The most compelling argument ever presented for cultivating a praying lifestyle is found in studying the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus was both the quintessential pray-er and the world’s unparalleled expert on prayer. There are well over 100 verses in the gospels that recount His personal prayer habits, His teachings on prayer and thankfully many of His actual prayers.
We know that His life was punctuated by prayer from the beginning of His ministry to the end and He did it as naturally as breathing. He was praying when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism in the Jordan River and He was praying with His last breath from the cross. He was want to spend both late nights and early mornings in prayer. And it was not unusual for Him to pull all-nighters when wrestling with weighty decision like His choice of the twelve apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)
During the day He was continually praying for the needs of the multitudes of people who pressed in upon Him, or pausing simply to give thanks to His Heavenly Father for what He saw His Father doing. His communion with heaven was an ongoing dialogue and the entirety of one of those many prayer conversations is recorded in John 17 as a model for the ages. One thing is readily evident in considering Jesus’ life. Prayer was a priority.
While Jesus’ life gave us an example of the fundamental aspects of prayer and demonstrated its importance, His teachings provided the practical how-tos. His prayer life was so remarkable that those closest to Him were compelled to ask Him to teach them how to pray. What followed is now considered the most comprehensive and yet succinct teachings on prayer ever given. In what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus lays out a logical, sequential outline to use in praying for everything from heavenly and global concerns to local and personal needs. (Matthew 9:1-13, Luke 11:1-4) But the scope of Jesus’ teaching on prayer went way beyond what was contained in those five verses.
Jesus taught on prayer on many occasions. In fact all four gospels contain different accounts of Jesus explaining ways in which to pray effectively. The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus emphasizing the importance of praying to the Father in secret, often coupled with fasting and giving. (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18) We also see Jesus teaching about the principles of binding and loosing and the prayer of agreement. (Matthew 18:18-19) In Mark we find Jesus exhorting His followers to “have faith in God” when praying, to profess out loud their belief and be sure to forgive anyone who has offended them. (Mark 11:22-25) In Luke Jesus tells three different parables underscoring the importance of persistence when praying. (Luke 11:5-8, 9-13 & Luke 18:1-8) And in the gospel of John, Jesus explains in detail the importance of praying to the Father in His name. (John 14:13-14, 15:16 & 16:23-27)
In addition to all this, Jesus gave very specific instructions with regard to what to pray for. To name a few, He urged praying for blessing on our enemies, for harvest workers to be raised up, for protection and against temptation, and for the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 5:44 &9:38, Matthew 26:20 & 41, Luke 11:13) Interestingly His most urgent and dramatic call to prayer was for the nations of the world. When He cleansed the temple the week leading up to His death He cried “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Mark 11:17 NIV)
Finally, and it is not without significance, the last appeal Jesus ever made was with regard to prayer. It was in essence a “deathbed request” uttered within the final 24 hours of His life, right before He was arrested and whisked away from His disciples. Deathbed requests demand serious consideration and a resolve to see them fulfilled. Jesus and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane. It came in the midst of His agonizing in prayer over His impending crucifixion. At one point He arose and went to where His disciples were, only to find them sleeping. It was then that He challenged them with this question – “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” (Matthew 26:40 NLT) It is an challenge that echoes down through the corridors of time to this very day, to every person who considers themselves a disciple.
Finally, the book of Hebrews gives us a behind the scenes glimpse into the prayer life Jesus. We are told that “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7 NIV)
Considering Jesus’ great dependence upon the Father in prayer, how much more dependent should we be? Considering the passion, urgency and consistency with which Jesus, the Son of God was required to pray, how much more are we? Considering His many teachings and urgings to pray, why do we delay? May the life and teachings of Jesus motivate us to a similar life of prayer.
Click Here for an email subscription to this blog