Lessons from the Prayer Life of Jesus

Since we want to grow in our prayer life, maybe a good model for us is Jesus. What did He pray about while He was on earth? If we know what He prayed over, perhaps it would be good to include those areas in our own prayer life as well!

Let’s take a quick look.

He prayed for direction.

In Mark 1:35-39 we find that Jesus prayed for the Father’s direction in His life and ministry.

“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. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’

Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”

What is especially interesting to me here, is that His disciples are coming to find Him because a crowd of people has come together wanting Jesus to minister to them. But Jesus ignores good ministry right in front of Him, and goes somewhere else. Why? Because He got marching orders from His Father to change directions.

We also see Jesus praying for direction the night before His final decision to narrow down all His followers to the 12 He would pour His life into for the next 3 years.

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles . . .” (Luke 6:12-16).

So what level of directions are you praying about? Big decisions? Little decisions? Everyday decisions?

John 5:19-20 seem to indicate to me that Jesus prayed about all levels in making decisions:

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

He prayed to overcome temptation.

What? Jesus had temptations? He certainly did. Scripture says He was tempted in every way we are. Here is a time of prayer we see in the life of Jesus where I believe He was praying to overcome temptation.

After the feeding of the 5,000, we see Jesus do this: “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:45-46).

We do not know what He prayed about. Probably to regroup, to get refreshed after an intense day of ministry, perhaps. But in that same story in the Gospel of John, we see this additional bit of detail.

“After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (John 6:14-15)

Jesus had just performed His most incredible miracle to date. The crowd begins to murmur and get riled up, thinking Jesus needs to be our King. He can throw off Rome! But that was not His mission. That was not why He came to earth. Yes, He was the Messiah. But He was to lead a different kind of Kingdom.

But when people want to elevate you to leadership, that is heady stuff. It’s flattering! I wonder because of that if Jesus did not need to pray against the temptation of listening to the crowd, of reshaping His ministry to accommodate them. He needed to get back on track. Get His head thinking clearly about the mission He was called to.

We need to pray to overcome temptation. In fact, so important is it to pray about temptation, Jesus included it in his model prayer: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”
(Matthew 6:13).

What temptations do you need to regularly lay before Jesus and ask for His help?

Jesus prayed to surrender His will to God’s will.

As He was getting closer to the apex of His earthly ministry, Jesus began to struggle to submit His will to the Father’s. Days before His arrest Jesus said: “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28). He was struggling with surrendering to what was to come.

Then of course in the Garden on the night He was arrested, he prayed:

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. (Mark 14:32-36)

Our wills, the desire to stay in control of our life, is always the thing that keeps us from going deeper in relationship with God! The biggest prayer we can pray is “Not my will, but your will, Jesus, be done in my life!”

Are there areas of your life you need to surrender to Him?

Jesus prayed for others.

Finally, we see that Jesus prayed for His followers. In fact, one of His roles today in heaven is that He is interceding for believers—for you me me—continuously!

But in Luke, at the last supper, we see an exchange He had with Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

He tells Peter he is praying for him because Peter is about to go through something painful that will “sift him.” But notice he does not pray like we so often do—to get him out of the situation, to protect him from pain. No Jesus is telling Peter he will go through this painful situation because God needs to break Him to use Him! Jesus prays Peter’s faith will be strong, he will grow and change to the point that Peter can lead the Church when Jesus leaves earth!

I encourage you to make praying for others a part of your regular prayer life. But I challenge you to grow beyond just praying for the obvious quick fix in their lives, but that the situations they are in would grow them deeper in a relationship with God and their lives would bring glory to Him as they walk through the trial!

If you want to pray beyond the quick fix, two earlier Prayer Hacks offered some help in that area: “Pray Beyond the  Fix” and “Praying for His Kingdom or My Comfort?” My book Praying Like Paul could be a great encouragement  to you in this area as well.

–Jon Graf is the president of Church Prayer Leaders Network, which sponsors Prayer Hacks and love2pray.com.  

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