Have you thought about how prominent a place prayer had in the last twenty-four hours (or so) of Jesus’ earthly life? There are a number of questions raised by the subject of prayer. Does prayer actually alter the will of God? Why should we pray if God already knows the thoughts of our minds as well as the needs of our hearts? And, maybe, particularly in our culture, shouldn’t we rather be busy about doing God’s will than spending time in prayer to Him? Isn’t it interesting that our Lord never gave a doctoral dissertation on the subject of prayer? He never explained how prayer had meaning in light of the will of God? He didn’t pause to explain why we should pray when God already had perfect knowledge of all our thoughts. He was Himself one of the busiest humans ever to live. He was aware that His time among us was to be brief, so surely it was to be understood that prayer for Him would rob precious moments from His ministry. But, in fact, prayer was regarded by Jesus as vital. As others needed food, Jesus needed to pray. As others required rest, Jesus required prayer. As others relied on planning and strategy, Jesus relied on prayer. As others needed to talk with family, friends and co-workers, Jesus needed to talk to His Father in heaven. The purest, most virtuous, most powerful human Who ever lived needed, regular intercourse with His heavenly Father. When Jesus was with His followers in that upper room the night He was betrayed, He prayed over that meal…over the bread symbolizing His about-to-be-broken body, the cup symbolizing His about-to-be-shed blood. He said that He had prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail. After they left the upper room, somewhere along the way, before arriving at Gethsemane, Jesus uttered that beautiful amazing prayer which was largely on behalf of His followers that they might be kept in God’s Name, kept from the evil one and kept in unity that the world might be all the better enabled to believe on Jesus through their word. Jesus even had us in mind when He breathed that prayer asking God’s favor on all who would (in the future) believe on Him through the word of the apostles (John 17:20f). A bit later, Jesus and His men entered Gethsemane, where we, in reverent silence, watch Him agonize in prayer, sweat falling from Him like great drops of blood, as He asked His Father three times to allow the terrible cup of suffering and woe to be removed from Him. He arose from prayer, satisfied as to His Father’s will and fully surrendered to it and to the desperate need of all of lost humanity through all the ages of earth. Then, hanging from the cross of shame and wracked throughout His tortured body with incalculable pain, He continues in prayer…“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing…” and “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and, finally, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.”
Our Savior shows us that it is not a theology of prayer that we most need. We simply need our Abba Father Who cares for, listens to, and moves in response to His children of faith.
“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me…” John 11:41-42