As a child, I read a lot of comics. In fact, it was how I learned to read and developed a lifelong love of reading.
I liked the “superhero” stories, with larger than life characters: Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman. Batman was interesting because, unlike the others, he didn’t have super powers. He was just fitter, stronger and smarter than the crooks, outwitting them through brains and skill.
But there was another significant difference between Batman and the other superheroes. When Gotham City was in trouble they had to call for help. Batman had to see the “bat signal” shining in the sky before he came to the rescue. I imagine if he didn’t get the right signal, then chances were he would be unaware of trouble and fail to respond when needed.
Well, those were all just stories, fiction from the minds of men. Today we have something much better. We have the ability to call on God when we need His support in times of trouble.
Like Gotham City, we too have to send up the right signal in order to seek God’s help. We need to know how to signal God and how to ensure the right message gets through in the right way.
Teach us to pray
Jesus’ disciples had this same concern. They wanted to be sure that when they prayed their prayers would be heard. So they asked Jesus to teach them, as we see in Luke chapter 11, verse 1.
“He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
When people first come to Christ they are told to pray, but if you have never done it before, how do you know what to do or say? You need to learn how to call on God, and then what to say so that you can be confident He hears you.
Taking Batman’s example, Gotham City had to first call on Batman with the “bat-signal,” then explain their needs or the trouble they were facing.
So Jesus taught the disciples to pray. He gave them an example prayer that we know as the Lord’s Prayer.
In the Matthew version of the Lord’s prayer Jesus says, “Pray then, like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew chapter 6 verse 9). He does not say, “Repeat after me,” but rather to pray “like this.” Jesus was showing the disciples (and us) HOW to pray, not WHAT to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful example of how to pray. In it Jesus defines a process for prayer to come before the Father when we have a need. I will use the example from Matthew chapter 6, verse 9 to 13 including the footnote.
First, we need to get the Father’s attention by addressing the prayer specifically to Him. “Our Father who art in heaven.”
Then, Jesus shows that we should offer praise and worship to the Father for all He has done for us, recognising His sovereignty over all things, “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”
We follow this with our requests and supplications for the Lord’s provision, protection, compassion, mercy, and so on. “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Finally, we close the prayer by again acknowledging the almighty power of God. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.”
One more thing we need to add is to ask everything in the name of Jesus. He said, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John chapter 14, verses 13 and 14)
This example prayer shows us how to approach God to seek His intercession in our lives. We must learn to come to God according to His ways, and not think we can do it “our way” and expect results.
The underlying principle here is, “Ask and it will be given.” This is a powerful promise, but the responsibility is ours. We must ask first, just as Gotham City had to send up the “bat-signal” to ask for Batman’s help. We need to ask through prayer if we want the Lord to hear and help us.
God is faithful. He will do what He says. If we have a specific need or if we just want to give Him thanks for what He has done in our lives, and we should, then we need to follow His way.
Since retiring from work, John Lemmon now spends his time teaching, preaching and writing about the word of God, online and offline, answering God's call on him to “Speak to my people.” John and his wife Colleen travel all over Australia and you will often find him playing guitar or ukulele outside their caravan somewhere in the Great Outback. You can connect with John on Twitter (@JohnBLemmon) or on his Christian Bible study blog (freegiftfromgod.com/blog).
John Lemmon’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-lemmon.html