Prayer is one of the most misunderstood practices in our culture. It’s so easy for someone to utter, “You are in my thoughts and prayers,” when someone they love is going through a rough time in their lives. But rarely do we really dig in and offer up petitions to God for their healing, comfort, or return to grace.
Prayer is not something that you have to do, but it is something that you get to do. Simply put, prayer is a privilege provided to us by God to have that intimate connection with Him that we so desperately need. Simply put, it is a blessing and gift He has provided us.
In their latest book, Pray Like Jesus: Learn to Pray to God as Father, father-daughter writing team Mark Driscoll and Ashley Chase invite readers to experience the presence of God through their life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. Digging deeper, they examine Jesus’ prayer life and how He served and continues to serve as a model for how the Church is to pray.
I recently spoke to Mark and Ashley about how prayer is not mandatory but a privilege , why it is such a misunderstood topic, and the great benefits of praying for yourself.
You have opted to be a father-daughter writing team on Pray Like Jesus. Why the decision to team together on this project? Was it a good experience?
Ashley Chase: We wanted to write together because obviously we come from different backgrounds, different generations, ages, and all these things. And so, we wanted to show kind of what this looks like in an actual father-daughter relationship, what we’ve learned about prayer, and how we understand God the father. I’m a woman, so that’s different than being a guy and having a father relationship. So, we talk a lot about our experience just as father and daughter, but also how we see God in that role based on the verses that we break down. I’m just trying to get different perspectives on that topic. I enjoyed it. It’s my first time writing a book. It was really, really good to be able to do it together.
Mark Driscoll: We’ve got Real Faith Ministries where I provide Bible teaching and Ashley’s the executive director. As the dad, to be able to do ministry with your daughter and get Bible teaching out with your daughter, this is the best case scenario.
What was the catalyst for writing Pray Like Jesus?
Mark Driscoll: The idea is that Jesus teaches us to pray to God as father about 15 times in the Old Testament. God is referred to as Father and it’s usually national, not individual or personal. When Jesus comes, He refers to God as Father 165 times. And when He teaches us to pray, He teaches us to pray to God as Father. So, our big idea is if you really want to grow in your prayer life, don’t worry so much about that, get to know God as your Father. Just like a kid, if they have a dad who really, really loves them, cares about them, and pursues them, they’re just going to learn how to talk to their dad. And so, really the big idea of the book is getting to know God as father.
I hear so much from people in person or on social media saying something to the effect, “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” Yet, I sometimes question whether that is just lip service. Prayer is so much more than a pithy little saying to make people feel good. Why is prayer such a misunderstood topic?
Mark Driscoll: (It is misunderstood) especially for those of us who are Christians, I think we feel like we should be praying more. I’ve never met anybody who says, you know, I really feel like my prayer life is exactly where it should be. I feel really good about it. It’s like your diet. There’s always probably something you could do better. And so, I think sometimes as Christians, we just say, you’re in my thoughts, you’re in my prayers, I’ll be praying for you because we have a sense of that is the right thing to do. But I think for a lot of people, how that becomes a habit in life, like breathing. It is very natural and not forced. I think for most people that is very difficult. So, I think a lot of people have the want to but I think they’re struggling to figure out the how to, when it comes to prayer.
Ashley Chase: Part of the reason that we chose to study Jesus’ prayer life is because He had a real life. Like you said, this pithy advice or short statements that are like you should just do this, but actually studying the life of someone that had major struggles, within ministry, and literally went to the Cross. We talk about His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His deepest moment and what that looks like, how it was a daily thing. We also look at His highs and lows. He was constantly in prayer and gave us words to say and models to use as tools. Prayers that are really practical as well.
You write in the book that prayer is not mandatory but is a privilege instead. Why is that?
Mark Driscoll: We say prayer is not something you have to do. It’s something you get to do. Imagine a kid has a parent who just adores them, loves them, cares about them, and is interested in them. That child doesn’t have to speak to that parent. They get to speak to that parent. It shouldn’t feel like it’s a work assignment. It should feel like it’s a blessing and a privilege, an honor, and a joy. And I think that’s the big idea when we focus on prayer, it can turn into a duty. I think if we focus on getting to know the Father, all of a sudden prayer becomes a delight.
Ashley Chase: Absolutely. A lot of people ask why we should pray if God is sovereign and He already knows what’s going to happen. He’s in control. Why would we ask Him for anything? Our point in the book is that’s exactly why we should talk to Him because He’s the only one that can do anything most of the time in our lives. He’s the only one that has control, can give us hope, can actually point us in the right direction, and make us more like Jesus. So, we should be talking to Him if we want to be growing in our walk and in our faith.
In doing research for this book, what was the most fascinating thing you discovered about the prayer life of Jesus?
Ashley Chase: We studied the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and John 17, the High Priestly Prayer. Everybody knows a lot of those verses. Everybody knows the Lord’s Prayer, but actually digging into the model that Jesus sets in that prayer and his other prayers. Just how rich His teachings are was really interesting for me to see. People can recite the Lord’s Prayer over and over and over, but to actually dig in and understand what it means and what His heart was behind it, what He was trying to teach us beyond just repeating the words, and what is the point of them. I think that’s something that we really focus on is not just saying thing over and over, but understanding it and having the heart behind it. That was really interesting to discover together. What that looked like, Him calling out the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Gentiles, and the things that they’re doing wrong. And then, He actually shows us what is correct. So I loved that part of it.
Mark Driscoll: For me, it’s just a simple thing that Jesus needed to pray. If Jesus needed to pray, we need to pray. And if Jesus needed to make specific requests, even for health and provision, then we shouldn’t feel bad. Prayer is not what we do because we’re fallen, broken, or sinful, we do this because we’re humans. It’s just part of our humanity. The thing that really struck me is in Hebrews, Romans, and intimated in Galatians. But right now, we hear Jesus praying His high priestly prayer in John 17. He’s praying for us. But then those other scriptures say that He is continually living to make intercession for us. So, right now, God the Father and God the Son are having a conversation about us. And the Son of God is taking our needs, our requests, our struggles, and our victories. And He’s talking to the Father about them. So, not only did Jesus pray while He was on the earth, He’s still praying for us constantly. So, what’s amazing to me is that not only do we pray, but when we start praying to Jesus, He’s already been praying for us.
Final question, why is it imperative to pray for yourself?
Ashley Chase: If Jesus had to pray for Himself and was living a perfect life, in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, I think that probably means that we need to pray too, because we don’t have that perfect relationship. We’re not from heaven. We don’t live in eternity with God yet. We don’t have that perfectly mended relationship with the Father. And so, a lot of it is that we face trials, temptations, and troubles every day. Jesus promises that. But He’s overcome the world. The Holy Spirit needs to help us through. So, we need to cry out for help, for guidance, and for wisdom. If we’re not relying on that daily for every decision we make and everything we do, the temptation and the world is a pretty strong pull that can take us away from the Father.
Mark Driscoll: A lot of people have never heard about prayers where you transfer burdens that you can’t carry. (They think) you can’t bear them to the God who can. Jesus says come now, those who are heavy laden, burdened, broken, or beaten up. But there are a lot of people in our world right now, if you ask them how they are, they will say they are exhausted. I can’t do this anymore. I’m beat up. I’m worn done. I can’t go anymore. And Jesus says, “Come to me. My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” And what Jesus is talking about is transferring burdens that we cannot bear to Him to either bear them for us or bear them with us. And that’s one of the main things that happens in prayer. We transfer our burdens. Years ago, we were in a difficult season and I met with Pastor Jimmy Evans, who we love very much. He’s one of our overseers here at the church. He basically asked, “How’s your prayer life going?”
I said that it’s going great. I’m talking to God all the time. He’s like, ‘How’s your burdens?” I said that I’m so burdened. I’m overwhelmed. I’m exhausted. I’m stressed out. He’s like, “Then, you’re not praying. You’re just complaining. It’s not prayer until you transfer the burden.” I said, well, my complaining life is doing great, but my prayer life needs work. A lot of people are carrying burdens, fears, anxieties, hurts, and traumas. And unless you can transfer those burdens, they’re going to crush you. It means you’re just adding more burdens as you go through life. Prayer is where we hand those burdens to God and then He carries them and we’re able to live lighter with more joy and more freedom.
Watch a Special Message from Mark Driscoll and Ashley Chase on Pray Like Jesus: