Praying Like Jesus
Why do you pray? When do you pray? For what do you pray? What happens when you pray? “The Big Bang Theory” is a CBS sitcom about four, young, egg-head scientists and their flighty blond neighbor who live in LA. The four nerds have many relationship issues that are often quite comical. In one episode, Sheldon, the PhD physicist leader of the group, had a visit from his Bible-thumping, fundamentalist mother from Texas (Series 05 Episode 06 – The Rhinitis Revelation). When Sheldon’s friends took his mother on a tour of Hollywood, she wanted to visit churches more than the homes of the stars, the Hollywood walk of fame, and Rodeo Drive. While inside one of the churches, she had each of Sheldon’s friends pray. The mother prayed a very pious, self-righteous prayer that brought glory to herself. Penny, the blond, prayed for her brother to stop cooking meth but without police intervention. Leonard, prayed to be taller. Howard, a Jew, didn’t pray but simply said, “I’m just trying not to burst into flame here.” Raj, a Hindu, prayed to lose the last five pounds on his diet. Leonard quickly scolded him and told him he should have asked God for help with finding a girlfriend. When Raj tried to change his prayer, Leonard said, “No. You can’t. You only get one wish.”
Why do we pray? When do we pray? For what do we pray? If we are honest and look at our prayers, often we pray very much like those in the sitcom. Like Sheldon’s mother, we pray to make ourselves feel righteous or at least better than others. Like Penny, we pray for God to fix our lives or the lives of our loved ones that are suffering due to sin. We don’t deal with the sin; we want things to be miraculously made right with no pain or fuss. Like Leonard, we pray for a self-centered miracle of our choosing. Or worst of all, like Howard, we do not pray at all. These are not good reasons or ways to pray. These prayers are not good models for us to use concerning why, when, and what we should pray. Jesus gives us the best models and example of why, when, and what we should pray. Today, we want to learn how to pray like Jesus.
Just before today’s text, Jesus and his disciples had their Last Supper together. Jesus knew that in the early morning he would be arrested, tried, and crucified. We pick up the action as they leave the supper.
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[a]
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46 NIV).
Why Should We Pray? (39-40)
The text says “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, Pray . . .” Prayer is a critical, recurring theme in Luke (21 times) and Acts (25 times). Going out to pray was Jesus’ custom—something he did consistently, constantly. Jesus also called his disciples to pray with him. Prayer is a vital and necessary part of the Christian’s life both individually and corporately. If Jesus, the Son of God, prayed constantly and called his disciples to prayer, then certainly we should follow his example and obey his command to pray.
When Should We Pray? (39-40)
Again, prayer was something that Jesus did consistently, constantly. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray; consistently modeled it; and constantly led them to pray. In fact this passage begins (v 40) and ends (v 46) with Jesus calling on his disciples to pray. Jesus prayed on a regular basis—“. . . Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Lk 5:16). Jesus prayed at critical times in his life and ministry—He prayed at his baptism (Lk 3:21); before choosing the 12 disciples (Lk 6:12); prior to Peter’s confession of him as the Christ (Lk 9:18), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-29); before teaching his disciples how to pray (Lk 11:1-2); twice while giving his life on the cross (23:34, 46); and he is recognized by his followers as the risen Lord when he prayed (24:30-31).
Paul summarizes the times we should pray this way, “Pray continually” (1 Th 5:17). Prayer is not just for use when we face crises; not something used in desperation or for luck in the moment; not the weapon of last resort when all else has failed. We should engage in prayer constantly as we live in God’s presence and seek his direction and strength. Our lives should be lived out as prayers before God as in each moment we communicate with our Heavenly Father about what is happening and how we should respond to his glory.
For What Should We Pray? (40b-42)
Jesus’ disciples asked him this very question in Luke 11:1c –“Lord, teach us to pray . . .” Jesus replied,
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil (Lk 11:2-4).
Jesus was consistent in what he asked in prayer. See how he applied his model prayer. “Father, . . .” (v 42). – He communicated personally, intimately, with his Heavenly Father. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (v 40, 46). “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (v 42).
We should pray for God’s help in overcoming temptations (Gk, periasmos = both sins, trials). We need God’s help to resist our “own evil desire” that arises from within (cf, Jm 1:14). We need God’s help to resist the temptations that come from the world outside. We need God’s help to resist losing our faith when the tests and trials of this life overwhelm us.
We should pray and let God hear our heart’s desire. The “cup” is an Old Testament image of suffering, especially God’s wrath (cf, Ps 11:6, Is 51:17, Ezk 23:33). Jesus knew the horrible death ahead and his human nature shrank from it. It was not so much the physical death as the manner of that death. Jesus, who knew no sin, would be made to be sin for us all (cf, 2 Cor 5:21). But note how Jesus centers on God’s will over his being spared from death.
We should pray not to change God’s will to ours but to change our wills to his. In Luke 4:1-13 we saw how Jesus overcame Satan’s temptation by using the Word of God. Lk 4:13 says, “. . . [the devil] left [Jesus] until an opportune time.” I believe Satan returned here to tempt Jesus once again. The real battle of the cross was fought in Jesus prayer time in Gethsemane. Jesus submitted his will to the Father over his human will here in the garden. Although it was an agonizing prayer and an agonizing task lay ahead, the Father provided the strength Jesus needed to arise from prayer and to complete the plan for our salvation. Jesus found and accepted God’s will in prayer.
What Should Result From Our Prayers?
While the disciples were sleeping, Jesus was praying. Jesus arose ready to face the test of the cross; knew God’s will; and was strengthened to do it. The disciples arose from sleep unprepared for the tests that lay ahead. Are we praying and prepared for life or asleep and vulnerable to life’s temptations and tests? Like Jesus, we must be prepared by prayer for action in God’s service each day as we seek with the Father’s help to bring his kingdom to earth in everything we say and do to his glory.
Praying Like Jesus
Why should we pray? Because Jesus both modeled and commanded it When should we pray? Consistently and constantly. For what should we pray? For God’s help in overcoming life’s temptations and trials; and ultimately with the purpose of submitting our wills to God’s will. What should result from our prayers? We should discern God’s will, gain his strength to do his will, and be prepared to act in doing his will. Are you praying like Jesus? He is praying that you will.