Lord, Teach Us to Pray: The Heart Cry of a Disciple

Agnes Robertson

November 13, 2023

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”—Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

I believe in the power of prayer. I believe—not because prayer is magical, like rubbing a genie’s bottle, but because I’ve witnessed firsthand what God does when people pray. Lord, teach us to pray! 

Ten-Finger Prayers

Imagine your hands raised toward the heavens, your fingers slightly spread, and your heart full. Your circumstance seems unsolvable, your words to God sincere. You’ve exhausted every resource. You have nowhere else to turn. Your mouth utters what your spirit longs for, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You repeat your prayer, stopping to emphasize each word: “I – can – do – all – things – through – Christ – who – strengthens – me.” Your mind’s eye falls on the words “can” and “all” and “Christ” and “strengthen” as God’s Spirit encourages and empowers you. You begin to believe that God will make a way. He’s got this. He has you. And perhaps most importantly, you aren’t alone… God is with you. 

That has been my life—not just praying the Apostle Paul’s “Ten-Finger Prayer” from Philippians 4:13, but many prayers like it of various word counts and forms that have connected my heart to God’s. Prayers prayed with hands raised (sometimes literally; others symbolically) and with a most sincere heart. 

  • Prayers of desperation. 
  • Prayers of provision. 
  • Prayers for courage and faith. 
  • Prayers for decisions, healing, hope, and joy. 
  • Prayers for God’s life-giving work in others. 
  • Prayers of worship and praise. 
  • Prayers for God to be glorified in all things.

Prayer Was All I Had

For many years, prayer was all I had. In my younger days, God was my only hope in delivering me from life circumstances and heartache I wish for no one. In time, prayer became everything I had. Prayer became a lifestyle and moment-by-moment opportunity to know God and join Him in the good, gracious, and glorious things He was up to—in the world, in my neighborhood, in my family, and in my life.

Yes, I believe the Lord can teach us to pray. I also believe God answers prayer—every prayer, every time. Perhaps not always in the way, delivery method, and timing I thought He might, but always answering, always—in beautiful, wonderful, life-giving, and trusted ways only God can know and design.

Learning to Pray

Prayer was foreign to me in my younger days.

In fact, before living at the orphanage, prayers were nonexistent in my family. And while at the orphanage, prayers became something I learned, recited, and repeated. Prayers could be lumped into the same category as memorizing a poem, a periodic table, or a multiplication table. They were uninteresting and ineffectual—probably because of the people who misrepresented God by teaching one way and treating us orphans another. 

I had no idea prayer was something personal and powerful, and that put me close to the heart and mind of God.

While I didn’t know what prayer was or how to pray in my younger days, surely the prayers of others carried me. 

Perhaps your prayers for others you neither know nor have ever met will carry them.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Someone asked me recently, “Where did you learn to pray?” My answer was “by watching others who loved Jesus pray.” Ironically, I had no idea what it meant to really pray when I left the orphanage. That changed when my aunts and uncles (who became my moms and dads) began modeling prayer for me. They did so not in a classroom but in their everyday life. While I didn’t know exactly what was happening when they closed their eyes and seemingly talked to God, I knew they were trustworthy people. It was trust that led me to believe that if prayer was important to them, it must be important. Their witness made it possible to trust God’s with-ness.

Without a doubt, the person God used more than anyone to teach me about prayer in my younger days was Aunt Carrie. She didn’t set out to teach me anything. In fact, she didn’t even know I was listening for the longest time. When I listened to her pray, I sensed God’s power and presence. I knew she meant every word she prayed. It was so personal, too. She was actually having a conversation with God. Her prayers were such a wonderful mystery. Her prayers didn’t make me pray—they invited me. I wanted to talk with God the way she did. And in time, I did.

Everyday Prayers

An apple, a refrigerator, a purse, a park bench…

These were the everyday objects surrounding my profound encounter with God as He reminded me, “Agnes, you’re the apple of My eye!” It’s not that the pastor, our church, or Sunday morning worship didn’t matter. They do. Immensely! It’s just I’m amazed at how often profound prayer moments in my life have come in the everyday pitter-patter of life. Prayer as I changed diapers. Prayer as I drove to work. Prayer as I walked the neighborhood or bent to retrieve my golf ball after sinking a putt. I’ve learned that the best place to pray is wherever I am. Why? Because that’s where God is!

Can I let you in on a secret? I’ve discovered the more time I spend with God in prayer, the more I realize He cares about every aspect and detail of my life. What’s more, God wants me to know more and more about the details of His life, what He is up to in His Kingdom, and what’s going on all around me. God wants me to enjoy the ice cream I’m licking and talk to Him about it—because God loves good things and wants me to love them, too. God wants me to be aware of the person near me who was hurting—because when they hurt, God hurts too, and maybe He wants me to whisper a word of encouragement to them on His behalf.

Everyday moments, every day, wherever we find ourselves—those are the times and places God wants us to have conversations with Him. Those are the moments God wants to talk, listen, and share with us. Those are the times He often instructs, delights, motivates, guides, and moves us into action. It’s these times that teach us to pray. 

Prayer and Action

To pray requires a willingness and obedience to act. Prayer is so much more than asking God to fix, solve, remove, fulfill, or mitigate things. When we pray, we have a better understanding of what God is up to in our lives, in the lives of others, and in His Kingdom.

If you’re serious about prayer, make sure your shoes are laced up tight at the end of your conversation with God. More times than not, God will want to use you in the things you’re praying about and the people you’re praying for.

Prayer As Intercession

Now, every believer should be a person of prayer. In fact, the Bible instructs us “to pray at all times…” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But our Lord calls some people to a unique ministry of prayer, what some would call an intercessor. Intercessors are those who bring the needs and requests of others before the Lord in an intensive, prolonged, and often passionate manner of prayer. This was the type of prayer calling God had for me.

God chose to use the heartbreaking events of my early childhood to help me understand the sorrows and pain other people experience. Somewhere, somehow, I learned to hear His voice when He told me it was time to pray for others who were suffering. My prayers of intercession sometimes came with instructions to give others a specific message God had for them. Other times, God directed me to respond with loving action.

You might not have a lifelong calling to prayer in the same manner as God has given me (and then again, you might!). But you have been called to pray for others—to intercede on their behalf. To ask the Father to do in them, for them, and on behalf of them what they cannot do for themselves. He can teach us to pray for others.

Have you considered lately who you might intercede for in prayer? If you aren’t sure, just ask God to show you. He will. You need not open your eyes and look around long before you see someone who needs a touch from the Lord. The needs are many—those willing to pray are few. Why not get started on being a part of someone’s answered prayer and blessing by praying for them today?

Prayers of Praise & Thanksgiving

Not all ten-finger prayers are ones with hands held high and begging for help. Quite the contrary. Sometimes, our hands are passionately held high out of sheer gratitude and praise for God’s goodness, provision, and care.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever,” the psalm-writer tells us many times over in Psalm 136.

Our hands often found the need to extend toward heaven and pray prayers of gratitude for what God had so lovingly and graciously done in our hearts, our lives, and in those of others. Whether a prayer lifted to give thanks for the beauty of the day, the joy on someone else’s face, provision for daily needs, or the life-changing impact of one’s salvation—God is worthy to be recognized, honored, and glorified for every good gift! “Give thanks in all circumstances,” I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us. And that’s what I intend to do as long as I have the breath to do it. I hope you will, too!

Prayer Changes Things

Prayer changes things. It changes you, me, others, the situation, attitudes, outcomes, expectations… It brings comfort, insight, strength, power, forgiveness, transformation, and life.

Prayer isn’t accessible just to the popular, powerful, intelligent, skilled, wealthy, or super spiritual. Prayer belongs to anyone willing to talk to God.

Prayer is powerful because God is. It puts us where God is at work and connects us to all God’s resources.

Most of all, prayer puts us in God’s presence. And there is no better place to be. In God’s presence, we know more about who we are, what we are about, where we belong, what we are to do, where we’re going, and how much we are loved.

Like I said, prayer changes everything! Lord, teach us to pray!

If you’re ready to jumpstart your faith and infuse your prayer life with power, you can purchase Agnes’ full book Ten-Finger Prayers, the amazingly true story of how an orphan became an overcomer from the Forge store here

For the first time in her 90+ years of living, Agnes Robertson shares her life story . . . all of it. Explore with her the darkness of an orphanage, the wonder of God’s rescue, the humor of everyday life, and the delight of seeing all God can do through a life saturated in prayer and yielded to Him. Agnes takes readers on a prayer-packed, faith-filled adventure with over 150 stories and vignettes, each shouting from the mountaintop, “Look what God can do!”