Recently, while studying for a class I am teaching about the Lord’s Prayer, I came across a simple and beautiful observation about Jesus and his prayer life. I’ll share it with you.
Now, I will tell you something about my experience in preaching, teaching, or studying the Life of Jesus in the four gospels. This circumstance alone has always made me feel a sense of walking on holy ground. Then particularly, when I look into the discussion of prayer, and when I look at the scriptures about the crucifixion of Jesus, I am peculiarly aware of the need to walk humbly here, and let my soul look up in worship.
But, I often discover that simplicity and beauty go together, and this insight was certainly that kind of insight. While thinking of how to discuss the prayer life of Jesus, I came upon something obvious. There are not many places where the prayers of Jesus are recorded.
There are prayers around mealtime (Matthew 26:26; Mark 8:6; Luke 24:30; John 6:11), and there are those before or after major events such as the calling of the Twelve (Luke 6:12-16), or his Baptism (Luke 3:21). We read prayers of Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:34; Father, forgive them; Matthew 27:46; My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me… quoting Psalm 22; Luke 23:46; Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;) I see 12 places where he taught wonderful things about prayer.
But, I say again, there are not many places where the prayers of Jesus are recorded. John 17, a passage known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, is the only lengthy prayer recorded in the Bible, a chapter of 26 verses.
Then came the insight I am talking about; the beautiful and simple insight. Of course there are not many examples of the prayer times of Jesus. Of course there are so many references to Jesus slipping away to a quiet place alone where he prayed for a time, perhaps all night (Luke 6:12, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”)
Yes, of course we don’t have many verbatim recordings in scripture of Jesus’ prayers. He was doing the very thing he had prescribed to us about our prayer life.
- To pray genuinely and not for show… Many religious leaders in the day of Jesus would have their servants sound trumpets in the streets to announce that the leader would soon be praying there, and that all should come to hear the epic prayer. But Jesus told his followers to pray privately, trusting that the Father would hear and reward them openly. (Matthew 6:1-15)
- To pray honestly and free of phony religious phrases. (Matthew 6:7) Many shallow religious habits existed in the world of the first century, and still do today. Jesus warned against believing that we will be heard just because we talk a lot.
- To pray for the kingdom and its coming. As Stan Grenz said in his book, Prayer… The Cry for The Kingdom,
“The initial requests — ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.’, form one overarching petition that is then elaborated in the subsequent supplications. The requests for sustenance, forgiveness, and deliverance are the marks of the presence of the kingdom among us. In this manner, the entire prayer becomes a single petition for the in-breaking of the kingdom into the present.”
When I pray privately, with all the openness and honesty required of a follower speaking with the Lord, Himself… wonder of wonders… I am praying like Jesus prayed in private, and He lovingly hears me. “Thank You, Lord.”
Next… more of Jesus’ words about our prayers.