Examining the Prayer Life of Christ
Grasping the Foundational Truths of Prayer
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was Heard because of His reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)
Matthew Henry wrote: “All repetitions in prayer are not to be counted as vain repetitions…” The New International Dictionary tells us, “Prayer is the spiritual response, spoken or unspoken to God, who is known. Not merely to know He exists, but, He has revealed Himself and has invited His creation to have communion with Him. Thus prayer covers a wide spectrum of addressing and hearing God. Interceding with and waiting for the Lord as we petition our Father in heaven.
I would propose to you that the promises found in God’s word are not to supersede prayers. They are to serve only as guides for our desires and are the grounds of our hope as we learn to pray as Jesus prayed.
Just when and how did Jesus pray?
“Lord, teach [me] to pray…”
There are at least seventeen Scriptural references to Christ praying and they may be placed into four groups. They are 1.) Prayers at Critical Moments. 2.) Prayers During His Ministry. 3.) Prayers at His Miracles and 4.) Prayers for Others. Today we will look only at prayers prayed at critical moments in Christ’s life. Next week we will consider the other three groups.
A Holy Spirit illuminated Christian approaches Jesus as one of the disciples did in Luke 11:1 saying, “Lord, teach [me] to pray…”
A sure way to learn about anything is to study about it and observe the life of someone who does what you want to learn to do. Learning about the powerful ministry of prayer, necessitates taking note of what the Bible teaches about the prayer life of Christ. Today’s text says this about Jesus and His prayer life.
Listen as I read Hebrews 5:7, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.”
Prayers offered in great detail
“Prayers” (deesis) here means prayers offered in great detail for the circumstance at hand. These petitions were offered to make known to God a particular need.
Jesus did not pray generic prayers and neither should a Christian. I am convinced Christians are to be specific in their prayers as long as they are for building of God’s kingdom and especially if they are for building a deeper personal relationship with Christ Himself.
While here on this earth, Jesus prayed in loud cries, meaning an outcry of lamentations in the sense of a cry for help of one who is deeply distressed or in danger. It is like a person who is in bondage or in a trap and is calling out for help to those he may see in the distance.
Today’s text points out that Jesus’ prayers were heard. Heard (eiskakouo) means to hear favorably, to grant the petition. In John 11:42 we read of Jesus saying that His Father always hears Him. Even in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus’ most heartfelt felt prayer was heard and answered just as Jesus had prayed for.
The prayer that was heard and expressed the true heart of a real prayer warrior was, “…Yet not my will, but as you will.” (Matthew 6:39) Our text today also tells why Jesus’ prayers were heard, “…because of His reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7) As God in the flesh, Jesus received the cross and death well. Christ fully realized and understood that submission is obedience on one side and fellowship on the other.
A mature Christian who has been taught of Christ about prayer, knows that prayers which are heard are prayers prayed as Christ prayed. Through sweet fellowship with Christ by feeding upon and obeying the written Word of God, Christians are able to pray according to God’s will.
The Holy Spirit moved the beloved John to write, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we ask of Him.”…. (1 John 5:14-15)
Jesus “Prayed at Critical Moments of His Life.”
Christians who have seriously studied the prayer life of Christ from the beginning of His ministry have found that Jesus “Prayed at Critical Moments of His Life.”
In Luke 3:21 we see Jesus praying at a time just before He is to be tempted by the devil for forty days. Luke wrote, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying heaven was opened.” Verse 22 goes on with “…and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove.” It is important to note; Jesus was not praying prayers of repentance of sin here. Jesus knew that He needed the Holy Spirit’s power at this critical moment of His life as He was about to be tempted by the devil.
In Luke 4:1 we read that, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil.”
Christ puts honor upon prayer and Christians should take heed to their Lord’s example. The temptation of the devil in the desert was a critical moment in Christ’s life and for His church in the future. Therefore, it was blanketed in prayer. Jesus knew the power which was promised to Him from the Father and the fact is, the Trinity always works in unison. The Father always directing with the Son always obeying and the Holy Spirit always leading and empowering.
In his exposition on Luke 3:21-22 Matthew Henry wrote: “This is sensible evidence for [Christ’s] encouragement in His work. Our Lord Jesus was now to receive a greater measure of the Spirit than before… We have reason to think that Christ now prayed for this manifestation of God’s favor to Him. Jesus prayed for the discovery of His Father’s favor toward Him and for the descent of the Holy Spirit. What was promised to Christ, He must obtain by prayer.”
Dr. Lightfoot suggest in his exposition that “This is a powerful demonstration of the Trinity. I would like to explain it this way; here we see God the Father pleased with the Son and the Holy Spirit’s power coming upon the obedient Christ.”
The Synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this testing time. All three speak of the humanity of Christ as well as His Deity. He was tempted as a man and His example to us is to be men of prayer.
The writer of Hebrews gives us this comfort; “For we do not have a priest, [referring to Christ] who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet [He] was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Christ rested upon the power of God to defeat Satan’s temptations. He did this through quoting the word and walking in the strength of the Holy Spirit manifested into His life through prayer.
Christians are not beyond critical moments in their lives and temptations from the devil. Peter warns us with “…for the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (Peter 5:8)
Because Christians have a Savior who has defeated the devil they are to respond to satanic opposition with confidence in Christ. There should never be panic, flight nor fear. Fear is not from God. All attacks from Satan to you, your family, and your labors in the Lord are critical and are won through the power of prayer.
Christ prayed at the selection of the apostles
Another critical moment when Christ prayed was at the selection of the apostles. Luke 6: 12-13 says, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated apostles.”
This passage of Scripture tells us something very unique about the process of selecting spiritual leaders. The ministry of Elijah did not fall by accident into the hands of Elisha, but by the hand of God.
Walter L. Lifield in his exposition wrote: “Jesus spent an entire night in prayer, a sure indication that the circumstances were pressing. One of those circumstances was the selection to be made of the twelve apostles.”
Jesus sought His Father’s will in selecting His apostles and He no doubt prayed for a divine blessing upon their up coming apostolic ministry. It is important to remember that Christ is our Mediator. Thus we need to seek divine direction and blessing in great emergencies, when we have important duties, or are about to encounter special difficulties. We should make special time and pray for God’s direction and blessings.
Men of this world often pass the whole night in planning and laboring to gain success in the gods they serve on Earth. It should not be considered strange for Christians to intercede all night in prayer or a least make special time for intercessory prayer. True church business is God’s business and needs the Lord’s direction and the blessings of God.
Christ prayed at the time God revealed to Peter of our Lord’s Messiah-ship
Another critical moment when Christ prayed was at the time God revealed to Peter of our Lord’s Messiah-ship.
Luke 9: 18 – 20 says, “Once Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, ‘who do the crowds say I am?’” After the disciples had replied, He then asked, “But, what about you?… Who do you say I am?” In Matthew’s gospel on this time in history, we read Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus’ reply to Peter was, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)
Taking your thoughts back to Luke we have Christ speaking with His disciples about the great things of God. Jesus prays and He prays with His disciples. It is safe to say He probably prayed for them to receive Divine direction from God. The reason I say this is because of the Greek word for “revealed” (apokalupto) in Matthew 16:17, “…for this was not revealed to you by man.” “Revealed” applies to supernatural revelation.”
If Christ knew that His disciples needed supernatural revelation from His Father, how much should we be in prayer, petitioning God to give supernatural revelation of the preaching or teaching of God’s Word?
Our Lord knew that God needs to give supernatural revelation to those to whom He speaks. How much should we be in prayer here every Sunday morning petitioning the Lord? I have been in churches which have discovered the power that comes when the church breaks the cancer of traditionalism and grasps the vision of praying just before the church services begin.
Christians are Biblically called to worship God in spirit and truth and we must desire the Holy Spirit’s enabling to sing, give, pray by faith and learn from the proclaiming of God’s Word.
Christ prayed at His transfiguration
Another critical moment in Scripture when Christ prayed was at His transfiguration. Luke 9:29 says, “As He was praying the appearance of His face changed…”
It was while Jesus was praying that the transfiguration came. The Bible teaches that He often prayed upon a mountain. The application for us is to go where we can be alone with God. It is not necessary that we need to get on a mountain to get God’s attention.
All through the Gospels we see Jesus praying through to the favors promised Him. There is an old term forgotten by many in the church today, “Praying Through” which means to pray until the Holy Spirit gives you a touch that God will answer according to His good purposes.
Psalm 2: 6 – 8 says, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will proclaim the decree of the LORD? He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.’”
Psalm 2 is often referred to as “The Psalm of the Messiah, the Prince.” This relationship to the Father from Christ is everywhere recognized in the New Testament. One place that clearly shows Jesus praying through to the blessings promised to Him is in John, Chapter 17.
This relationship between Christ and God is clear as Jesus prays for Himself in John 17:1 – 5. We see Christ praying through as we read of Him praying for His disciples in verses 6 – 19. In verses 20-25 we see Jesus praying for those who would come to believe in Him through the message of the disciples. John, Chapter 17 records Christ praying for that which is promised Him in the Psalms and other places in Scripture as well. Christ knew His duty in prayer while He was here on this earth and He continues to intercede for His children right now at the Throne of God. Romans 8:34 says, “…Christ Jesus… is at the right hand of God… interceding for us.”
I have noticed that those who have let Jesus teach them to pray have a powerful transformation that continues on within their hearts. They seem to have such a Christ-like glow coming from within. They have grasped God’s truth for His church. He will be working in and through His church to the very end of the age as she endeavors to work in the “Great Commission.” (Matthew 28:20)
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane
Another Critical Moment in His life when Jesus prayed was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:39-44 says, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ An angel appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly…” (Luke 22: 39 – 44)
The significant thing to note is, it was our Lord’s custom to seek time alone with God on the Mount when in Jerusalem. During the last week of His life, He was spending every night in prayer.
Christ was going to the Cross in just a few hours. This was a critical moment for Him and His church. Our Lord instructed His disciples to pray. He knew that one of the greatest trials they were to have was about to come upon them. Jesus’ instructions were clear and simple. He knew that they desperately needed the power of prayer in their lives. The temptation in question is not just sleeping on the job, but the grave sin of being a coward was at hand.
- D. Spence in his exposition very boldly writes, “Had they prayed as Christ prayed, instead of yielding to the overpowering sense of weariness and sleeping, they would have had strength in their hour of trial and danger.” Foxe’s Book of Martyrs has many testimonies of Christians who followed the example of Christ and prayed in anguish over the trial of dying for Christ. They received a supernatural grace to die a death which honored Christ.
After Christ’s prayer of submission, “…yet not My will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) He was strengthened by an angel. We are not told how the angel strengthened Jesus. But we do know that strengthening (enishuo) as it is used here in Luke 22:43 means to invigorate or to cause someone to become strong after being completely worn down, literally strengthening the soul.
Jesus had Divine refreshing. King David knew this strengthening for he writes, “On the day I called, thou didst answer me; Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul.” (Ps. 138:3 NAS)
After the angel strengthened Him, Jesus prayed more earnestly (ekenestorn) meaning more intensely. The cup of God’s wrath was not taken from Him so He prayed more intensely. As His sorrow and troubles increased, He grew more intense in prayer.
It is often a powerful temptation for Christians to give up in prayer when circumstances become more and more difficult. That is when it’s time to seek more power through the Holy Spirit of Christ to endure in prayer. Pray more earnestly as Jesus did.
Christ was upon the Cross
The last portion of Scripture to consider today is when Christ was upon the Cross.
Luke tells us “Two other men, both criminals were also led out with Him [Jesus] to be executed.” Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23: 32- 34) Christ, always thinking of His Father’s perfect will and of the greatest need of others, takes time to utter this prayer for His enemies, a picture of love and forgiveness.
Jesus’ praying for those who crucified Him was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12, “For He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
When we are being persecuted by those in the world, only through leading of the Holy Spirit can we be like Christ. He gives us the understanding that they are blind and cannot see. Christians, who are surrendered to the Holy Spirit in prayer for those who mistreat or persecute them, can be like Steven who followed the example of Christ. He prayed for those who stoned him. (Acts 7:60) These Christians are able to see God’s enemies as Christ did.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle to write, “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” Our goal is to become like Christ. This can be done as we let the Holy Spirit put this understanding within our hearts, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The Spirit of Christ who indwells Christians can cause us to pray as Christ did, in submission to God’s will.
There will be critical moments that come our way. However, obedient Christians pray through critical times and they beat temptations which come through the flesh, the world and the devil. When it is time to select new spiritual leaders for their local church, they should be like Christ, that is seeking God’s direction through prayer and beseeching His blessing upon the entire church’s ministry.
Christians must follow the example of Christ, by being deep in prayer for supernatural revelation for those with whom they share the Word of God with. Every course I took through the Berean School, which came through the Assembly of God reminded me to pray heart-fully for Holy Spirit revelation and illumination.
As Christians we can pray through to every promise given to us by God in His written Word. Christians can choose to be like Christ and Steven who knew the leading of the Holy Spirit. Christians can pray for their enemies, pray through for supernatural empowerment, and pray as they carry their own cross daily. “… Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:16:24) There is only one prayer life that counts and satisfies the soul. Praying like Christ prayed.