and at night—they pray.  We were in Beirut in 1955, there at the free port buying an Oriental Persian rug from an Armenian.  And when time came for prayer he quit his bargaining and his selling, he picked up his prayer rug, a prayer rug is a rug that has an arch in it, many times beautifully decorated with bowls of flowers, with candelabras, with chandeliers, but always with an arch in it.  It is not formally balanced, top and bottom.  It has an arch in it.  And they place the arch toward Mecca, and on that prayer rug this Armenian bowed and prayed.

Now there are many things in the Muslim religion that is reprehensible and repulsive to me.  For example the basic structure of the religion condones war and violence toward non-Muslims.  It has condoned slavery.  It is built into the structure of the religion.  And it glorifies the harem and the concubine.  The Muslim religion allows each man four wives.  And by special dispensation from Allah, Mohammed, who founded the faith, had eleven or twelve or thirteen wives.  One of them was the wife of his own son.  And when he took her it so scandalized his followers that he had to have a special revelation from Allah to save face.  Out of insane jealousy, unless other men be enamored with his wives, he secluded the women behind the veil, which has done more to encourage backwardness and ignorance in the Near East than any other development in civilized life.  These things, I say, are reprehensible to me.

But there is an amazing phenomenon that has accompanied the Muslim religion and to some extent, and especially in Africa, still does.  It is miraculously successful.  And as you look at the Mohammedan religion—and the day is coming when Africa will be almost solidly Muslim; the Muslim world begins at Dakar, on the western shores of Africa facing the Atlantic, and goes clear through the thousands of miles until you come to the end of Indonesia, which is a Muslim land.   The success of the Muslim religion has been phenomenal and in certain areas still is.

When you look at it, there are reasons why, and I name two of them.  One: the simplicity of becoming a Muslim, a Mohammedan.  It is very simple.  There are five pillars in the Muslim faith, and when you accept those five pillars you are a Muslim.  You just automatically are a Mohammedan.  One: its simple creed, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”  And that creed is so repeated, and so said, and so emphasized, until it becomes a part of the very marrow in the bones of the Muslim world, the simplicity of its creed.

The second pillar is prayer, five times a day bowing toward Mecca.

Third: alms, giving to the poor.

Fourth: the feast of Ramadan.  Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Muslim calendar.  And from sunrise to sunset they do not eat or drink.  In the evening, at night, they can do as they please, and they do.

And the fifth pillar of the Mohammedan religion is, if you are able, once in a lifetime to make a holy pilgrimage to Mecca.

Those simple things, they require no change of heart, no change of life, no change of anything, except those five simple things.  “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet,” and five times to pray, to give alms to the poor, to observe the feast of Ramadan, and if you are able to make this pilgrimage to Mecca, then you are a Mohammedan; the simplicity of becoming a convert to the Muslim religion.

The second thing that makes it impressive and successful is its emphasis upon prayer.  There is no order of ministry.  On Friday, the holy day of the Mohammedan, they are to go to the mosque to pray.  And wherever they are and whatever they are doing, five times a day they are to pray.  And the call of the Muslim and the minaret that is raised toward heaven, all of these are very, very impressive.  As you see a Muslim, if he is in the desert he will wash his hands and his face and his elbows and his feet with clean sand, and pray.  If he is where there is water, he will use the lustrations of water, all of which is impressive.

When we turn to our Christian faith, the great difference between the Christian faith and the Muslim religion is that the Christian faith demands a change in life and a change in heart.  The Christian faith directs itself toward sin.  And the simplicity of becoming a Christian is even more emphasized and more noticeable and emphatically presented than to become a Muslim.  But it entails far more in the human soul and the human life.  As I went through Africa, I could easily see the African chief that has ten, fifteen, or twenty wives can become a Muslim and keep all of them—some way, four at a time, keep all of them.  But for the tribal chief in Africa to become a Christian he must have an experience with God.  He must be born again.  He must be saved [John 3:5, 7].

Now I am saying that there is a greater simplicity in the gospel of Christ than there is even in the simplicity of becoming a Muslim.  For there are not five things concerned with the Christian faith in its conversion, there are but three.  First, to become a Christian we must confess ourselves sinners before God [Romans 3:23], and we must repent of our sins [Mark 1:15].  We must seek forgiveness for our sins in God [Ephesians 1:7].  There is a common denominator in the life of all men everywhere, and that is it; we are all sinners [Romans 3:23].  Sometimes I am asked, “When you preach to a Stone Age Indian in the Amazon jungle, or you preach to a savage in the heart of Africa, what do you say?”   The answer is most simple.  I begin in that common denominator upon which all of us live.  We are all sinners [Romans 3:23], the black drop in every heart, and when I begin there I start with the life of every man who lives in this earth, whether he is a Stone Age Indian, whether he is a savage in the heart of Africa, whether he is the head of a giant corporation or the most brilliant and intellectual professor in the land.  All of us stand on that common ground.  We are fallen.  We are sinners.  We have come short of the expectation and glory of God [Romans 3:23].  And we are conscious of it.  There is no man anywhere but who is conscious of his transgression.  He feels it.  He feels it every day of his life.

The Christian religion addresses itself to sin, to guilt, to transgression, to wrongdoing.  And the first thing in becoming a Christian is we must confess our sins to God [1 John 1:9].  We must repent of our sins; we must ask God to forgive our sins [Acts 2:38].

The second simple thing of becoming a Christian: we must accept Jesus as our Savior.  We admit before God that we are lost, that we face inevitable death and judgment, and we look to Jesus.  We receive Jesus as our hope and our salvation, as our Mediator, as our all in all.  We open our hearts to the Lord Jesus.  We invite Him into our homes, into our lives, into our souls, and we dedicate to Him all that we have and are.  If you have a family, you give your family to Jesus.  If you have a life, you give your life to Jesus.  If you have hands, you give your hands to Jesus.  If you have feet, you give your feet to Jesus.  If you have work, you give your work to Jesus.  All that you have you consecrate and dedicate to the Lord Jesus.  That’s the second thing in becoming a Christian.

The third thing in becoming a Christian is I must confess openly, publicly, unashamedly that faith and that commitment in the Lord Jesus:

If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart we believe unto a God kind of righteousness—not a man’s kind of righteousness—with our hearts we believe unto a God kind of righteousness; and with our mouths confession is made unto salvation.

[Romans 10:9-10]

That is why when the pastor is done preaching; always he goes down there to that lower platform and exhorts people to come to the Lord, to stand by his side, before men and angels to confess his faith and the commitment of his life to the Lord Jesus.

There are only three things in the Christian religion that have to do with conversion, with salvation, and those are the three.  I must confess my sins and ask the pardon of God for my sins [Acts 2:38].  I must receive Jesus in His atoning grace.  He died for my sins according to Scripture [1 Corinthians 15:3].  I must receive Jesus as my Savior.  I must open my heart to the blessed Lord Jesus.  And third I must openly and confess Him as my Savior [Romans 10:9-10]. When I do those three things I am saved.  The Holy Spirit of God does the regenerating and converting [Titus 3:5], and He uses those three things to save us, to make us born again, to make us Christians [2 Corinthians 5:17].

Now if there is a lack in the profession of our faith, it lies in this work, in this area, in this part of our Christian lives.  “And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” [Luke 11:1].

A visitor from abroad said, “If I could put my finger on the great lack in American Christianity, I would unhesitatingly point out the lack of an effective prayer life among the laity and the minister.”  And whoever it was that said that, I read that somewhere, whoever it was that said that, I think pointed out the tremendous weakness of our Christian faith, our lack of prayer.  I don’t see anybody quitting their work and bowing toward heaven, and I don’t see anybody stopping five times a day, even at home, to pause to pray—the lack of intercession.

In the last few days, I was in a group discussing programs and methods and procedures for our people.  And that night when I went home and went to sleep, I dreamed that I was in a company of our leaders.  And we were discussing programs and methods and procedures.  And in my dream I had that awful burden that something is so lacking, it is so mechanical, dealing in methods and programs and procedures.  And I had that feeling of a lack of power and unction in God’s presence.

Then in my dream it changed just as that song, “The Holy Jerusalem, the Holy City.”  In my dream it changed and I dreamed that the power of God had fallen upon us, and I experienced in that dream the feeling that those apostles must have experienced at Pentecost [Acts 2].  I was filled with power and the presence and the glory of God.  And I came to this pulpit and I preached in the unction, and the power, and the marvelous grace and presence of God.

When God formed Adam he was made out of the dust of the ground.  Then God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  And it was then that Adam, the formed ground, the dust of the earth, became a living soul [Genesis 2:7].  When the church was organized by the Lord Jesus Christ, it had discipline, it had doctrine, it had the two ordinances, but the church had not the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  And it was weak.

Simon Peter, their chief apostle, quailed before the presence of a little maid when she said, “Aren’t you one of His disciples?”  [John 18:17].  And when the disciples had seen Jesus raised from the dead, they went to one of their number named Thomas and said, “He is raised from the dead, and our eyes have seen Him” [John 20:19-25].  And Thomas said, “Dead people do not rise, and I will not believe unless I can put my finger into the scars in His hands, and thrust my hand into the scar in His side” [John 20:25].  It was a helpless church, a powerless church.  But when Pentecost came and they waited for that stated Promise, ten days and ten nights in intercession and in prayer [Acts 1:14], when Pentecost came the church rose in power, in glory [Acts 2:1-47].

That’s why we need, with all of our programs and our procedures and our methods, we need the presence and the power of God that comes from those who wait upon Him in prayer [Isaiah 25:9, 40:31].

And it came to pass as He was praying, when He ceased, one of His disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1].  You know where that came from? As they watched the Lord and as they followed His ministry, they came to the conclusion that there was some connection between His public life of glory and power and His secret life of intercession and prayer.  There was power in His hands.  There was power even in the robes that He wore.  There was grace, distilled like dew from His lips.  There was wisdom in His words.  And He lived a beautiful and unblemished and saintly life.  And as they watched the Lord and saw Him on His face and on His knees, underneath the moonlight, in the starlight, under the groves of the olive trees, as they watched Him pray and rise in power, they came to the conclusion that there was a connection between His private life of intercession and His public life of power and glory.

Jesus was a great petitioner.  He was a great suppliant.  And sometimes He prayed with strong crying and tears [Hebrews 5:7], as the Bible says, and He rose from those agonizing intercessions, those moments and hours of prayer in strength, in the presence and glory of God.  And the disciples seeing that came to Him in the midst of His ministry and said, “Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1].

In my Bible, and when I wear one out, I always write it in the new one,

He stands best who kneels most.

He stands strongest who kneels weakest.

He stands longest who kneels lowest.

Down on our knees, bowing before God, praying that the Lord shall add His blessings and His presence to every method that we follow, to every approach that we make, to every holy purpose that we dedicate to God.  If we would speak to men, we must speak to God.  If we would have power with men, we must have power with God.

I don’t know whether you followed the words of the song that you sang just now,

Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray;

This is my heart-cry day unto day;

I long to know Thy will and Thy way,

Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray.

Power in prayer, Lord, power in prayer!

My weakened will Lord, Thou can remove;

My sinful nature Thou can subdue;

Fill me just now with power anew,

Power to pray and power to do!

Living in Thee, Lord, and Thou in me,

Constant abiding, this is my plea;

Grant me Thy power boundless and free,

Power with men and power with Thee.

Do you remember that chorus enough to sing it with me?

Living in Thee, Lord, and Thou in me,

Constant abiding, this is my plea;

Grant me Thy power, Lord, boundless and free,

Power with men, Lord, and power with Thee.

Would you bow your head and sing it with me?

Living in Thee, Lord, and Thou in me,

Constant abiding, this is my plea;

Grant me Thy power, boundless and free,

Power with men and power with Thee.

[“Teach Me to Pray, Lord,” Albert S.Reitz]


Blessed Lord, we stand so helpless even before a little child who says, “I want to give my heart to Jesus.  I want to be saved.”  God must do something.  It is God who must regenerate [John 1:12-13].  It is God who saves [Colossians 2:13].  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts [John 16:8-11].  It is the Lord who moves, who opens the heart [John 6:44].  Even as that young man who was brought to the pastor last evening, “Had you spoken to me yesterday, the words would have been as nothing, but last night God convicted me of my sins, and Jesus washed me and cleansed me, and I want to know what to do.  I want to be saved.”

O Lord, do Thy office work for our people.  Our words are like sounds.  They are like spoken syllables.  They have no power in them unless they be borne on the wings of the Spirit.  God must work with us.  And our Lord as we testify and as we witness, may the Holy Spirit convict the heart of these to whom we bear the saving message of grace.  Then, Master, in saving faith, may they turn to Jesus.  May it happen before our eyes, as we saw it last evening.  And our Lord, may every day be a day of salvation, a glory for our people to share, as God works with us in answered prayer.

Living in Thee, Lord, and Thou in me;

Constant abiding, this is our plea;

Grant us Thy power, Lord, boundless and free,

Power with men, and power with Thee.

May our words be as the hammer that breaks the heart in pieces and as the fire that would burn in our very bones.  Make us, Lord, a praying people, bowed before God and rising in His strength and grace.  Answer prayer, Lord, bow down Thine ear to hear and bless with many trophies of grace, bless the witness, the testimony of our people.  And we shall praise Thee and thank Thee forever, in our Lord’s dear name, amen.

Now, may God bless with fruit, with souls, our testimony for this week.  And may God give us families and couples and souls today.  We will stand to sing in a moment, and when we stand to sing, you, somebody you, “I’ve given my heart to Jesus, I’ve confessed to Him my sins, and here I come [Romans 10:9-10].  Openly, publicly, where the whole world can see, I am standing confessing my faith in the blessed Jesus.”  To put your life in the fellowship of our dear church, to pray with us, to serve God in our ranks, in lock step, arm in arm with us, to join yourself with us, come this morning.  On the first note of the first stanza come.  And God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.