bits from bob....

Jesus' Prayer Life

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Experienced Christians know that times of renewal are essential to effective living. Spiritual leaders value times of renewal as essential to spiritual growth and sensitivity. Viewing Jesus, our example, through the lens of the gospel of Luke reminds us that such renewal comes in times of prayer and private communion with the Heavenly Father, the source of real power and strength. Jesus surely found his power for ministry among the people through the times he spent alone with God.

As Jesus sought time alone with God, contemporary Christians, recognizing that we are the instruments of God to touch the lives of others, also need time alone with God. Consider how often Jesus prays during his ministry. He prays early in the morning (Mark 1:35). He prays all night (Luke 6:12). He prays in the desert (Luke 5:16). He prays on the mountain (Matt. 14:23). He prays in the garden (Luke 22:40-46). He prays publicly at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:41ff). He prays in the upper room (Matt. 26:26). He prays on the cross (Luke 23:46). Such frequency should also characterize our prayer lives, even as Paul urged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing (1:5:17).

This essay will consider selected events from the life of Christ as revealed in Luke's gospel to demonstrate the power of prayer, and to suggest that Christians today can find a tremendous, increased power to touch lives by following Jesus' example in prayer.

Prayer Gives Strength in Times of Temptation
Luke 4 finds Jesus in the wilderness, alone with Go, preparing for confrontation with the evil of the world, being tempted of Satan. Luke 4:14 suggests he won the victory in prayer, returning in the power of the Spirit to minister powerfully (4:18; 31-32). He cast out demons (4:33ff) and healed (4:38ff). Immediately he sought the desert and a time of isolation (4:42) but the people followed him and sought him for his powerful words and works. Luke 5:1 records the people pressing about him so that he continued preaching and teaching (4:44; 5:3).
Finally in 5:16, he withdrew to the wilderness to pray. The imperfect tense literally translates "he kept on retiring," suggesting a continuing action. When he comes out from his prayer and the presence of God, he again speaks with power (5:17) and the power of the Lord is present to heal. It appears that this cyclical rhythm of time alone with God empowering effective ministry and teaching is a constant of Jesus' life (Luke 21:37-38). Some have called this the rhythm of "the mountain and the marketplace."

Prayer Gives Direction in Times of Decision
When Jesus faced a great decision, he prayed (6:12ff). He prayed all night in the mountain. Some has noted that "five minutes with God is worth fifty minutes on the couch." In teaching, we become so tired we cannot go on. What shall we do? Jesus' example suggests that at times we simply pray and go on. That Jesus spent time with God appears to be the secret of his power. After he chose the Twelve, he came down to heal, to cast out unclean spirits, and to teach. In fact, Luke 6 gives the Sermon on the Plain, much of which is similar to the Sermon on the Mount.

Prayer Provides Calm in Times of Storm and Stress
In 8:19, the masses are again pressing about him, so he travels by ship, sleeping as the boat crosses the sea. Literally exhausted, completely overcome, he finds an inner calm, unafraid. He is roused by his disciples to provide such calm in their lives also. Such is the task of the Christian and the Christian leader in today's tempestuous times. When all around are storms and stresses, prayer is the calming power of life. Those who know personal peace are able to bring a measure of stability and strength to the lives of th others who are looking to them for example, guidance, leadership, and hope.

Prayer Brings Spiritual Priority in Times of Popularity
Luke 9:10 finds Jesus seeking the desert with his disciples, but again the people follow him. Matthew records that this occurs just after the death of John the Baptist. The disciples desired to send the multitude away for food, but Jesus feeds the multitude, numbering 5000. On this occasion, John notes that the people desire to make Jesus a worldly, physical king (John 6:15). Surely Jesus is tempted to heed the physical needs of the people more than their spiritual needs, for he prays. Matthew has Jesus pray privately only two times--here and in Gethsemane. In Luke 9:18, Jesus is again alone praying.

Prayer Connects with God in Times of Questioning
Luke 9:28 notes that Jesus went to the Mount of Transfiguration to pray. Likely his dilemma is focused by the words of 9:22--the truth that his purpose will be fulfilled only in death. Jesus spends more time alone, praying, being with God. Then 9:43 notes the presence of the power of God.
From this time on in Jesus' life, his actions appear very measured. He is on his way to Jerusalem (9:51). Especially during these times, his disciples see the power of his prayer life, and so they ask him to teach them to pray as he prays (11:1ff). He was praying, he ceased, they say, "Teach us to pray." After he teaches them to pray, he casts out demons (11:14) and the people are amazed. Surely the backdrop of Jesus' ministry empowered by prayer gives rise to the plea of 17:5: "Lord, increase our faith."

Prayer Works in Any Crisis
In Luke 19:29, Jesus comes to his place of prayer. He has prayed. He has taught about prayer. Many of the parables in Luke 9-19 mention prayer. Now at the place of prayer, he once again teaches by example. He enters Jerusalem constantly depending upon prayer (21:37-38). This constant cycle or rhythm of prayer in the life of Jesus reminds us that prayer works in every crisis. As the events of the final week press on Jesus, he comes to pray (22:39). The prayer of 22:39-46 is a model for prayer.
Jesus made prayer his custom. He went to the closet, he communicated with God, he considered his cup, he renewed his commitment, he prepared for the ultimate conquest, he accepted his cross. He arose from prayer to find exhausted disciples sleeping. One can only wonder if Luke is also suggesting that Jesus himself is refreshed and resolved to do God's will.

Jesus prays on the cross, not for himself, but for others. Effective spiritual leaders pray for their flock. Effective fathers pray for their families. Effective Christians pray for their friends. The power of Jesus' example does not stop at the end of Luke's gospel. The power of prayer is an obvious theme in Luke's second volume, Acts. The early church finds its power for evangelism and holy living in prayer.
The Christian who does not pray fails to use one of the major resources available to the people of God. Life is bigger than any one person. The task is impossible, no human power or strength is sufficient. The problems are overwhelming. The temptations are great, the decisions many, the questions difficult, the stresses continual, the crises too frequent. How shall one survive? The example of Jesus answers in one word: Prayer.

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Last updated January 24, 2002.