Avery Johnson, the National Basketball Association Coach of the Year in 2006, played for several NBA teams before his role as coach of the Dallas Mavericks. Lovie Smith, coach of the Chicago Bears and National Football League Coach of the Year in 2006, was a star safety at the University of Tulsa during his college football career. Both men have more than theoretical knowledge of the game; their experience as players has contributed to their success as coaches.
Jesus, our “coach” in prayer this month, did more than memorize the prayer playbook prior to the Incarnation. As God, of course He knew exactly how to pray. But as our verse for today tells us, He also depended on prayer during His life on earth. He made it His practice to pray before dawn while others slept (Mark 1:35). He chose prayer over sleep when faced with crucial decisions (Luke 6:12–16). He stressed the necessity of prayer to His disciples as they ministered (Mark 9:29). No wonder His disciples asked eagerly, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus’ knowledge of prayer was more than theory; He had practical, daily experience that He shared with us in the Lord’s Prayer.
When Jesus taught what we now call, “The Lord’s Prayer,” He wasn’t giving us a mere formula of right words to repeat mindlessly to God. Jesus condemned prayers whose confidence is in what they say rather than Who is listening (vv. 7, 8). Instead, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us about God, ourselves, and how we relate to this God. We cannot pray until we understand the One to whom we pray. Then, we can understand phrases like Your kingdom and Your will. As we learn more about God, we see how unlike Him we are. We depend upon Him for everything.
Without prayer, we entertain what author Eugene Peterson aptly calls our “god pretensions.” Prayer puts God behind the steering wheel of our lives; by praying, we give up pretending we’re in charge.