Posted by: rcottrill | April 22, 2011

Teach Me to Pray

Words: Albert Simpson Reitz (b. Jan. 20, 1879; d. Nov. 1, 1966)
Music: Albert Simpson Reitz

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (about Pastor Reitz)

Note: The Cyber Hymnal does not, at this time, have a page on this hymn, but there is a brief biography of Albert Reitz, and links to some of the other songs he wrote.

There were a number of reasons why God the Son became incarnate and walked this earth as a Man. One that is clearly stated–by the Lord Jesus Himself–is that He came to pay the price for our sins (Mk. 10:45; Jn. 10:15). But another is that, in His life, He set before us the perfect example of a life lived in obedience to God, a life of service for God.

He said, on one occasion, “I have given you an example that you should do as I have done” (Jn. 13:15). He has left us an example that we should “follow in His steps” (I Pet. 2:21; cf. Eph. 5:1-2). “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,” Jesus said (Matt. 11:29). We are to “let this mind [this attitude] be in [us] which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). And we see, as the passage continues, that it is to be an attitude of humble obedience and sacrificial service (vs. 8). “He who says he abides in Him [is in fellowship with Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (I Jn. 2:6).

To get to a specific, one of the activities of Christ we’re to emulate is His prayer life. The Gospels speak repeatedly of His times of private prayer (Matt. 14:23; Lk. 6:12). And we see Him praying before others too (Matt. 14:19; Lk. 9:28; Jn. 11:40-44; 17:1-26). Yet, though He is uniquely the Son of God, His recorded prayers are not otherworldly, or filled with high-flown rhetoric. They are simple, clear, and practical, and they resonate with emotional integrity–in contrast to the hypocritical blather of the Pharisees (Matt. 6:5, 7). Not only that, the prayers of the Lord Jesus effectively unleashed the power of God. His prayers were answered.

No wonder Christ’s disciples appealed to Him, saying, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1). They wanted to know that same intimacy with God they saw the Lord was having with His heavenly Father. And they wanted to be able to draw on the resources of heaven, to be and do all that He wanted them to. It is in that spirit that Pastor Reitz wrote his prayer hymn in 1925. Several practical issues are addressed in the hymn.

1) Prayer is for the one who wants to please God. Who says, “I long to know Thy will and Thy way” (Stanza 1). In the broader sense, God’s will and way is made clear in His Word. That is, we’re not left in doubt as to whether it is right or wrong to steal, or covet, or commit adultery. But in the specifics of every day, we need wisdom in applying the principles of God’s Word. For us, the promise is, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5; cf. Prov. 3:5-6).

2) Prayer is for the one who sees and is touched by the great needs of humanity–“men lost and dying, souls in despair” (Stanza 2). How can we minister to them? How can we help them? We quickly discover that we do not have, in ourselves, the power to rescue lost sinners, or transform the lives of those in bondage. But God does. And a prayer for God’s enablement, and for spiritual power, is called for, if we are to serve Him effectively. The Lord Jesus has promised power to serve as His witnesses (Acts 1:8; cf. 4:33; I Cor. 2:4-5).

3) Prayer is for the one who understands that our sin nature can still raise its ugly head, and we can still stumble into sin. We are given examples of failure in the Scriptures to remind us that we too can fall. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:11-12). We are to admonish and correct others, carefully, “considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). It is with a recognition of personal weakness that Pastor Reitz prays (Stanza 3):

My weakened will, Lord, Thou canst renew;
My sinful nature Thou canst subdue;
Fill me just now with power anew,
Power to pray and power to do!

Questions:
1) What are some of the hindrances to having a consistent and effective prayer life?

2) What are some areas or subjects for prayer that you feel are too often neglected?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (about Pastor Reitz)


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