Jesus, A Man of Prayer

We have much to learn about prayer from Jesus. His prayers are models both in what to pray for and when to pray.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

The New Testament is filled with various forms of logical reasoning.

Jesus argued, for example, that God feeds the birds of heaven. Yet, we are of greater value than them. Does it not stand to reason that he cares for us and that we should refrain from inordinate worry about such things (Mt. 6:25ff)?

This admonition was not intended to encourage laziness but to instill confidence in us for our Father’s providential concern.

Similarly, Paul reasoned that God gave us his Son, so it is logical to conclude that he would give us “all things” needful for our heavenward journey (Rom. 8:32). Thus, the child of God should pray fervently for Heaven’s blessings.

If even Jesus, our perfect Savior, felt an acute need for prayer, how much more should we feel a sense of urgency to use prayer in our lives?

Let’s examine Christ and prayer as a model for our worship and service to God.

Jesus’ Prayer Life

Jesus was certainly taught to pray early in his life. Jewish lads were trained in the Old Testament scriptures early, and spiritual exercises were cultivated as early as three years. Synagogue school convened on Monday and Thursday, in addition to services on the Sabbath, and prayer was an essential element in those meetings.

Prayer was a crucial component of Christ’s teaching ministry from the very beginning. Note the following examples of prayer, beginning with his immersion and continuing to Gethsemane.

The first explicit mention of Christ in prayer was at the time of his immersion by John in the Jordan River (Lk. 3:21).

On another occasion, when the multitudes began flocking to him, Jesus prayed, recognizing his tremendous responsibility to teach them (Lk. 5:15–16).

As the Lord prepared to choose the men who would serve him as apostles, he spent the night praying on their behalf (Lk. 6:12–13).

He prayed both before and after the event of feeding more than five thousand people (Mt. 14:19, 23; cf. 15:36; Mk. 6:41, 46).

He prayed just before questioning his disciples about their conviction regarding his identity (Lk. 9:18 ff).

The Lord prayed before and during his transfiguration on the mountain (Lk. 9:28–29).

The Son of God prayed as he was about to offer that thrilling invitation to all who might choose to come to him (Mt. 11:25 ff).

Little children were brought to the Master so that he “might lay his hands on them and pray.” He complied, taking these little ones in his arms. He laid his hands upon them and blessed them (Mt. 19:13–15; Mk. 10:16).

Following one of his prayers, a disciple was prompted to ask: “Lord, teach us to pray.” What followed was a model prayer for their instruction (Lk. 11:1–4).

Christ prayed before raising Lazarus from the grave (Jn. 11:41–42).

He prayed for Peter, especially knowing the temptation to which the apostle would yield during the Savior’s arrest proceedings (Lk. 22:31–34).

When Jesus instituted the communion supper, he thanked God for both elements, symbolizing his body and blood (Mt. 26:26–27).

The Lord prayed walking to the garden where he would be betrayed, just before crossing the brook Kidron (Jn. 17:1–26).

In several of his parables, Jesus taught several vital principles regarding prayer.

He assured us that God is anxious to answer our prayers. We don’t have to knock down his door to get his attention (Lk. 11:5–8). He insists that we must not become discouraged. Instead, we should persist in prayer (Lk. 18:1–8).

Christ also taught the need for an appropriate attitude toward God and others when we pray (vvv. 9–14).

With this overview of prayer in Jesus’s life, let’s consider several occasions of his prayer to God.

The Prayers in Gethsemane

The prayers that the Lord poured out in the garden of Gethsemane are in a class by themselves. The writer of Hebrews provides a summary statement of this agonizing event when he notes that: “in the days of his flesh [i.e., his earthly sojourn] he offered up prayers and supplications.” Here, the reference to “prayers” is a generic term, while “supplications” refers to a specific request for some need to be supplied. These petitions were bathed in “strong crying” and “tears.”

Moreover, his prayers were offered to God with confidence, in the assurance that his Father was “able” to “save him from [@ek@—literally, out of] death,” i.e., resurrect him from the grave. The writer notes that our Lord was heard because of his “godly reverence” (Heb. 5:7).

The actual Gethsemane narratives are found in the four Gospel narratives (Mt. 26:30–46; Mk. 14:26–42; Lk. 22:39–46; Jn. 18:1–12). The Savior entered the garden with eleven disciples (Judas was not with them—yet!). He instructed eight of them to sit while he went farther into the garden. Peter, James, and John were with him as he went deeper into the olive grove to pray.

Our present focus will be on the agony accompanying his three prayers in this setting, particularly emphasizing the first episode (cf. Mt. 26:39, 42, 44). Nowhere else in the Gospel records do his emotions become so apparent.

Jesus had known of this coming event for years. Now he was face-to-face with it—less than 24 hours to go!

He began to be “sorrowful and very troubled.” He was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Mt. 26:37–38). He went forward and “fell on his face, and prayed” (v. 39). Luke says he “kneeled down” (22:41). This does not conflict with Matthew’s account. The record indicates both postures were observed during the protracted ordeal.

Then Luke, a medical doctor (Col. 4:14) and a first-rate historian, provides his unique information. He notes that the Savior, “being in agony,” prayed “more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Lk. 22:44).

Scholars are divided as to whether Luke describes an actual physiological situation or whether the language is merely figurative (a simile). Though we should resist a dogmatic conclusion, I believe it was a physical condition reflecting a level of anguish rarely known to humankind. For further study, see my article The Agony of Gethsemane.

In his humanity, the Lord prayed that the cup of suffering might be removed if such should be the Lord’s will. Nonetheless, he would yield to his Father’s plan (cf. Mt. 26:39; Mk. 14:35–36; Lk. 22:42; Jn. 18:11).

I respectfully suggest that it was not the physical pain from which the Savior so agonizingly recoiled (though that would be excruciating). Undoubtedly, it was the reality that he was to bear the punishment for sin (not the guilt), equivalent to that deserved by every sinner in the history of mankind!

What a prayer!

The Intercessory Prayer of Christ for His Disciples

The prayer in John 17 is of particular importance. The Lord prays that the Father will glorify him through the resurrection and ascension, which would result in glory to the Father through the great plan of redemption (vv. 1-5).

He petitions on behalf of his apostolic band. They have served him well during his ministry and will carry on for the balance of their lives (vv. 6–19).

Finally, he prays for all who eventually become his followers across the centuries. His concern is that Christians may be united as a testimony to the divine nature of the Lord’s identity and the authenticity of his message (vv. 20–26).

Jesus’ Prayers from the Cross

Jesus was suspended on the cross for six hours—from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. During this ordeal, he spoke seven times, three of which were prayers.

Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). For many, this is one of the most puzzling passages of scripture. Surely, it deserves our careful consideration. Space prohibits probing it in this brief article. For a more thorough analysis of this text, see The Haunting Question from the Cross.

Christ prayed that his murderers might be forgiven (Lk. 23:34). That this was not a request for their unconditional pardon is apparent from the fact that on the day of Pentecost, those responsible for the Lord’s death were still culpable for his crucifixion (Acts 2:23). Yet forgiveness could be obtained through their obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:37–41; cf. 7:52).

Finally, the Savior prayed loudly: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46). This petition of confidence in his relationship with God balances the “My God, my God” cry, and it also affirms that death does not extinguish human existence.

Christ’s Post-Resurrection Prayer

Twice, Luke records the Lord praying between his resurrection and ascension.

One of these is a mealtime prayer (Lk. 24:30), and the other is a farewell petition of blessing as he departed for heaven—which filled the disciples with joy and elicited worship of him from them (Lk. 24:51–52).


The prayers of Christ and the circumstances surrounding them are worthy of careful study. They reveal his humanity and his absolute trust in his Father.

They also serve as excellent models for his faithful disciples to emulate.