The Prayer Life Of Jesus
By Kim Butts
Our ultimate goal as Christians is Christlikeness, which means that we, His children, are to develop His character and emulate His behavior. One action that continually defined Jesus when He walked this earth was prayer. It was the one thing that so characterized His life that the disciples asked Him to teach them how to do it: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). It was and is an integral part of His spiritual being…and now, by virtue of Christ living in us, part of ours as well.
We cannot be like Jesus and live a life of prayerlessness. This fact is underlined when we consider the one activity we know Jesus is doing right now while sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is interceding for us! "Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25). "…Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Romans 8:34). It is impossible to be a Christlike person without being a person of prayer.
The best way to teach your family how to pray is by studying the One who truly knew how to pray the very heart of God. We will examine the ways Jesus taught us to pray through His words, and in the way He lived His life:
Pray with Right Motives
Jesus always prayed with a single-minded purpose – to seek the will of His Father. He had little patience for those who prayed to be noticed by others rather than to commune with God. He strongly cautioned believers: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full" (Matthew 6:5). He was equally angered by those whose actions were outwardly disobedient to the heart of God: "They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely" (Mark 12:40). To keep believers from praying with wrong motives, Jesus taught, "When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).
"This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’" (Matthew 6:9-13). This model prayer is a good indication that Jesus expects us to pray together as well as privately. Teach your family to pray this prayer together, and talk about what each element means. You will see praise, confession, thanksgiving, prayer for individual needs, intercession for others, and a petition that God’s will be done on earth rather than our will be done in heaven.
Don’t Use a Lot of Words
Jesus said, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6:7). God is not interested in the number of our words, or in the length of our prayers. He is not impressed by flowery or religious language. When you are praying together as a family, it is important that every person has a chance to pray, no matter what age. The youngest child and the oldest parent or grandparent is equally heard by God.
Love Your Enemies and Pray for Them
In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." In Luke 6:28, He said, "…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Jesus was all about love. He instructed His followers in this regard not only in word, but also in action. Jesus, on the cross, prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). The ultimate loving act towards those who mistreat us is to pray for them.
Spend Time Alone in Solitary Places
"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16). In our busy, noisy culture, it is important to teach our families that we need to find time to be alone with the Father in prayer. Jesus demonstrated this practice continually: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed" (Mark 1:35). "After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray" (Mark 6:46). "After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone…" (Matthew 14:23). "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God" (Luke 6:12).
Bless Children in Prayer
"Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them…" (Matthew 19:13). "And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:16). Parents and grandparents, take time to bless children in this way. One good passage to use as a blessing is found in Numbers 6:24-26.
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24). Jesus lived His life in complete faithfulness to the perfect will of God. When we pray, knowing that what we ask is in the center of His will, and believing that He is able to answer, we should expect Him to do so!
"Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will’" (Matthew 26:39). "He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done’" (Matthew 26:42). Teach your family that God did not answer every prayer of Jesus with a "Yes." However, Jesus obediently accepted the answer of God, trusting that this difficult act of obedience would bring much honor and glory to His Father throughout all of time. Jesus was willing to lay down His very life for the plans and purposes of God. Are we able, as families who follow Jesus, to lay down what we want and accept that sometimes God will say, "No" or "Not now" to us? God’s will is the ultimate plan, no matter what we think we want our own plans to be.
"My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15). "Watch and pray so that You will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Matthew 26:41). Jesus prayed for the protection of His disciples from Satan. We must also pray for the protection of our families. The devil hates praying families because he knows that prayer defeats him. He will do everything he can to distract us from this powerful pursuit.
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:16-18). It is clear from this passage that Jesus expects us to fast. Learn together as a family what it means to fast and pray, and then put it into practice as the Father leads you.
Forgive before Praying
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25). Teach your family how to confess their sins before God, and that we must forgive the sins of others before we come to Him in prayer. It is important to come to the Father in prayer with clean hands and a pure heart.
Persistence in Prayer
"Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1). God’s timing may not be the same as ours, because His knowledge is perfect and ours is not. Teach your family to be persistent in prayer by continually bringing the names of lost people, those who need healing, and other situations to God.
Pray Global Prayers
Our families have two purposes upon this earth: to love God with everything in us, and to love our neighbors. Jesus expects us to pray and act with persistence toward the expansion of His kingdom: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message…" (John 17:20). "Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field’" (Matthew 9:37-38). We are to pray for opportunities to share the Gospel, obediently doing so when God places people in our paths who need a relationship with Him. And, we are to pray for workers to be sent out wherever the harvest is ripe and ready to be brought into His storehouse…knowing that God may wish to use us to be the answer to our own prayers. Is your family ready if the Lord wants to send you? "Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations...’" (Mark 11:17). We, God’s people, are that house!
It is one thing to know about prayer; but it is entirely a different thing to be about prayer. Knowledge, without action that comes from the heart, is empty. To become Christlike means to learn how to pray with the heart of Jesus. He has given us full instruction about prayer, yet it is only from our desire to obediently learn from His example and teaching that we will seek after God with all of our hearts. Prayer is the deepest love connection with the Father, made possible by the sacrifice of His Son. It is an awesome privilege, and our deepest responsibility. We must not ignore the most intimate communion with God by neglecting prayer in our homes. His Word says that if we seek Him, He will be found by us. If Jesus is to be the central focus of our lives, how do we enthrone Him there? By prayer! Worship Him, delight in Him, give Him thanks, petition Him, share your concerns and needs with Him, come before Him on behalf of others…share with Him heart to heart. Prayer is the connective tissue between our human hearts and His divine purposes!