Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
At first, this disciple’s request might surprise us. Jewish people had a great tradition of prayer, practiced since childhood. John the Baptizer, the greatest of prophets, had taught some these very men. Jesus Himself had shown them how to pray (Matthew 6). He had sent them on missions, and seventy had just returned with enthusiastic reports (Lk 10:1-20). So they might easily see themselves as experienced workers with God.
Yet in Luke 11, immediately after these events, a disciple makes the most basic request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” This sounds like a child’s request. If he says, “teach us more about prayer,” there might be room for adult pride, suggesting, “We already know something about praying; we just need to improve.” Instead he says something simpler: “Lord, teach us to pray.” He includes his fellow disciples: “Teach us.” They too need to learn prayer. A little earlier Jesus asked His followers to pray for more harvest workers (Luke 10:2). The disciples want to do that very thing, to join Jesus in the vitality and effectiveness of His prayers.
Do we realize that, compared with Jesus, we are babies in spiritual matters? Are we like infants in being open to learning, to changing, to growing? A child-like attitude is essential for us to have a place in the Kingdom (Luke 10:21; 18:16-17). But this honest man realizes that they are mere children in the school of prayer. So he goes right back to the beginning, with the most basic request, “Lord, teach us to pray.”