When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray in the same way that John the Baptist taught his disciples,” Jesus did not give them an outline to follow. He did not say, “It’s adoration, confession, thanksgiving, then supplication.” He said, “When you pray, say…”
He put words in their mouth.
We are prone to think that to be sincere, prayer must be spontaneous. That if I am praying something that has been given to me, it is somehow less of a prayer. But from a biblical perspective, this is exactly what we need.
We need to be schooled. We need to come to prayer with the utmost humility, realizing that we need the master to put words in our mouth.
Jesus says, “My little children, talk to me and start with my words.”
It makes sense that God would have us start with His word, and not our own. He teaches us to start from a point of inerrancy and infallibility and to pour out our prayers through His perfect word.
When it comes to prayer, we all think we are more mature than we are. We must come to prayer with the utmost humility, with the expectation that we need to be taught. And this is rooted in scripture. There is no one book of the Bible dedicated exclusively to evangelism, giving, or serving in the church; but we do have a book dedicated entirely and exclusively to praying. If we read the book of Psalms prayerfully, it would expand our grasp of prayerful thinking and thoughtful praying. Arguably the most famous prayer in the whole book of Psalms is Psalm 23. David doesn't make a single request. All he says is “the Lord is my shepherd.” He must start there. We must start there.
Please don't hear me saying I am against spontaneous prayer. I am not. I simply believe we need to learn from people like David, Asaph, and Cora, who knew God better than we do. Instead of starting with spontaneity and somehow stumbling into some measure of accuracy, we must grow into spontaneity after His inerrant and infallible words in our mouths.