When Jesus talked about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, He did not do it so we could just take notes or make a three-point outline—then stick it in our Bibles and forget it! Jesus wants to connect our need to His limitless resources through prayer that glorifies Him.
We all hear announcements about prayer, hold meetings about prayer, and talk about prayer. We can even attend prayer breakfasts that are all breakfast and no prayer! Announcements, talk, and breakfasts about prayer don’t necessarily glorify Christ. But today as you read this, I pray that you will glorify Christ as God takes His Word and speaks to you. I pray that you will respond with real action: “Right here, right now, I’m praying to the Father about that!”
In Matthew 6:9 Jesus began the Lord’s Prayer with “This, then, is how you should pray.” In a parallel teaching from Luke 11, the disciples listened to Jesus pray, and one of them responded with a request: “Lord, teach us to pray!”
Here’s what is encouraging to me. If He’s telling us how to pray, then He knows we’re all capable of it. Second, in Luke 11 we discover that this capability is also teachable. We can learn it. We can get better at it. We can teach it to others. And we have the words of Jesus as a model. He finishes with “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory” (Matt. 6:13). My inference is this: If I follow Jesus’s prescription for prayer (pray the way He instructs me to), I will always see “the kingdom and the power and the glory,” something I wouldn’t be able to do on my own.
As I have been encouraged by these words of Jesus, I’ve used an outline, the ABCDs of Prayer:
Ask Boldly because He Cares Deeply.
First, ask God. In just a few short verses of Matthew 7:7–11, the Lord repeats this five times. And if you count seek and knock, He’s probably saying the same thing about ten times. Then He connects this asking, seeking, and knocking with the ask being granted, the sought item being found, and the door being opened. In other words, he’s promising that if we humbly come to God with our request, things will happen. The same idea is repeated in James 4:2: “You do not have because you do not ask God.” One of the reasons we don’t see God working in our lives is because we don’t ask Him to work. But if we begin to ask God, He’ll work.
Here’s what we used to say in Scotland when I was growing up. I had four brothers and sisters, and if we were asked to help each other with something, we’d reply, cheekily, “Well, I would if I could, but I can’t, so I won’t.”
Some of us think that God works this way, as if God responds to our prayers with “I would if I could, but I can’t, so I won’t.”
No! Here’s what God says: I can, and I will. But I’ll wait until you ask.
This is the teaching of Scripture. I don’t understand it, but somehow our asking honors Him and glorifies Him. And we will get more than we ask for. That’s why Ephesians 3:20 says God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” And F. B. Meyer was right when he said, “The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” So be quick to ask God.
Second, ask boldly. Jesus teaches a parable in Luke 11 about a man who requests something from a sleeping neighbor. The man repeatedly knocks on the neighbor’s door, and Jesus says, “Yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (11:8). This is the point Jesus is teaching: Keep asking boldly!
Jesus teaches this again in Luke 18:1, a parable about a poor widow going to an unjust judge, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” And in James 1:6–8 we are instructed to “ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open” (MSG).
When we get serious about asking God boldly, it forces us to eliminate all our other options. We could gossip, control, meddle, or work harder. But when we pray boldly, we make new discoveries about God’s power to help us. So be quick to ask God boldly.
Third, ask because He cares for each of us. My family learned this lesson years ago, when our church was in the middle of a building campaign and I had privately committed to giving up my salary for six months. We told nobody except our own family, sensing it was to be our prayerful sacrifice for the project.
But our kids were realists. “Dad, how are we going to pay the bills? Where are we going to get money for food?”
My eleven-year-old son reminded me that I had promised to teach him golf at our local golf club during the summer. How would we do that without money? And I had also promised him tickets for a local amusement park. I didn’t have an answer, but I knew God would provide for us.
As I put him to bed that night, we both asked boldly: “God, please give us free golf at Fox Creek Golf Club and free tickets to Six Flags.” I’ll have to admit that I added my own secret prayer: God, I think You’re asking us to do this, but if not, please don’t punish this kid for my foolishness!
Then came two remarkable answers within a week. The very next day, a new attender stopped by my office at church, telling me that through his business, he had access to limitless free games at his local club. Not even knowing our prayer, he told me, “You and your son are welcome to join me for free golf at Fox Creek Golf Club anytime you choose.” Within three days, our worship leader mentioned that her family was going to the amusement park. “Would your son like to come with us? Of course we’ll pay for his ticket.”
Matthew 7:11 gives us the promise: “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Now— will God always answer prayer this dramatically? No, but can He do it? Yes! And He still wants us to ask boldly and believingly. So ask God boldly because He cares.
Finally, ask because He cares deeply. This truth is expressed in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
He cares deeply enough that He died for us. But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus rose and ascended. He now sits at the right hand of the Father, in power, glory, and majesty—yet He cares deeply enough to intercede for our requests! That’s incredibly good news! I may not pray often enough; I may not ask for enough; I may not pray boldly enough. But when I take my eyes off myself and look at Jesus (not just His work from two thousand years ago, but where He is right now), I see Him in Heaven, where He’s praying, interceding, and talking to the Father on my behalf. In fact, caring deeply for His children is His ongoing, present-day, real-time, 24/7 concern. He expresses it in intercession, and invites us to join Him, so that, along with the Son, the Father can graciously give us all things! Once we have our eyes on the Son, we can ask boldly because He cares deeply.
Let’s talk to Him right now: “Father in Heaven, thank you for loving us. You can answer every single prayer that’s prayed to You today—whether it’s the first cry of a seeking soul or the repeated request of a seasoned saint. Help us to know again the power of prayer—of asking, boldly, because You care, deeply. Thank you that you answer our needs with Heaven’s resources. Amen.”