There is no greater honor for a teacher than for his or her students to present this request: “Teach us to pray.” When students want to imitate the way you communicate with God and abide in His presence, it means they are being impacted by your relationship with God. You can be sure that students who hear perfunctory, insipid, passionless and colorless prayers from their teachers would never ask them “Teach us how to address God in this way.”
When the disciples approached Jesus with this request it wasn’t with the idea of learning a pat formula to quickly run out and tape on their mirror in order to repeat it verbatim while washing the sleep out of their eyes the next morning. What they were communicating was: “Your lifestyle of dependence on God has impacted us and we would like to learn how to imitate you.” Imagine the pain our Lord must feel when almost one fourth of humanity repeat the words of his prayer mindlessly and with no vital connection with the Father.
Jesus’ disciples knew that He prayed through the night, that He got up early to pray, that He prayed alone and in moments of crisis. His life was a constant praying. They wanted that kind of life. They wanted to learn how to make prayer the center of their existence.
The Lord’s answer to their questions contains many forms of prayer: invocation, worship, thanksgiving, contrition, commitment to holiness, petition and praise. Each phrase is enough to meditate and build on and imitate in spirit for an hour or more.
Martin Luther compared prayer to weaving a garland around key thoughts or requests.
Norman Grubb comments on Rees Howell’s intensified praying: “intercession is identification, agony and authority.” (Grubb, Norman, Rees Howells, Intercessor, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1997, p. 81).
I learned much about prayer from my dad, my friend and mentor, Monroe David Grams. I would find him on his knees every morning in his office when I came down from my third story room. I caught the spirit of prayer during my “summer” vacations when I joined him at Instituto Bíblico General Pando on the Bolivian Altiplano. I was in my early teens when we would kneel together every morning at 6:30 A.M. on little boards on the freezing cold mud floor and pray with the Aymara students. I learned much about prayer at the altars and prayer room of the Minneapolis Gospel Tabernacle with Pastors F.J. Lindquist, Cyril Homer and John Wilkerson. I learned much about prayer in an amazing revival with Dick Eastman at North Central Bible College.
One of the moments I regret as a teacher is the time a few years ago, in the midst of revival, that my students asked me to pray with them and I only found time to do so once or twice. Another moment I regret is when my former students, revival church pastors, invited me to join them every Thursday to pray with Evangelist Carlos Annacondia. I was too busy to realize that this was the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to learn and receive so much.
Thankfully, God has led us to make prayer a critical part of our life here at Instituto Bíblico Río de la Plata in Buenos Aires. For years I would often pray with the students at their morning prayer times at 6:40 A.M. We have a by-weekly voluntary prayer meeting on Thursday evening and the other Thursdays a service together that includes much time of prayer at the altars. For the last three or four years, my wife, Sherry, and I have felt a tremendous impulse toward seeking God with the students. The past six months we have spent an hour a day in prayer with those that choose to be there at 6:00 P.M. Sometimes we are twenty and sometimes we are four. Sometimes it is a difficult tarrying before the Lord. Other times it is a beautiful flowing in His presence with tears and laughter in the Spirit, words of prophecy and other manifestations.
We’ve felt led to have three days of prayer, prayer vigils, intercession groups and recently fourth year student Damian Gonzalez organized a Revival workshop. 450 people showed up at the school from 37 different churches. Between 30 and 40 people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, some were “stuck” in tongues for a few hours. Many took the fire and passion back to their churches.
Imagine our joy to hear that God is using our students’ prayers to heal the sick in the hospitals or to help would-be suicides surrender their lives to Christ at the train station railway crossing.
If we give God the space and time in our training programs He will heal and shape lives and will use transformed vessels to affect many.
I remember during my Bible College years reading the book I Saw Gooley Fly. Gooley went to an aerodynamics school where all the intricacies of flying were explained by the teachers, who would then, walk back from the blackboard to their desks. One day Gooley decided to start applying what was being taught and actually started flying. It caused quite a commotion.
God help us to be a part of learning institutions that make actually flying an integral part of everything that happens.
Rocky and his wife Sherry have been missionaries to Argentina since 1979 . Currently, Rocky serves as the Director of the Instituto Bíblico Rio de Plata in Buenos Aires. He has also been an integral part of the ACLAME Leadership Team.