Lord, teach us to pray

This 40 day Bible challenge, 'Lord, teach us to pray', gives encouragement to learn from the lives of Nehemiah and Jesus from the Bible.

Click here for a pdf document of the first Bible challenge study (Nehemiah) and here for the second (Jesus), or look at the content below.


Bible Challenge

40 days to grow in prayer

We talk to a God that we cannot see. We have to relate by faith (he made it that way), believing that he is there at the other end of our conversation. Sometimes  what we pray for happens, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we 'feel' close to God and other times we don't. For most of us there have been times and seasons of life where praying has been easier and others where it has been more difficult.

Many of us say it's important, 'I should do it more'.  It is one of the greatest generators of guilt (by  our lack of prayerfulness) and also one of the greatest sources of delight known to mankind.  It's a God given means to an end - receiving answers when we ask. Even more than that - it's at the heart of our relationship to the One who made us and loves us.

Prayer is mysterious in many ways. Mysteries are to be explored but you never have all of the answers. We have to learn to live with that. But prayer is, in a way, very simple: Talking to your Father in heaven. A conversation with God which includes speaking and listening. An encounter with the creator who wants to meet with us - and never tires of doing so if we come in faith and humility.

If we will grow the desire to know God better and have the humility to say 'I want to learn', then prayer can take on a central place in our lives that is very special. 

Books have been written on the subject, some of them very helpful. But rather than read  an ordinary book or listen to a talk, I'm inviting you - us together - to do some original research:  To look into God's book and see what we can find, then apply and share what we find.

The Bible encourages us to have belief in the God who hears our prayers. In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews  chapter 11 and verse 6 it says:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

So let's seek him - in the Bible and in prayer - and anticipate a reward for our labour of love.

The proverbial elephant

You have probably heard the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" and the answer, "One bite at a time."Faced with a big challenge, start small and keep going. The Bible is a big book - a library of books - and the topic of prayer is huge. So, I'm encouraging us all to focus on two main areas for these 40 days: first, Nehemiah from the Old Testament, and then Jesus (from the Gospels).

Do make notes as you go. The detail you record is up to you, but please don't be passive and just skim read through. 

The challenge for the first 10 days...

The big questions:

What can I learn about prayer from the example of Nehemiah?

How can Nehemiah's example help me to pray?

For the more independent amongst us: Feel free to answer these questions by reading the book of Nehemiah,  identifying the places prayer is mentioned and also considering what relates to the topic of prayer.


Here is a more step by step approach...

Read Nehemiah from chapter 1 to chapter 7, verse 5 to find where prayer is mentioned and to get an overall understanding of the story. Amongst other things,  it's a great example of leading, courage, teamwork, facing opposition from outside and inside and of getting something done. Hint: chapter 1 has the most specifically about prayer- but there are other places as you go. Highlight or note down parts to look at in more detail later.

When did Nehemiah pray? That is, what provoked him to pray the prayers that we have recorded here? Would you say he heard from God?

How did Nehemiah pray?  What was his manner? Was it relaxed, urgent, intense, just words etc.?

What did Nehemiah pray? The content. What kind of thing - praise, confession etc.  What details do you notice / find interesting / could relate to your prayer life.

What did Nehemiah want God to do?

Overall, what did Nehemiah believe that God had done? How did this relate to what Nehemiah saw as his own responsibility?

Now think about the big questions. And see if you have anything to write for these three headings below as a result of all this.

A verse to remember:

A challenge to work on:

An encouragement to help me:


part 2 - Learning from Jesus

1 task:  Learn from Jesus.

2 big questions:

            How can his example help you in your prayer life?

            In what way does his teaching challenge you?

Some information and suggestions to help:

The 4 gospels give us different perspectives on Jesus. Matthew, Mark and Luke generally have a lot in common and John comes from a different point of view. This is true when you look at the life and teaching of Jesus on prayer. 

Generally, Matthew emphasises Jesus teaching the disciples and therefore us, Mark emphasises Jesus as a man of action, Luke focuses on the humanity of Jesus - there is more about his personal prayer life here. John doesn't use the word 'prayer' much, but there is a huge amount about the relationship between Jesus and his Father! He also has some extraordinary things to say about prayer in John chapters 14-16.

To make the task manageable pick one gospel. If you learn better from people's example then maybe look at Luke, if you want more teaching, try Matthew. Mark will be shorter, and  John may be the most challenging.

1. Highlight or note down parts to look at in more detail later.

If you have time you could read through the gospel and note where prayer is the subject, but you could use a concordance or Bible on phone / computer / online and search for 'pray' and other words that may give you places where prayer is the subject, 'ask' for example. If you have access to the internet 'biblegateway' gives you all the tools you need. Have a look - do ask for help if you need it.

2. Ask questions that help you get the most from the examples or the teaching.

Example of Jesus: (some are similar questions to the one's for Nehemiah- see those notes for more detail)

When did Jesus pray? How did Jesus pray?  What did Jesus pray? Sometimes you won't know, but can have an idea from what was going on at the time.

Why did Jesus pray? What did Jesus want God to do? Do you think he received guidance from his Father when he prayed?

Teaching of Jesus:  Feel free to ask your own questions. Here are some possibiliteies: Is he challenging a wrong behaviour? Is he giving a law? Does what he says always apply? How does this fit with his life?

You may come across things that are very challenging, and some that give you more questions than answers.  Knowing more about the New Testament generally, and Jesus' life in particular may help you to understand the context of what he says. Think how his teaching fits with other things, but do take his words seriously. If you have questions, write them down and ask someone

3. After reading and studying  so far:

 What one thing from all this can you take in more deeply and live out more fully that could change your prayer life for the better?

Ask God to lead in your choice and help make the most of it.  Things to make this real-

Write out a key verse or part of a verse and memorise it.

Make ways of reminding yourself of it during your normal day. And use this for several days. Chew it over - meditate on it.

Apply it to your life. Maybe put it in a personalised, memorable form so that there is no doubt what you are trying to do.

Tell someone about it!