Prayer To Pray Like Jesus Prayed
4 Tips on How to Pray Jesus
John 17 records the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Upper Room with His disciples at the conclusion of their last supper together. By looking at this prayer, we can learn how to pray Jesus.
Though the Gospels frequently record Jesus going off by Himself to pray, this is the only recorded prayer of Jesus of any length which provides an indication of the sort of things Jesus might have said when He prayed.
What can we learn from this prayer of Jesus about how to pray?
The Structure of the Prayer
Scholars have long noted that the prayer is divided into three basic sections.
First, Jesus prays for Himself (John 17:1-5), then for His disciples (John 17:6-19), and finally for all who would believe in Him (John 17:20-26). Much can be said about the content of Jesus’ prayer, especially that the primary prayer request of Jesus for all who would believe in Him is that we would be unified (John 17:21).
But my purpose here is not to analyze and explain the prayer of Jesus as much as it is to simply look at how Jesus prayed.
The Posture of the Prayer of Jesus
Notice first the posture of Jesus.
The text does not tell us if Jesus was sitting, standing, or reclining (though reclining on the floor was the typical way of eating meals and conversing afterwards in first century Middle Eastern culture).
One thing is for sure though: Jesus definitely was not bowing folding His hands, bowing His head, and closing His eyes. To the contrary, the text says He “lifted up His eyes to heaven” (John 17:1), which indicates that His eyes were open and His head was raised.
Nevertheless, this is not the “God-approved” posture of prayer. It is not as if such things as kneeling or standing, arms up or arms down, eyes open or eyes closed make any difference in whether or not God hears and answers our prayers. If God is concerned about any sort of posture in our prayers, it is the posture of our hearts, which no one can see but Him alone.
The Prayer Requests of Jesus
What else can we learn from the prayer of Jesus about how to pray?
Well, notice that Jesus begins by praying for Himself. How often have we been told in sermons and books on prayer that we must not begin with ourselves, but instead, begin with adoration of God, and thanksgiving for what He has done?
I have not only heard sermons this; I have preached sermons about this!
Yet the first thing Jesus does is pray for Himself.
But notice what He prays about for Himself. The primary prayer of Jesus for Himself is that He would glorify the Father. So really, this first prayer request is not exactly about Jesus, but about glorifying God the Father. This is a great thing to pray for yourself, because brining glory to God the father is one of the primary reasons we are here on earth.
Of course, Jesus does spend the entire prayer just praying for Himself … as some of us are guilty of doing (myself included!). Instead, He spends most of His time praying for others.I think most of us are familiar with the concept of praying for other people, and so I will not belabor the point, other than to say that the primary prayer requests of Jesus for others is that they would remain faithful to God, and in unity with one another.
I don’t think God minds hearing prayers for Aunt Mabel’s bunion, our neighbor’s dog, and how the rent is overdue, especially when these are issues that really do concern us.
But I do believe that it would be wise for all Christians to develop a broader vision for prayer than how we can use it to tell God about our aches and pains and bills.
How Jesus Does Not Pray
Notice also what is not in this prayer of Jesus.
Nowhere is the needless repetition of the name of God. Nowhere is any attempt to ward off the devil. Nowhere is any flowery and fancy language to impress those who present with His advanced holiness.
In fact, there is almost nothing that sets this prayer apart from any other conversation Jesus has with any of His disciples elsewhere in the Gospels. His conversation with God sounds pretty much just a conversation He might have with Peter, or Matthew, or John.
For Jesus, communicating with God was just communicating with others. No special language was needed.
And this brings us to what I think is the main thing we can learn from the prayer of Jesus in John 17.
As I read this prayer, it almost sounds as if the prayer is a small part of a much longer conversation He has been having with God for a very long time. As such, Jesus does not appear to have the need to fit everything in, follow a prayer outline, use any special language, remember any prayer requests, or even begin and end the prayer with a flowery introduction and conclusion.
He simply transitions from talking to His disciples to talking to God. One second He is looking at His disciples and speaking with them, and then next He is looking at God and speaking with Him. His tone and language and posture and even the content of what He is saying does not really change. For Jesus, prayer is just continuing a conversation with God.
When understood this way, prayer become much less of a mystery about how to pray and what to pray for and who can pray and where to pray, and much more a conversation we have in everyday life.
If you can talk with a friend, you can talk to God. That is how Jesus prayed, and how we can pray too. I write a lot more about this in my book, What is Prayer?
Do you what to talk to God you talk to a friend? Do you want to see more answers to prayer?
If you have these (and other) questions about prayer, let me send you some teaching and instruction about prayer to your email inbox. You will receive one or two per week, absolutely free. Fill out the form below to get started.
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What Can We Learn about Prayer from the Way Jesus Prayed?
“I’m praying for you.”
“I’ll pray for that.”
“My prayers are with you.”
Christians throw statements this out all the time, don’t they? The most cynical among us might wonder, “Is he really praying for me?” And yet, whatever the quality of someone’s follow-through, he tells us he’s praying because he believes prayer matters. It’s effective. J.I.
Packer got it precisely right in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, “If you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God’s sovereignty is the basis of your prayers.
” Convinced that God is powerful and in control, believers go to him in prayer, entrusting the nuts and bolts of their daily lives into his omnipotent hands.
But do we talk about prayer more than we actually pray? That’s the chink in the armor of our sanctification that I’d you to think about for a moment. I’m convinced a lot of us talk and read about prayer much more than we pray. It shouldn’t be this way.
I don’t want to induce you to pray by making you feel bad for not praying (it wouldn’t work—not for long, anyway). Instead, I’d you to reflect for a few moments on the life of Jesus.
I’m hopeful that his example and ultimately his sacrifice will motivate you to be more faithful in prayer.
How did Jesus pray?
In Luke 6:12 we encounter something extraordinary. Jesus prayed: “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
It appears that Jesus was praying for wisdom to know whom to select as his twelve apostles. This is a reasonable conclusion. The first thing Jesus does after praying is gather together his disciples and choose the twelve (Luke 6:13-14). Not only that, in Matthew’s account, before settling on his apostles, Jesus exhorted the disciples to pray.
And notice what he told them to pray for: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37).
Given that Jesus told his disciples to pray for workers, it seems ly that Jesus was praying for workers, too, specifically, the workers who would be his apostles.
If prayer is simply talking to God, it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus prayed. In John 11:41 we see Jesus thanking his Father for hearing him. In Mark 14:36 we find Jesus praying for a way the cross. Clearly it was Jesus’ custom to pray. But this raises an interesting question: why did Jesus pray?
Why did Jesus pray?
The answer is found in the fact that Jesus is both God and man. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus prayed his divinity—serving as a display of communion with his Father (John 10:30).
Being one with the Father, there is no reason to be surprised that the Son communicated with the Father. In that sense, Jesus’ prayer life is rooted in his divinity.
But not only that, Jesus prayed his humanity as well—serving as a model for us of what dependence on the Father looks .This opens a door into some fascinating questions: Did Jesus know which disciples would be his apostles before he prayed to the Father? Did Jesus need to pray in order to make the right decision? Suffice it to say that the implications of the incarnation are too numerous and deep for our small minds to grasp. But this much is clear, Jesus lived a life of trust in and dependence on his Father to lead him—including leading him to the twelve men preordained by God to represent Jesus on earth.
Regardless of why Jesus prayed, there is much to learn from his example. Let's focus on five lessons we learn from Jesus on prayer.
Lessons from the Prayer Life of Jesus
1. Prayer is necessary.
We are never too busy to pray. Most of us, much of the time, feel as if we are too busy to pray. We have to sleep, after all. We have to work. We have to take care of the kids.
We have to have some down time, don’t we? And when all those things we have to do are done, there is hardly any time for prayer! At least that’s what we tell ourselves. And yet, the truth is that we need prayer as surely as we need sleep and food and rest.
Each of us relies on God, and we demonstrate this reliance by praying. Jesus had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and yet he prayed. How much more should we?
2. Prayer demands solitude.
It is striking in Luke 6:12 that Jesus got away from the crowd in order to pray. He sought a place of quiet. There is no command in Scripture to pray in solitude, and yet we should take to heart the model of our Savior.
We should make it a personal discipline to unplug from the world before we speak to the One who made the world. I’m reminded of Susanna Wesley who had no place of escape from her numerous children.
She found solitude in the corner of the kitchen with her apron pulled over her head to allow her just a few moments to think and pray.
3. Prayer will often be strenuous.
On that mountainside Jesus continued to pray all night. He once rebuked his disciples for failing to stay awake and pray (Mark 14:37). Because he is fully man Jesus felt the need to sleep and rest.Yet he believed it was more important for him to stay alert and pray. What makes us think that our prayer life should be easy? Persistence ought to be the hallmark of every believer’s prayers.
We are to plead with God faithfully, fervently, and passionately (see Luke 18:1-18).
4. Prayer has a purpose.
Jesus had real work to do. Apostles must be chosen. These apostles would go on to preach and write the words the Spirit would use to build the church (Eph. 2:20). Jesus had a church to establish, and so he prayed. When we pray, we ought to know what needs to be accomplished. I the well-worn acronym, A.C.T.S.
We pray to adore the Father because he is worthy of all adoration. We pray to confess our sin because we are to be aware, daily, of our need for forgiveness. We pray to thank God because an attitude of thanksgiving is a mark of every true believer. Finally, we pray supplication, asking God to provide because we know he cares about what we need.
This is what it looks for us to pray with a purpose.
5. Prayer is effective.
Having stayed up all night talking to his heavenly Father, Jesus was ready to pick twelve men to serve him on earth. Jesus prayed, the Father answered, and Jesus chose the twelve. Perhaps it’s not a stretch to say that in Luke 6:12 we see something of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
Jesus prayed because he knew no decision is outside the will of the Lord. But having prayed, Jesus acted. He stepped out and selected the men he believed best suited to do the work he needed. And so it is with us. We pray, because we know that God is sovereign.
And then we act, trusting that God will guide our steps (see James 5:13-18).
More than a Model
In these five ways, Jesus is a tremendous model for us in prayer. But we must be careful not to see Jesus only as our example in prayer. Graeme Goldsworthy warns us that to see Jesus merely as an example may be counterproductive.
Seeing how spectacularly well Jesus prayed may be demoralizing for some of us, reminding us of the many ways we fall short. Though I’m convinced we must hold Jesus out as a model to follow, if he is only a model we will surely fail.
Though prayer is a discipline we must improve on for the Lord, it is also, as Goldsworthy argued in Prayer and the Knowledge of God, “the fruit of what Christ has done for us.”In short, the path to better prayer is not fundamentally praying because Jesus prayed, but praying because Jesus died and rose again.
It is through this death and resurrection that we find more than an example, we find a Savior who bore the wrath of God that we deserved, took the debt of sin that we accrued, and declared us righteous. That is grace.
And having received such plentiful grace, we pray. Not merely because Jesus prayed, but because Jesus died to give us hearts that long to pray.
So, as you look to the life and ministry of Jesus, by all means be encouraged to pray better.
But do remember that the basis of prayer is not your desire to pray more! If you are a Christian, the basis of prayer is the fact that through Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection you have adopted as a son or daughter into the family of God. This will change your view of prayer. I love how Goldsworthy put it:
“How we view that relationship will determine, in turn, how we come to God in prayer and with what confidence. Prayer will never again be a sentimental excursion or an instinctive hitting of the panic button.
Nor will it be the presumption of an innate right to demand God’s attention. Rather it will be the expression of our entry into God’s heavenly sanctuary, which has been procured for us by our Great High Priest.
We need more than lessons to pray better. We need the gospel. So let us go back to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-23) where we find an inexhaustible source of power to pray.
Aaron Menikoff (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. He blogs at “Free to Serve” and is the author of Politics and Piety (Pickwick).
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Paola Aguilar
Want To Pray Jesus? Here Are 3 Heartfelt Prayers He Prayed To God That You Can Pray Too!
Prayer is a powerful tool, but sometimes we don't even know where to start. So why not learn from the best source there is — God's own Son? Here are 3 prayers that Jesus prayed to God in some of His most painful days on earth.
The alarm clock sounds and my daily routine begins. A cup of coffee and my Bible reading plan – check. I open social media and begin scrolling through my newsfeed –check. But the prayer request I see on my computer screen causes me to stop. It reveals a heartbreaking reality.
A burden to pray begins growing somewhere deep inside. Yet as much as I long to cry out, I don’t know where to begin. Words don’t seem to have the power to convey the deep empathy I feel. Because I’ve been there. We all have – in painful times that leave us dumbfounded.
RELATED: 8 things to pray when you don't know what to say
It’s in these distressing moments we often can’t find the words to pray. But Jesus shows us the power of prayers that pour out from a place of raw emotion.
Jesus understood our pain. In fact, Jesus prayed His most passionate prayers in the hardest moments. And through these prayers we find the example and encouragement we need for our own trying times. Here are three passionate prayers Jesus prayed to God.
Jesus Prayed A Prayer of Gratitude through Sorrow and Grief
Jesus heard his friend had become sick. He loved this man. The situation for Lazarus looked bleak, but Jesus showed confidence in God’s plan by saying, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this” (John 11:4). By the time Jesus arrived to see him, Lazarus had been dead four days.
Jesus revealed the magnitude of His sorrow after he came face to face with Mary. When Jesus saw her crying, He was “deeply moved” (John 11:33). Then He cried too. Jesus grieved over the loss of His friend, but He was also responding to Mary’s deep anguish. As any true friend would, Jesus offered His own tears, mourning right along with her.
RELATED: 3 things to remember when life gets hard
Jesus followed the crowd to the tomb and asked them to roll away the stone. Then He prayed a passionate prayer of thanksgiving. “Father, thank you for hearing me”(John 11:41).
He didn’t pray for Lazarus to wake up. He didn’t pray for God to perform a miracle. He thanked His Father for always being available in times of need, for always hearing.
He prayed so others would see Him and believe.
Jesus Prayed A Prayer for God’s Will to Prevail
Sometimes I pray and God performs a miracle. Other times I pray, but God allows me to go through a hard situation. At those times I’d to turn and run the other direction, but I have to trust. Because facing life’s hard helps me grow into the person He created me to be.
Jesus walked a road more treacherous than any of us can imagine. He asked God if there was any other way, but ultimately He resolved to obey.
“He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Matthew 26:39).
RELATED: 31 spiritual warfare scriptures to help you face life's battles
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took three men with Him to keep watch as He prayed. He knew the time drew near to fulfill God’s plan, so He cried out this desperate plea. Jesus’ words show us His commitment to God’s will. He was willing to go through it all, yet He still sought the possibility of an alternate route.
Being God in human form, Jesus felt the pain we feel. Hebrews 4:15 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Through sorrow He chose submission. Through anguish He chose obedience, regardless of the outcome.
Jesus Prayed A Prayer for Forgiving Someone Who Hurt You
It may be my biggest challenge of all – forgiveness. After all, the person who wronged me didn’t ask for forgiveness, and he certainly didn’t deserve it. Yet this third example of passionate prayer by my Savior shows me how to forgive, even in the midst of deep hurt.
“Jesus said, ’Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus understood the Truth of God’s Word which would one day be recorded in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (ESV). Yet He chose to be a living example of the power of forgiveness. He went through torture to show us its potential. He also offered it to each of us without condition.
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Jesus’ passionate prayers all share one purpose – to glorify our Heavenly Father. “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12 NIV).
He prayed in earnest, but His focus remained constant. He did what was best for you and me. So the next time I see a prayer request pop up in my newsfeed, I’ll remember the passionate prayers of Jesus. Even if I stumble through the words, God always hears.
Let’s determine today to display unbridled passion in our prayer life as we face adversity. Through every loss, uncertainty, or hurt, we find hope as we call out to Him.
Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart who teaches about God’s powerful, relatable Word. She is the author of Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Kristine writes about her God-story and helps others discover their own at www.morethanyourself.com.
The Lord’s Prayer: Teach Your Children To Pray Jesus Prayed
Teaching your children how to pray and watching them spiritually flourish is a blessing and life experience that most Christian parents look forward to. However, the prospect of spiritually nurturing your children can also be a daunting prospect for many new parents!
As you held your baby in your arms and gazed into your infant’s eyes, did you ever wonder what you should teach them about prayer?
If you grew up in a home where prayer was not a part of your daily childhood experience – or if you were raised in an environment where your role models prayed by rote instead of by talking directly to God – the prospect of sitting down and praying with your children in a comfortable, conversational way can feel quite overwhelming!
Thankfully, the Lord Jesus anticipated our every need.
You Can Use The Lord’s Prayer As A Model To Teach Your Children To Pray
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them The Lord’s Prayer – a prayer that has been passed down from generation to generation, from teacher to student, from parent to child!
The Lord’s Prayer is the first prayer that most children learn to pray. As churchgoers, we often recite The Lord’s Prayer during our weekly services. In fact, some of us are so familiar with The Lord’s Prayer that we must guard against saying the words without reflecting upon their meaning!However, Jesus never meant for us to simply memorize and recite the Lord’s Prayer without thought. Did you know that Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer as a model to teach us how to approach Our Father in prayer?
As parents, we are responsible for spiritually shepherding the children that God places in our lives. By using The Lord’s Prayer as our model for prayer, we not only teach our children to pray Jesus prayed, but we can also teach them who God is and how they should live so that they can always approach their Loving Father with confidence and joy!
You Can Teach Your Children The Lord’s Prayer Through Books
One book that beautifully illustrates these principles and demonstrates God’s great love for children is Rick Warren’s new book, The Lord’s Prayer, which features the magnificent illustrations of Richard Jesse Watson.
The following video provides you with a preview of what this book is about.
Watch the Video for The Lord’s Prayer
Did you know that as an adult, you can also learn about prayer through this book? One important lesson I learned from Rick Warren is that parents often focus on what we have to teach our children about prayer – but we can also learn just as much about prayer from watching our children pray!
You Can Teach Your Children About God Through The Lord’s Prayer
As we teach our children The Lord’s Prayer, we also teach them about God.. Here are a few of the key concepts that are important to convey to our children as they learn The Lord’s Prayer:
Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer to let us know that God wants us to talk to Him each day, through prayer, and to share what’s on our hearts.
God is Our Heavenly Father. Our Father loves and cares for us very much. Whenever we need to talk to Him, we can go directly to Him in prayer.
God lives in a wonderful place called Heaven. One day, we will join Him in Heaven and live with Him too.
God’s name is hallowed, which means holy. This means we should approach God with an attitude of respect, praise, and gratitude.
God wants us to live a life that’s pleasing to Him – to live according to His will, not ours. That’s why we pray Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Each day, God takes care of our needs and provides for us. To show that we trust in Him, He asks us to bring our concerns to Him in prayer. That’s why we ask God to Give us this day our daily bread.When we do something wrong, God forgives us. When others do something wrong, God wants us to forgive them. That’s why we ask God to Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
God gives us the ability to know what is good and bad, and the power to choose what is right. When we are tempted to do wrong, God wants us to pray for strength and protection and choose what is good! That’s why we ask God to Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
When we teach our children to pray The Lord’s Prayer and share the meaning behind the words, we can be confident that we are helping them to build a strong spiritual foundation for life!
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How have your personal experiences with prayer impacted the way you teach your children to pray? What have you learned from your children about prayer? What does The Lord’s Prayer mean to you? Please leave a message on our blog! We’d love to hear from you!
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