Jesus' Example In Prayer
Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased," Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age (Lk. 3: 21-23a).
Jesus began His ministry praying. He ended it praying, "Father, 'into Your hands I commend My spirit'" (Lk. 23:46, all references from the NKJV).
If there ever was a man who prayed without ceasing (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17), it was Jesus of Nazareth. He prayed "in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight" (Mk. 1:35). He prayed during the day (Matt. 15:36; Jn. 11:41-42); and He prayed during the night (Matt. 14:23).
Jesus was also One who prayed everywhere (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8). He prayed in the mountains (Mk. 6:46), in the wilderness (Lk. 5:16), and in the city (Mt. 26:26-29). He even prayed on the cross (Mk. 15:34; Lk. 23:34,46).
Jesus is our example. We are to imitate Him. What kind of praying did Jesus do? Let's take a look at some of the prayers of Jesus.
A Secluded Prayer
Jesus felt He needed to get alone to speak with His Father. After a busy day of teaching and performing miracles and before the start of another such day, Jesus arose "a long while before daylight . . . . went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mk. 1:35). Luke records this custom of Jesus in Luke 5:16. "So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed." After the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus "went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening had come, He was alone there" (Mt. 14:23).
There are times when we need to get away from the busy affairs of this life to seek solace with our Heavenly Father. Do we rise early in the morning to rush off to work, work all day, rush home to participate in some family affair, and then drop into bed late in the evening, realizing we really have not spent much time speaking with our Father in Heaven? Let us follow the example of Jesus. "Go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Mt. 6:6).
A Public Prayer
While Jesus knew the importance of getting alone to be with His Father, He also knew the importance of praying in the sight of others. He took Peter, James, and John with Him up on the mountain of transfiguration to pray (Lk. 9:28-29). At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus prayed, "Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me" (Jn. 11:41-42). Jesus certainly did not pray just to be seen of men, for He condemned such action in Matthew 6:5. But by being seen praying, He was showing Himself an example in prayer.
Do others see us praying? Does your family see you praying? Do those with whom you work or go to school know you as a man of prayer? Are you willing to pray in public in giving thanks for your food like Paul did (Acts 27:35)? Surely you are not ashamed of others seeing you pray, are you?
A Spanning Prayer
On one occasion Jesus' praying spanned all night (Lk. 6:12). This prayer was made before His calling of the twelve apostles. Surely, Jesus was not guilty of "vain repetitions" in such a prayer. He had taught earlier:
But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like than. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him (Mt. 6:7-8).
How much time do we spend in prayer to God? We sometimes sing about the "sweet hour of prayer." Have we ever prayed for an hour? Have we ever prayed for, thirty minutes or even fifteen minutes? Do we just rush through our prayers repeating the same old cliches?
The amount of time we spend praying says something about our closeness to God. We enjoy spending time with those with whom we are close. Since our parents live some distance from us, my wife and I enjoy speaking with them on the telephone (as evidenced by our long distance phone bills). We just hate to have to end the conversation. Brethren, God has a toll-free number; we can speak with Him for as long as we feel the need. What a blessing!
A Short Prayer
While He prayed at length at times, Jesus also knew that brief prayers have their place. Notice an example in John 12:27-38 where He prayed, "Father save Me from this hour: But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Jesus' last prayer was brief. "Father, 'into Your hands I commend My spirit'"(Lk. 23:46).
We should not pray long prayers just for long prayer)s sake. Let us realize that we can express our heart 's desire to God at any time, expressing our burdens and cares in short statements as was characterized by Jesus. We can go to Him often in thanksgiving and praise for the good things we enjoy through the day.
A Supplicating Prayer
Supplications were a part of Jesus' prayers. At times He prayed for Himself as He did in John 12-27. In Luke 22:31-32 He told Peter, "Simon, Simon! Indeed Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren. " Jesus prayed for this disciple whom He knew later would deny Him. In Matthew 19:13 people were bringing the little children to Jesus that He might "put His hands on them and pray." Jesus even prayed for His enemies, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Lk. 23:34). In the Lord's prayer in John 17, He prayed for Himself (17:1-5), for His apostles (17:6-19), and for us (17:20-26).
Our prayers ought to be filled with requests both for ourselves and for others. The Bible reveals for whom we should pray. (For more details on this point, see the article in this issue entitled, "For What Should I Pray?")
A Satisfied Prayer
There are so many good things for which we can be satisfied in this life. Because this fact was also true in the life of Jesus, thanksgiving was often a part of Jesus' praying. In Matthew 15:36 He gave thanks for the loaves and the fish. In Matthew 11:25-26 he prayed, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." He also expressed thanks to God for the Father's hearing His prayers (Jn. 11:41-42).
Jesus assured us that our prayers would also be answered by God. He said, "Ask, and it will be given unto you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Mt. 7:7-8). If we meet the conditions laid down in the Bible, our prayers will be answered. How satisfying to know we have that blessing. We have so many material and spiritual blessings for which we should be thankful. So, "continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2).
A Schooling Prayer
On one occasion when Jesus was praying, a disciple asked Him to teach them to pray, so Jesus schooled them in prayer (Lk. 11:14). He taught them to praise God in their prayers-"Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name." He taught them to pray for the Father's will to be done"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." He taught them to pray for their physical needs -- "Give us day by day our daily bread." He taught them to pray for their spiritual needs -- "And forgive us our sins. For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us, And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one."
On other occasions Jesus taught many other things concerning prayer. (See article "Parables on Prayer.") Do we teach others how to pray? Are we teaching our children how to pray? Do we teach new babes in Christ how to pray? Apparently Jesus thought His disciples needed to be taught how to pray. What about disciples today?
A Submissive Prayer
In the face of death, Jesus sought the Father's will to be done. He prayed, "Father if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done" (Lk. 22:42). Jesus made this request with much emotion. The Hebrew writer later described this event by saying, "who, in the days of His flesh, when He offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7). It was always Jesus' desire to do the Father's will (Heb. 10:7), and His prayers were no exception.
We need to have the same attitude, knowing that our Father knows best. Some things for which we ask may not truly be in our best interest. Thanks be to God that He answers our prayers with our well-being in mind. Remember to pray for His will to be done.
About whom have we been speaking? The One who prayed these prayers was the divine Son of God. How much more do we adopted sons of God need to cry out, "Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:4-6)!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 15, pp. 455-456