The patellar reflex is a helpful diagnostic tool for a doctor to check the health of your central nervous system. It’s commonly called the knee-jerk response. But beyond the medical world, it’s also come to mean “an immediate unthinking emotional reaction to certain stimuli.” This has implications for the health of our prayer life too.
When Jesus talked about praying He never said, “If you pray,” but always “When you pray.” He assumed it would be a vital part of a Christian’s life. He also used a verb tense which would add an “ing” to the verb, so He was really saying, “When you are maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your Father.”
So when something unexpected happens to us, Jesus wants us to say, “Why, my Father already knows about this!” This is the knee-jerk reaction Jesus wants to see.
We see this on full display when Peter and John are told by the Jewish religious authorities not to talk about Jesus publicly anymore. When these men reported this threat to the rest of the church, notice their knee-jerk response: “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”
There are two interesting things I notice in their prayer. The first thing is how they used the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as the template of their prayer.
- Our Father in Heaven—Sovereign Lord.
- Hallowed be Your name—You made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
- Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven—Your power and will decided beforehand what would happen.
- Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors—“Consider their threats” was like saying, “Forgive us for inappropriate thoughts and forgive them for speaking ignorantly against Your name.”
- Give us today our daily bread—Enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness today.
- Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever—Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders. May Your name be glorified!
The second thing I see in their prayer is that they stood on a biblical promise. They quoted the words of David from Psalm 2—words that had been penned nearly 1000 years earlier—and applied them to their present situation.
What’s your knee jerk response to troubles? It’s an easy question to ask, and an easy answer to change.
When something comes at you from out of the blue, learn to say, “Why, my Father already knows about this!” Then find a biblical promise you can claim and turn that promise into a prayer modeled on Christ’s prayer. Pray that again and again until God provides the answer.
Let’s make prayer our first response and not our last resort!