Have you ever taken the time to study the prayers Jesus prayed while he walked the earth? Have you ever considered not just how he prayed but what were the things he prayed for? I want to take you on a short journey into the prayers of Jesus. I want to uncover some simple yet powerful truths that, if you apply, can have a tremendous impact in your personal prayer life.
If there was anyone who knew how to pray well, I think Jesus would qualify. So let’s jump in because there are some lessons to learn!
When Jesus Prayed
One of the things you will notice about Jesus and his praying is that he did most of his intense praying outside of the public eye. In fact, the prayers he prayed publicly were usually very short. Even though they were short, they were still extremely powerful. The first thing this should tell you is that your private prayer life should be far greater than your public one. Notice these verses:
“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).
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
There are two things I want you to notice. One is that Jesus was intentional in seeking out solitary or quiet places to pray. He made it a priority. It was never an afterthought or the last thing on his agenda. His ability to function was connected to his ability to pray.
The other thing you will notice is that the more the crowds came to hear him speak or be healed, the more he would withdraw to pray. This is such an important principle. So often when life gets hectic, or the responsibilities grow larger, prayer gets pushed to the sidelines (I am speaking from my own experience). Yet if we are to follow the example of Jesus it should be just the opposite. The more responsibility, the more recognition, the more you have to accomplish, the more you need to withdraw to pray.
Nothing great will ever be accomplished in your life or for the kingdom of God without prayer being a central focus. It is your lifeblood and everything you will ever be for God will flow out of it. Thankfully, Jesus modeled that for us.
The Prayer at Lazarus’ Tomb
If you are familiar with the story of Lazarus in John 11, you know he died and Jesus raised him back to life. However, I want to focus on the prayer Jesus prayed when he got to the tomb.
“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me’” (John 11:41-42).
This is also an example of those short public prayers that Jesus prayed. There are two things within this prayer that I want to highlight for you.
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Jesus made a habit of giving thanks when he prayed publicly. We see this here and you also see it when he prayed to feed the five thousand.
“And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people” (Matthew 11:19).
What we can learn from this is the importance of thanksgiving in prayer. So often when we pray we are sometimes hard pressed because of the need of the moment. This can cause you to miss and not be thankful for all God has already done or is going to do. I know it’s hard sometimes to focus on what you have when you are looking at what you need, but Jesus made a habit of always giving thanks and you should do the same. Remember Philippians 4:6:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (emphasis added).
If you are going to pray like Jesus prayed, thanksgiving will be a big part of it.
What you also see in Jesus’s prayers is that he most often used the term Father. This is crucial because in prayer you are praying to your father. You are not praying to some impersonal being who sits far away and is not really concerned about your life. You are praying to a God who looks high but is concerned about the very fabric of every detail of your life. As Jesus said, the very hairs of your head are numbered (Luke 12:7). This is the degree that God is interested in and aware of your situation.
So, when you pray, yes he is God, but remember he is also Father. Because of this relationship, you have the right to go before his very throne – in fact he welcomes you in. Don’t ever feel like you can’t come into his presence because he wants you there. He has said if you draw near to him, he will draw near to you (James 4:8). You will never be a distraction or a disturbance so make sure you go before your Father in prayer. By the way the more you do it the better.
Jesus’ Prayer in John
When you consider the prayer in John 17 you begin to understand what really matters most. After all Jesus was soon to be arrested and eventually killed, so he knew he was approaching the last moments of his life on this earth, prior to his resurrection. This gives special meaning to what he prayed for.
In law, they have a term called a dying declaration. It is defined here as “a statement by a person who is conscious and knows that death is imminent concerning what he or she believes to be the cause or circumstances of death that can be introduced into evidence during a trial in certain cases.”
The premise is a person who is about to die has no reason to fabricate a story or tell a lie, so what they tell you in these moments is credible testimony. The truth and what is most important comes out. This is so important in prayer because these are some of Jesus last prayers so let’s focus on his dying declaration.
1. The Glory of God
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).
Evident on Jesus’ mind and heart to the very end was the glory of God. This should always be paramount in your prayer life. Prayer should never be about your agenda or about making you look good. It should always be for God’s honor and for his glory. When you are lifted up, you draw people to yourself. What good is that? When God is glorified it draws people to him and that matters most because he is the only one who can save them. Let prayer always be about the glory of God.
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2. The Protection of His Disciples
“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
What I love about Jesus’ prayer is that he wasn’t just concerned about himself. Yes, he was about to face the challenge of the cross, but in his prayer, he prayed for the protection of those he had been teaching and training for the past three years. He not only was aware of the road he was about to face, he was aware of the road they were about to face and he prayed for them.
Let’s follow his lead and pray for the protection of our families, leaders and fellow believers. Pray for protection from those in the world who may hate Christ and protection from the evil one. The fact that Jesus would pray these things reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle and we must exercise prayer as one of our greatest weapons.
3. Unity for the Sake of the Gospel
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one…” (John 17:20-22).
I find it fascinating that Jesus prayed not just for his disciples then, he was also praying for you and me at that moment. However, the thing he prayed for us is even more incredible. He prayed that we would be one. Two thousand years ago Jesus prayed that you and I would be one. You as the reader of this article and me as the writer of this article, God wants us to be one.
But not just one for one’s sake. One for the sake of the gospel – “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” This is such a mind-blowing statement when you understand what Jesus is praying. When Christians are united as one body, we become a testimony to the world that Jesus is who he said he is. Is there any wonder why the devil tries to sow seeds of discord and disunity amongst the body of Christ?
I pray that we would follow Jesus’s example and pray for unity in the body of Christ. Unity across denominations, races, cultures, political lines, unity everywhere. If we can do that we will become the greatest living witness for Jesus Christ.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).
Where Do You Go from Here?
Hopefully from here you will follow Jesus’ example and spend more time in your prayer closet communing with your Heavenly Father. I know that’s where I want to spend more time. While there, give thanks, let your requests be known and pray much for those around you. If we can resurrect prayer in the body of Christ, especially praying like Jesus prayed, I believe we will advance the cause of Christ and the Glory of God far beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
This article is part of our prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.