4. Jesus provides us with the perfect model for praying!

In what ways is Jesus’ prayer life a good example for us? When Jesus prays, God also prays. It is a mystery which is beyond our understanding. If Jesus, who was at once man and God, needed to pray, we, to an even greater extent, need to dedicate time to prayer. For Jesus, praying is a priority, no matter what the circumstances!

Jesus’ prayers are a model for us: not only does Jesus give us a prayer model (in structure and content), but he also, through his example, inspires a desire for prayer in the hearts of the disciples. The importance which Jesus attributes to praying and the content of his prayers lead the disciples to ask: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

I. Why does Jesus pray?

1. Because he empathises with us and understands us (Hebrews 4:15)

As a man, Jesus experienced fatigue, discouragement, moments of weakness, thirst, exhaustion, pain, anguish, conflict, contempt, hatred, moments of temptation, solitude. How encouraging it is to know that Jesus understands and empathises with us when we go through difficult times! We sometimes have moments of doubt, experience a spiritual dry-patch or no longer want to pray. Take courage! Jesus understands and is compassionate.

2. Because the temptations of the devil are real

The devil never gives up! He is intelligent, cunning and attacks us when we are vulnerable: tired, irritated or discouraged. Prayers of protection should be a priority when we pray:

  • Protection from temptation (Matthew 6:13).
  • Protection from the devil (Matthew 6:13)
  • Protection for unity (John 17:11)
  • Protection from attack (John 17:15)

Be careful: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8).

In our prayer, before experiencing temptation, we need to ask in advance for the protection of our body, our soul, our spirit, our thoughts and our words. We should also pray for the protection of our pastors and the elders who are responsible for the teaching in our churches. We should pray for the protection of our family, our partners, our children.

3. To give us an example – Matthew 6 “This, then, is how you should pray…”

We must never forget that when Jesus prays, God also prays. So we can be sure that Jesus’ prayers are perfect: their content, motivation and subjects are in complete harmony with God’s wishes, because Jesus is God! Jesus gives us, in this passage in Mathew, a profound lesson about the form and content of prayer: why we should pray; where and how to do so; content and motivation; obstacles to prayer… I encourage you to reread Matthew 6:1-13.

II. How does Jesus pray?

1. Often and regularly (Luke 5:16)

Jesus often retreated to a quiet place to pray: in the mountains or the desert… (Luke 4:16; Luke 5:16; Luke 22:39), even when a crowd called on him to speak to them or heal them. In spite of his popularity, and the immense work he was to accomplish, Jesus knew how to take time to speak with God his father.

We often think that, because we are very busy, God will understand and pardon us for not praying much. The result is that we often become exhausted as Christians, to the extent that, burning the candle at both ends, we have little to give to others.

2. With compassion

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36).

In Greek, there at least four different dimensions to this compassion:

  • Sharing feelings, being touched by the affliction experienced by others (Romans 9:15)
  • Helping others and intervening (Mark 5:19)
  • Suffering alongside someone (Hebrews 10:34)
  • Understanding the situation in which another finds themselves (Matthew 9:36)

The Reformer John Calvin said that: “To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.” So those who love a lot will pray a lot and this will increase their capacity to love. Let’s ask God to sow compassion for others in our hearts, to expand our hearts so they beat for others!

3. With precision (Luke 22:31)

Precision is the opposite of vague and general. Jesus said to Peter: “I have prayed for you, Simon [Peter], that your faith may not fail”. Note the precision: Jesus prays for Peter. It is surely thanks to Jesus’ prayer that Peter became a pillar of the early Church. Jesus knew Peter, his past, his weaknesses and hot-headedness. He know his innermost needs perfectly and his future ministry.

4. Putting his teaching into practice through prayer

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6: the importance of the location (somewhere calm: like a bedroom) – the obstacles to prayer – the fact that it is not the length of the prayer which matters but the motivation – the content: “Our Father”. Jesus’ teaching about praying was important but it would not have had the same impact if it hadn’t been accompanied by the practice of prayer (Luke 11:1). Jesus was a man of prayer.

III. The « atmosphere » of Jesus’ prayer life

1. Joy and spontaneity (Luke 10:21; Matthew 11:25)

“Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”.

In his public prayer in the presence of the disciples, the Lord invited the disciples to focus on God, rather than the performances of his subjects: in this way, their joy would be founded on more solid ground.

This joy is less an entrenched happiness, like a tranquil river, than a privileged, exceptional moment creating a powerful, overflowing sense of joy. The word “exultation” expresses this well as the first meaning is a “leap” or “jump” of enthusiasm. It is a joy which is manifested through words, songs and, eventually, acts. Remember that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit! This joy in prayer is also a powerful force. Nehemiah reminds us “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

2. Jesus prays when he is sad

At Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus is sad: “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled… Jesus wept” (John 11:33). Next, Jesus prays and performs a miracle: Lazarus comes out from the tomb! When we are sad and overwhelmed, praying can be a source of consolation which can reduce our distress.

3. Jesus prays when he is suffering

When Jesus announces his death to the disciples, his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). He prays “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me”. We see Jesus’ humanity in this prayer: this prayer gives him the comfort of being able to say everything to God his father. We all suffer for different reasons. The Holy Spirit is our consoler: he joins us in our prayers and translates our most profound feelings to God, even those which we do not manage to express in words. When I am suffering, I experience a liberating force as I pray. I can say anything to God, the great doctor and psychologist, who created us!

4. The obstacles to prayer according to Jesus (Matthew 6:1-13)

  • Others!

If we care too much about what others think about our prayers that can be an obstacle. It was the problem the Pharisees had: they thought so much about others that they forgot that the source and the centre of the prayer is God. God is there, sees everything and rewards the person praying. Our prayers are often so cluttered that we forget what is most important: the presence and power of God within us as we pray!

  • The length of our prayer!

Be careful, it is not the length of the prayer that matters but its profundity (Matthew 6:7): “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words”. John Calvin argued that, whenever we call on the Lord, we must reach into the depths of our hearts so that we can address him with simplicity and sincerity.

5. Jesus prays knowing he is heard

“I knew that you always hear me” (John 11:42).

Jesus knew God’s will perfectly, so he could make this statement. We often find this affirmation in the Psalms (Psalms 17:6; 20:10; 28:6; 61:6; 121:1). We can also trust in the promises of God because the subjects of prayer from the Bible are unchanging, divine and at the heart of God’s will. So we can pray with certainty, fervour and conviction. Archimedes said: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Archimedes relied on the support created through the lever and fulcrum. The support and solid ground upon which you can rely for your prayer life are the promises of God. They are the source of life.

6. Jesus prays to a father who “sees what is done” (Matthew 6:6)

God is present when we pray! This knowledge will give life and wings to our prayer life. The secret and the source of our motivation can be found in this: God is present. When God is there it changes everything; it is the source of all awakenings! Throughout the history of the Bible and the Church, all the spiritual awakenings have begun when a man or a woman believed unwaveringly in God’s presence during prayer. It is God’s presence, and his Word which opens my heart, which changes my attitude, transforms me and gives me a new perspective about myself, my circumstances and the world. When we cling to a God who is there, the awakening has already begun.

Praying is not a duty but the great joy of being to speak with God in person! What a great source of motivation for our prayer life! Don’t you feel like praying at this very moment?

Encouraging conclusion: Jesus’ prayer still exists today

“…he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). It is so encouraging to know that Jesus still prays constantly for us! (Romans 8.34) In the good and the bad times, in the small and large decisions in our lives! Great news: Jesus takes over; he intercedes for me. I find that encouraging, don’t you?