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How Do You Pray?

Not my will, but thine…

—Luke 22:42

A storm was raging at sea. A ship began taking on water, and it became apparent to the captain it would soon sink. The captain called out, “Does anyone on this ship know how to pray?”

One man stepped forward and said, “Yes, Sir. I know how to pray!”

“Good!” replied the captain. “You pray. The rest of us will put on life jackets. We’re one short!”

Just a silly little story. But what does prayer look like in moments of great difficulty? Consider Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. What can we learn?

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus went on a little farther from where His disciples waited. Prayer with family and friends—seasons of corporate prayer at church—they’re all wonderful, but in those moments of real difficulty, there is no substitution for a singular audience with God.

“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).

Next we learn something of the heart’s attitude as we pray. Jesus falls with His face to the ground. What is our proper posture before Almighty God? Many times in the Bible we’re taught, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).

May we not miss the tenderness of Jesus addressing God as “My Father.” It’s as a son or daughter of God that we approach our Heavenly Father in prayer. We don’t have standing before monarchs or magistrates, powers or principalities, but the loving ear of our Father listens for our every word! “The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).

Consider also the persistence of Jesus’ prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He repeats the same prayer three times. Remember Jesus once shared a parable about a widow’s persistence to illustrate God hears and answers persevering prayer (see Luke 18:1-8).

The most revealing part of this prayer is found in its conclusion:

“Not my will, but thine!” I need to punctuate my prayers with surrender. Let me be content to leave my prayer in God’s hands—for He truly knows what is best, how to give, what to give, and what to withhold.


My prayer this week—Abba Father, will you teach me to pray? Will you help me experience intimacy with you, to approach you in a healthy balance of confidence and humility, to persevere and prevail in my prayers, and to be willing to leave it all in your hands?