The Prayer Life of Jesus

The Prayer Life of Jesus

Have you ever counted the number of times you’ve heard sermons on prayer? If you’ve been a Christian for many years you know that “prayer” is a major topic for sermons and Bible studies in small groups. Then check online for “books on prayer.” Jesus of course, is our most significant example of the “how, when, where, what, how long” model of prayer. We’re not told a lot about His life even during the last 3 years of His public ministry leading up to the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. We find Him teaching here and there; He performs many, many healings; He enters, on occasion, into dialogue with His detractors. But if there’s one subject He teaches on and actually models for us, it’s prayer! So, let’s examine not only what He says about it, but also how He did it in His own life.

First, Jesus prayed FOR others.

Matthew Gospel 19:13 tells us, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them.” Now, the protective disciples of Jesus thought these little kids didn’t deserve the Master’s time and attention and they tried to stop this from happening. They felt He was “too busy” to be bothered with little children, but He rebuked them and declared that, “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And there are ample times we find Him praying for others. John 17:9 states His own words to His heavenly Father when Jesus states, “I am praying for those You have given Me, for they are Yours.” We should follow His example and pray FOR others.

Then, Jesus prayed WITH others.

In Luke 9:28 it states that “He took, Peter, James and John with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Later on, in Acts (the history book of the New Testament) we find the Christians praying with one another. “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” We should follow His example and pray WITH others. But sometimes He prayed ALONE. Luke 5:16 informs us that, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” We’re encouraged in many other portions of The Bible that it’s good to pray all by ourselves. Psalm 46: 10 reminds us that we should “Be still, and know that I am God.” In today’s lifestyle it’s impossible to pray that kind of prayer in the company of others.

I’m reminded of a story out of Evangelist Billy Graham’s life. It happened during a time of ever- expanding modernism in the Church, with science and philosophy ascending rapidly, and many Christians were losing their faith. Graham, the story goes, took a walk in the woods one night seeking God’s direction for his faith. He knelt by the stump of a tree in the forest and sealed forever his faith in the validity of the Bible with this prayer: “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word – by faith!” Shortly thereafter Graham’s world-wide ministry was launched.

Interestingly, Jesus prayed in NATURAL surroundings.

Luke 6:12 tells us that He went out to a mountainside to pray.” He had other location options! The Temple wasn’t that far away; He could have gone to a synagogue, and there were lots of homes too in which to pray. But He decided to pray where He was, and often He was in a natural environment. Remember the previous story of Graham praying his life-changing prayer in the woods? A lake view, a mountain view; a children’s playground, a farm field – wherever we are works for prayer and natural beauty only enhances the praying experience.

One author (Robert Velarde), amusingly tells us that Jesus could pray as a sprinter or a marathon runner! He references The Lord’s Prayer and reminds us that, while it is full of wisdom, it is short enough to be committed to memory and serves as more of a “sprint” than a “marathon” in terms of prayer. Yes, Jesus spent all nights in prayer as we read in Luke 6:12, but He also briefly prayed short prayers too. The Old Testament Psalmists prayed one sentence prayers! Paul’s prayers were not lengthy. Rosalind Rinker, an American author, in her book, “Conversing with God,” reminds us that “prayer is really a conversation between two people who love each other!” How true, and depending on the situation, sometimes those conversations can be lengthy or short!

Much more important than how long we pray is how REGULARLY we pray! Again, it’s in Luke’s Gospel 5:16 that we find the word “often”.

Jesus OFTEN withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

It was simply a part of His life. In crowds, or by Himself, we note the regularity. Prayer to Jesus was not spasmodic, it was “the norm”, it was natural, it took place regularly. Really, it permeated every facet of His life. And it needs to be likewise with us.

Jesus’ prayers came from His HEART!

One never reads of Him praying thoughtlessly, carelessly or dispassionately. Whether praying for a healing miracle for someone, raising a widow’s deceased son back to life, or Jesus praying for Himself or His disciples, as well as all
believers (John 17) He shows a caring heart and a genuine love for the Father. We need to emulate this characteristic in our praying – heartfelt!

Then, the model of prayer He shows us clearly demonstrates that He prayed in accordance with the will of His Father, and in accordance with God’s revealed truth. His prayers were not “fringe-like”, or “on the edge”, no, they always conformed to the truth of the Scriptures which He came to fulfill. In John 4:24 He said, “God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” For us to have a prayer life resembling Jesus’ prayer life, we must have an honest understanding of what truth is in the light of God’s Word. Central to a successful and powerful prayer life is how we think about and follow the truth of God’s Word!

Jesus taught PERSISTENCE in prayer too.

In Luke 18:1 He shares the following instruction: “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable (a story) to show them they should always pray and not give up.” He’s not talking about a disciple bugging God incessantly and so God has no
choice but to answer the prayer; rather, it’s encouragement to keep on praying, to not lose hope, to be patient until the answer comes, and to wait on God for His timing is always perfect! Oh, how we can all learn from this example that Jesus sets!

And finally, though there is so much more that could be said, Jesus knew that not all His prayers would be answered as He wanted and expected. And that’s so true for us too, isn’t it? The classic example occurs when He’s alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing what was lying in store for Him in just a few hours He prayed 3 times for The Father to make another path possible other than death on a cross and for Jesus to become “sin” and have to die for
sin – sins that He never committed! His prayers were fervent, agonizing, heartfelt, passionate, persistent (3 times the same prayer), while all alone, but then He concludes with, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) And this lesson is so often hard for us today. Accepting God’s will in situations when we think we know best what the answer should be is often very difficult.

We must remember that it’s God Who is in charge and He certainly knows best. And that’s exactly what He wants for each of us today – the best! “Lord, help my unbelief!” AMEN

Stewart Hunter – Monthly Contributor

Stewart lives with his wife Gudrun in Stittsville, ON. For over 55 years Stewart has served as a pastor as well as in varied positions in The PAOC. Stewart and Gudrun are members of Bethel Pentecostal Church, Ottawa.