one of the things that i have found to be most difficult in following Jesus is the level of dependence that we are to place upon the Father through prayer. no doubt, we all find it difficult. but Jesus is the perfect example. in the person of Jesus, we can look into the eyes of God, the Father, and see the community that exists within the Triune God. in the person of Jesus, we completely see perfect humanity and the type of relationship that humanity was created for with the Father.
now i’ll admit upfront that i feel inept at how to pray. also, so as to avoid hypocrisy, i’ll state that as far as my prayer habits go, i’m quite poor. however, i press on so that we as followers may encourage one another toward greater dependence upon God and into a prayer life that has more substance to it. for if we are to be His disciples, we must be people of prayer, because Jesus was.
so as we look at Jesus, what do we see? i recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about the nature of Jesus’ divinity and humanity. one of the things we discussed was how believers generally have a tendency to play down Jesus’ humanity. we often limit His humanity to two different times in His life. the first, at His birth as a baby in a manager. our time of christmas warm fuzzys. and second, at the cross when we need to acknowledge His humanity inorder to justify that His sacrifice qualified on our behalf (while His divinity gives His sacrifice the umph to actually atone for the sins).
for the most part though, His life is seen primarily through the lens of His divinity. case in point: the uproar from a recently uncovered ancient papyrus scroll that contains the notion that quite possibly, Jesus could have been married, which, for many, opens up a whole lot of uncomfortable ideas about Jesus and His humanity. if we neglect to see Jesus in His humanity though, we can miss out on what Jesus teaches us about living life. paraphrasing my friend: “if Jesus is only divine, then Jesus really doesn’t have much to say to me about how i should live because His divine nature makes living the way He did totally unobtainable.” in other words, we would have to be divine and something beyond human ourselves to be His disciples.
so we need to embrace Jesus as completely divine and completely human and we need to do so responsibly. this means we must see a Jesus who is fully human and completely dependent upon the Father for life and direction and not simply because it is an expression of His divine essence. with that said, i want to throw out some passages concerning Jesus and His prayer life for you to chew on, along with a few of my own comments:
in the gospel of luke, the author records Jesus’ time of prayer before His betrayal. His prayer certainly illuminates the humanity of Jesus and luke even goes further in his remarks about Jesus sweating blood. however, the more poignant point that luke makes is in regard to Jesus’ habit of praying. the esv says, “as was His custom.” Jesus prayed very regularly. it was a habit.
here, Jesus is recorded as withdrawing from the masses inorder to pray. as i read this passage, i see a human Jesus who finds solitude out of necessity so as not to become too overwhelmed by the needs of the many. basically, Jesus is going back to the well to recharge. if Jesus is doing it, then so should we.
life contains all kinds of decisions. some of them are big decisions and some of them not so much. Jesus would spend time in prayer before making any types of decisions. in this particular passage, Jesus spends time praying before choosing the apostles.
Jesus sent his disciples (and the crowd) away so that He could be alone to pray. this is much like the luke 5 passage above, but i share it for two reasons. first, it demonstrates Jesus’ need to spend time in prayer to recharge, and secondly, i want to point out the need for private prayer. we certainly need corporate prayer (which is a blog post for another time), but stealing ourselves away to pray on our own is vital if we hope to sustain ourselves for fruitful kingdom living.
when life gets hard, we need to be in communication with God. prayer is an act of dependence. further, it is an act of obedience to the Father as we seek to follow His will for the type of people we are to become. Jesus prayed when He was troubled and did so becaue He was dependent upon the Father. the Father gives us hope and direction for how to maneuver through the heat that comes our way as we follow Jesus.
prayer isn’t a last resort when life gets rough. prayer is also a time for when things are going right. Jesus prayed to give thanks too. what we ought to see, is that prayer is about the communication that we have with the Father. it is a relationship. we talk to Him, not because He doesn’t already know what is going on with us, but because it is an act of submission to Him. therefore, we pray when things are going well and when life seems to have handed us a pile of shit. either way, we wait to hear from our source of life. so within prayer, we learn obedience and we feel intimacy.
Jesus, in His humanity, provides us with the key for kingdom living and fellowship with the Father. He does this by the way in which He demonstrates His communion with the Father through prayer. i believe that we often think that Jesus had it within Himself to be obedient to the Father as it appears to us that He lived with such a clear understanding of His purpose for His life and death on earth. His life was certainly sinnless and He did live with a clear understanding of His mission, but as i read about the life of Jesus in the scriptures, i see a man who is able to do all that, not because His divinity overtook His humanity, but because in His humanity, He was dependent upon the Father at every turn as represented in the richness of His prayer life.
Jesus maintains a prayer life that keeps Him focused and strengthens Him for the work of the kingdom. it would seem that paul has this same sense of prayer when he instructs the early thessalonian church to “pray without ceasing.” it is with this in mind that i encourage all followers of Jesus, including myself, to invest more time in fostering our prayer lives, corporately and individually.
there is certainly more to be said about prayer and even Jesus specifically has more to say on the matter. perhaps i will write more another time, but for now, that will suffice. in the meantime, especially for those who consider themselves to be novice in the practice of prayer and for those who have doubts about the usefulness of it, here are my words of encouragement: do it anyway. if you don’t know what you’re doing, then that’s okay. just be honest about where you’re at in life as you pray. and if it seems like you’re only talking to yourself, that’s okay too. God is faithful to His promises and He loves you. He is listening. keep sharing your mind with Him.
while there are things we can learn about prayer through reading the scriptures, we can only learn how to truly pray and to hear His voice by actually praying. if we never pray, then we are sure to never learn or to hear His voice. so keep at it and so will i!