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More Prayer Classics - The One Who Teaches Prayer

Teach Us to Pray

Recently I ran a series of blog posts featuring selections from classic Christian writings on prayer. I would like to share a few more.

The following selection comes from the writings of Jean-Nicholas Grou (1730-1803), a Jesuit priest who lived in France and Holland. Gou reminds us that, though it can be helpful to read what others have written about prayer, we only truly learn to pray as we are taught to do so by the Lord. Christians need to invite the Holy Spirit to empower and instruct their prayers, and trust that, as they depend on God for help, he will teach them to pray.

“One day the disciples said to Jesus Christ: ‘Lord teach us to prayer.’ It was the Holy Spirit who inspired them to make this request. The Holy Spirit convinced them of their inability to pray in their own strength, and he moved their hearts to draw near to Jesus Christ as the only Master who could teach them how they ought to pray….

“There is no Christian who is not this the same situation as the disciples. Every Christian ought to say to the Savior as humbly as they did: ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ Ah! If we were only convinced of our ignorance and of our need for a Teacher like Jesus Christ! If we would only approach him with confidence, asking him to teach us himself and desiring to be taught by his grace how to converse with God! How soon would we be skilled in prayer and how many of its secrets would we discover! ...

“Who prevents us from receiving the gift of prayer? Can we doubt that Jesus Christ is willing to give it to us? But do we desire it? Do we ask for it? Do we think we need it? …

“God must teach us everything concerning the nature of prayer: its objects, it characteristics, the disposition it requires, and the personal application we must make of it according to our needs…. 

“We know in general that prayer is a religious act, but when it comes to praying we easily forget that it is a supernatural act which is therefore beyond our strength and can only be performed by the inspiration and help of grace. As St. Paul says: ‘Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God’ (2 Cor. 3:5).

“… Why do [people] try so hard to inflame their imagination as if prayer depended on their own efforts, as if it were not necessary that God’s action should govern and direct their prayer? Since prayer is a supernatural act, we must earnestly ask God to produce it in us, and then we must perform it tranquilly under his guidance…. If God does not teach us, we shall never know thoroughly the nature of prayer.”