In so many ways I stand in awe of my Lord Jesus Christ. What a challenge it is to attempt to pattern one’s life after Him. As a person who overcame every temptation He faced (Hebrews 4:15), who always did the will of His Father (John 8:29), and who loved unworthy humans to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice for them (Romans 5:6-8), Jesus stands without peer. Equally remarkable and unparalleled is the way Jesus communicated with His Father in prayer.
Jesus’ prayer life is notable on several counts. First, it was a persistent prayer life. Luke 5:16 says that He “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” The gospels record a number of examples of this (Matthew 14:23; 26:36-46; Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18). They also reveal that, at times, Jesus would “continue all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). It is impressive that the only begotten Son of God felt the need to devote so much of His time and energy to prayer. From our perspective we might wonder, “Why would the all-powerful Son of God need to pray at all?” From His perspective there must have been little question that, as God’s Son come to earth, reliance upon the Father was imperative.
Second, Jesus prayed passionately. In Hebrews 5:7 the inspired writer indicates that, “in the days of His flesh,” Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears….” His prayers were not memorized speeches, rattled off unthinkingly when it was “time to pray.” They were impassioned pleadings from a heart aflame with righteous needs and desires.
Third, Jesus prayed confidently. There is a tremendous example of this found in Luke 22:31-32. There, on the night of His betrayal, the Lord told Simon 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.” Do you see the confidence the Lord had in the effectiveness of His prayer? He had prayed that Simon Peter’s faith would not fail and He was certain that Peter would return and be in a position to strengthen his brethren.
Later on that same evening, after Peter had tried to defend Jesus by attacking the servant of the high priest with a sword, Jesus told him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53; cf. John 18:10). Again, Jesus was certain of what would happen in response to His prayer — if He prayed for twelve legions of angels the Father would provide them. You see, when Jesus prayed, He knew that His prayers were being heard and answered. His followers knew it too. After her brother Lazarus died, Martha said to Jesus, “I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:22).
Jesus’ disciples were so impressed with His ability to pray effectively that they begged Him, “Lord teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Don’t we also want to be able to pray with the power and confidence of the Christ? By example and doctrine Jesus instructs us how to pray with the assurance that our prayers will be effective.
1. We are to pray in Faith. God is all-powerful and He will help His children. We must believe this. On one occasion recorded in Matthew 21:19, Jesus cursed a barren fig tree and it withered away. The disciples were amazed, but Jesus told them, “If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, `Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive ”(Matthew 21:21-22).
2. We are to pray with concern for God’s will. Even facing death, Jesus prayed, “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). The apostle John wrote, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
3. We are to pray persistently. The parable Jesus told of the insistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 was told to make the point that “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.”
4. We are to pray with godly fear. The Bible says that Jesus “was heard because of His godly fear” (Hebrews 5:7).
5. We are to keep God’s commandments and do the things which please Him. Jesus knew the Father was with Him because He always did what was pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). Even so, we are assured that, “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
This is the formula Jesus followed which resulted in such confidence and power in His prayers. As our High Priest, Jesus will help us come confidently before God’s throne with our requests. And so, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).