Examining the Prayer Life of Christ

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:  “The prayers and supplications that Christ offered up were joined with strong cries and tears, herein setting us an example not only to pray,   but to be fervent and [ be urgently persistent] in prayer.”

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia tells us that prayer is “Communion with God, usually comprising of petition, adoration, praise, confession and thanksgiving.  The ultimate object of prayer in both Old and New Testament is not merely the good of the petitioner, but the honor of God’s Name.” The only prayers that are heard or answered yes to, are those that are offered up for the glory of God.  Salvation’s are given when people pray that God will glorify Himself in the redeeming of a sinful soul.

I would propose to you that during the days of Jesus’ life on this earth, He prayed “Divine Petitions” that were for the honor of God, His Father.  Christians are to look to Him and say, “Lord teach me to pray.” (Luke 11:1) Just what did Jesus pray for while He walked on this earth?

Prayers Prayed During His Ministry

The Scriptural accounts of the prayer life of Christ may be divided into four different groups.  We have already considered one group which was “Prayers Prayed at Critical Moments of Christ’s Life.” The other groups are, “Prayers that Christ Prayed During His Ministry,” “Prayers at His Miracles,” and “Prayers that Christ Prayed for Others.”

Let us first start with “Prayers Prayed During His Ministry.” Luke 5:16 says “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Mark 6:44 says, “After leaving them, He went up on the mountainside to pray.” Both of these passages of Scripture follow the Biblical accounts of miracles performed by Jesus Christ.  In Luke Jesus heals a man from leprosy and in the Book of Mark, Jesus had just fed thousands from five loaves of bread and two fish. In both of these passages of Scripture we read of Jesus’ habitual life of prayer, even during very busy times. Great crowds would come to hear and to be healed of their illnesses. Never has anyone done as much public good as Christ has done and we read clearly that Jesus made time for heartfelt prayer.  He prayed, though He had so much preaching, teaching, healing and training to do.  He was much in prayer, often in prayer and at times long in prayer. He needed, desired and enjoyed fellowship with God His Father in prayer while on this earth.  Jesus set the example for us.  Thus, Christians need, should desire and enjoy the fellowship that comes with being with our Lord alone in prayer.

When Christians begin to be used of God in some powerful way they must be much more in prayer and at times long in prayer and most certainly alone with God in prayer.  When crowds begin to gather, the Holy Spirit will prompt Christians to seek places where they can get alone with God and pray. This will protect them from distractions and ostentation.  These are two things that have destroyed many a child of God, brought disgrace upon many a ministry and brought Christ to public disgrace. It is only good wisdom for Christians to order their affairs in a way that their public work with the Lord does not destroy quality prayer time.  Christians must do as Christ did, which was to get alone with God in prayer.

Jesus prayed at His miracles

Scripture records Christ praying after God had used Him greatly in ministry and at His miracles. This is the third group in which Jesus’ prayers may be placed.  Jesus prayed at His miracles. In Mark 6:41 we read of Jesus,   “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks.”  Before the miracle of feeding the five thousand men, not counting women and children, our Lord prayed. Jesus looking up to heaven and giving thanks shows us clearly that we should recognize that God is sovereign, the supplier of all good things.  God is the one who is able to provide for the needs of people in every realm of life.  Not only does this show the fitness and correctness of grace before meals, it shows forth that God is to be sought for the provision of food for the hungry.

Another time Jesus prayed before a miracle was in healing of a deaf and mute man, thus showing us that divine petition gets deliverance of bodily afflictions as God wills.  Mark 7:32, 34 says;  “…some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk and they begged Him to place His hand on the man.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh, said ‘Ephpharha!  which means opened!’” Our text says with a deep sigh (stenaco) meaning here to be a silent prayer offered up with a heartfelt groan.  Dr. Walter Wessell put it this way, “…sighing that accompanied the concealed communion of Jesus with the Father.” Jesus was not sighing here because of the difficulty in working the miracle or obtaining power from God to perform it.  Rather He was touched by human infirmity and was sympathetic with the affliction of the man.

From that communion came forth a single spoken Word meaning to be opened (dianoigo).  As it is used here it means “To open the ears, eyes, understanding, and spiritual heart.” (Zodhiates Word Studies)   In other words, this miracle was performed for the purpose of bringing a physical release accompanied by spiritual understanding of the heart for spiritual things. Christ speaks here as one who has authority and power.  Our Lord had such power in prayer because of His heartfelt compassion and the communion He had with His Father through prayer.  I am personally convinced that it is possible for Christians to obtain such a prayer life with the Lord that they can receive such compassion for the physically afflicted.  When led by the Holy Spirit, they can pray with inward groaning,  which enables them to pray forth words of healing. Another time when Jesus’ prayers which brought forth a miracle was at the raising of Lazarus.  John 11:1 says, “…Jesus looked up and said ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.’”     

Often we read of Jesus looking up or making some expression that shows clearly that His heart and mind were focused toward heaven, toward His Father. The secret to receiving miracles is not lifting of the eyes or hands, but the heartfelt prayer which is ascended upward to God. In the raising of Lazarus, Christ was looking beyond the grave, overlooking the difficulties at hand and fixing His eyes upon the Father who loved Him.  Christians must look beyond their circumstances, set all affections upon their God who loves them, and enter into His presence through Christ who purchased them with His blood. Our Lord addresses God with such great assurance and confidence, “…I thank you that you have heard Me.” (John 11:41)  The Greek word for “heard” (akauso) here means, “…To hear so as to grant what is spoken.”  Jesus who was to defeat death just after the Passover, speaks forth His authority over death and raises Lazarus from the dead.

Christ sets forth an example for us.  First,  in prayer we are to call to God our Father and draw close to Him with humble reverence and yet with a holy boldness.  The best way to do this is to understand what it means to abide in Christ. “Abide” (meinette) means “…to remain in or with someone, to be and remain united with him, one with him in heart, mind and will.”  It is then Christians can have full fellowship with God and pray Holy Spirit led prayers.

Second, in our prayers we must praise Him.  Going to the mercy seat thankfully, acknowledging Him for former mercies received.  Pray for miracles that will cause people to see and believe in Christ and that glorify God. That is why Jesus said in His prayer, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.  I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,   that they may believe that you sent Me.” (John 11:41-42)  Matthew Henry in his exposition of John 11:41 wrote; “First, Christ speaks of this miracle as answer to prayer.  Secondly, Christ is assured that His prayer was answered, therefore, He professes.”  As Christ honors and has faith in prayer, so should Christians.

Merril C. Tenney gives us this understanding:  “He thanked God for already answering.  So great was Jesus’ faith in the Father that He knew that the miracle was necessary to His mission, therefore it was as good as done when He prayed.” The faith that Christ was standing on was the fact that Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead.  We know that Christ knew His mission regarding Lazarus before He even went to Bethany.  Jesus said to His disciples when He heard that Lazarus was sick, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) He most certainly understood from communion with His Father in prayer what His task was. He clearly told His disciples that “Lazarus is dead.”  (John 11:14) and He said, “I am going to wake him up.”  (John 11:11) H. R. Reynalds writes; “This is the true mystery and meaning of prayer.  [Jesus’] words confess the Divine eternal will [of God].” Christians who remain united with Christ in heart, mind, and will, can be used of God to pray for awesome miracles that would bring glory to Christ and God.

In our church office we have a CD with the testimony of Joshua Youssef on it.  He is the son of Dr. Michael Youssef and while he was living in disobedience, he was chastised by the Lord.  Our Lord’s disciplinary actions toward Joshua ended with him in the emergency room, with his best friend out on a river in a life threatening situation. A Holy Spirit filled nurse who knew what it meant to truly abide in Christ was helping to attend to the wounds of Joshua Youssef. She asked Joshua if she could pray for him and his friend, upon which she was given permission.  The Holy Spirit literally revealed to this nurse the will of God as she prayed. The prayer was answered exactly as the nurse spoke in her prayer.  Joshua’s friend was rescued, saved from a situation in which almost everyone has died.  If it be God’s will and as He leads you, you could pray Holy Spirit led prayers for the glory of Christ.

Jesus prayed for others who are being attacked by Satan

Another portion of Scripture that recorded the prayers of Christ and can be placed in a fourth group teaches how Jesus prayed for others who are being attacked by Satan. In last week’s message I discussed in more detail of Christ praying on the Cross for those who crucified Him and a little about Him praying for His disciples and those who would come to believe through their message. Today I want to show the necessity of and the power of Christ praying for those under attack by Satan.

In the King James Bible, Luke 22: 31, 32 says, “…the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” There is a reason why the King James Bible used the word “you” in verse 31 and in verse 32 it uses the word “thee.”  You see the Greek word for you (hymas) in verse 31 is plural.  This refers to the other disciple as well as Peter. The Word “you” or “thee” (sou) in verse 32 is singular referring to Peter directly.  That is very significant to know.  Satan was not only going to bring a great trial upon Peter, but to the other disciples as well.  Let us remember, all the disciples failed the trial in Gethsemane. Let us not deceive ourselves, it is not only those who boasted as loudly as Peter who will be tempted by Satan to turn from their faith and commitments to the Lord.  But, all good soldiers of Christ are subject to Satan’s deceptions and attacks.

Matthew Henry wrote in exposition, “Peter, who used to be the mouth of the rest in speaking to Christ, is here made the ear of the rest and designed for warning to them all.”  The more God wants to use a child of God and the more a Christian becomes useful in the building of the true church, the more Satan wants to destroy him and his works with the Lord. Satan really longed to get Peter.  However, Jesus gave powerful encouragement to Peter and for the Children of God as well,    “But, I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”  (Luke 22:32) Jesus’ prayer was not that the disciples or Peter be spared from this trial, but that Peter’s faith may not fail.  His faith, (pistis) here means that which came from hearing Christ and a faith in God that would see him through in his calling.  He would complete all that God had called him to do through a faith that would cause him trust in the forgiveness and empowerment of God, which would enable him to keep the others steadfast.

Dr.  Walter L. Liefield has a unique teaching about the words “may not fail.” (me eklipe)   He says this means that Peter “may not give out or may not disappear completely as the sun in a total eclipse.”  In other words, even though Peter’s denial was serious and showed a shrinking in faith.  Peter chose to believe and trust in Christ and God, not like Judas Iscariot whose faith did completely fail.  Peter returned, but Judas Iscariot did not. Jesus saying “…and when you have turned back,”  reveals to us that Jesus knew what lay ahead for Peter and He prayed for God’s perfect will for Peter to be done.  Jesus’ prayer empowered Peter to achieve what Judas Iscariot could not do on his own. Please note:  All true disciples of Christ, who in their hearts truly desire and choose to follow Christ, have Jesus’ “Divine Petitions” given on their behalf before God’s Throne.  These Christians, though they may fall, will not utterly be cast down, even in their greatest temptations and trials.  Christ has prayed for them. Christ’s prayers were not general and they are particular to us personally as it was for Peter when it comes to Satan’s attacks.  In truth, if a child of God was left to himself, he would eventually be completely destroyed.  Because of Christ’s loving intercessions for Christians, they will be empowered to return to trust in Him if they should shrink in their faith. This is a great encouragement to all who know Jesus and who know the power of His Divine Petitions.  It should also encourage Christians to pray for those who have for some reason backslid in their relationship with Christ.

Should always pray and not give up

Christ prayed for others and Christians need not fear Satan’s attacks while living for the Lord.  Jesus is our example in prayer and he has some clear instructions to the children of God in Luke 18: 1 – 8.  Luke writes, Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Listen to these words of Jesus on prayer.

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?  Will He keep putting them off?  I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:2-8) Luke’s statement in verse 1 is a duty to persevere in prayer.  We know this, for the key word “should” or “ought” (pios to dein) means absolutely necessary that men persevere in prayer.

Just as man needs food, water, and sleep, Christians need prayer.  I tell my boys often they cannot ride upon the pleasures of their parents’ prayers forever.  They must let Jesus teach them to pray. Things are designed not to go well if one does not pray. When should Christians pray?  “Always” (pantote) meaning at all times.  As surely as time passes by in the clock of life here, Christians must always pray. Christians are to develop a constant spirit of prayer, to maintain an unbroken consciousness of God’s presence. To be led of the Holy Spirit in prayer at all times and in all occasions. He is to walk in a constant state of prayer. The best way to do this is to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The best way to overcome sin is to spend every moment in prayer. This communion with God will enable them to literally walk in step with the Holy Ghost. Jesus says “and not give up” (me egkakein) means not to lose heart, not to turn coward or give into evil.”….

Let me assure you of this, our Lord is not to be identified with the unjust judge for He is a loving God who has called His children to prayer and have communion with Him.  The children of God who stay persistent in prayer will see God get His good and perfect will accomplished in and through their lives. The Christian who goes to Christ and says “Lord teach me to pray” learns to 1.) Pray through critical moments in his life.  2.) Pray God’s called ministry through, staying steadfast and he completing what His Lord as sent him to do.  3.) He prays, believing in God, asking for miracles that will only glorify God and draw people to Christ and lastly, he intercedes for his brothers and sisters in Christ, that they may overcome any attacks from their adversary. There are children of God who have learned from Jesus to pray, and discovered the joy of praying prayers led of the Holy Spirit.

One child of God who knew the prayer life of Christ and lived a life that said, “Lord Jesus, teach me to pray” was Pastor Charles Spurgeon. He wrote; “Keep the altar of prayer burning.  This is the very life of all godliness.  The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here, therefore, let this burn well.  Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer of vital Christianity. Burn here the fat of your sacrifices of time, heart and life.  Let your closet-season be if possible, regular, frequent and undisturbed.  Effectual prayer availeth much…” Every Christian must examine himself on this important matter.  Is your prayer life lukewarm?  Or is there a measure of real faith and life in your times with the Lord? Those who are taught of Christ to pray have the same heart of Christ in prayer who prayed, “Father… Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…”   Prayer warriors like Jesus have a rejoicing in Holy Spirit led prayers that glorify Christ in and through them.