When we study the prayers of the Bible, we learn how to pray (and sometimes how not to pray). The case of the leper who came to Jesus is especially instructive:
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them” (Matthew 8:1-4; for information concerning Jesus’ command to the leper, see Leviticus 14:2-32).
William Barclay observes that the leper’s prayer exhibits three qualities that should be true of each of our prayers:
- The leper prayed with confidence. Leprosy was incurable, but this man was absolutely sure that Jesus could cure the incurable. We must be sure that God can do whatever He wants to do. James wrote, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).
- The leper prayed with humility. The leper did not boast before the Lord, as some do in their prayers (Luke 18:9-14). Nor did this desperate man pray for show, as some do (Matthew 6:5). Rather, he humbly acknowledged his need before God, as we must. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
- The leper prayed with reverence. The leper knelt before Jesus, because he knew that to be in the presence of Jesus was to be in the presence of great power. We must pray in recognition that God is greater than we. We pray “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Prayers offered with these attitudes are those that touch the heart of God and prompt an affirmative response on His part (1 Peter 3:12). Do your prayers exhibit these qualities? If not, begin to study and emulate the good prayers of the Bible, for example, the model prayer that Christ taught to His disciples (Matthew 6:9-13).