What do you know about prayer? Do you believe prayer is accessible to you? Would you consider prayer as important to your spiritual growth? Why?
Learning what prayer is, why prayer is so important to your spiritual growth, and that prayer is accessible to you – hopefully, will motivate you to pray, so keep reading!
You may have experienced people requesting prayer or engaging in prayer diligently when someone they love is faced with a physical disease or encounters what seems to be an impossible situation or circumstance. However, prayer is not just for the moments of desperation or crisis in your life.
Prayer is how you can remain connected to God and grow in your relationship with Him.
If you read or listen to the Bible, you will discover lots of teaching about prayer and examples of how people prayed throughout biblical history. Learning what the Bible says about prayer by looking at what others prayed can be helpful, but reading how Jesus (God, Himself) prayed might help you not only discover the “how” to pray, but also, the “why” to pray. Prayer is one of the most powerful privileges you have as a follower of Jesus Christ.
How did Jesus Pray?
In Luke 11, the disciples made a request of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). And Jesus provided a specific prayer known as The Lord’s Prayer (also in Matthew 6).
Jesus provides this example prayer, not necessarily for you to recite repeatedly, but rather for guidance to recognize to whom you pray, for what you pray, and why you pray. Jesus also provides a parable explaining how persistence impacts a prayer response (see Luke 18) and He even spoke to His disciples about how faith is essential in prayer (see Matthew 17), but what did Jesus do in terms of praying – how did Jesus pray?
Although multiple examples are found in the Bible of Jesus praying, two examples from the life of Jesus provide insight to this question:
Why is prayer important to your spiritual growth?
An example of Jesus praying is the Temptation of Jesus found in Matthew 4:5-7 and Luke 4:1-13. In these passages you are told Jesus is in the wilderness and is tempted by the devil (Satan) and in Luke’s gospel, Luke records that “Jesus, full of the Spirit” was “led by the Spirit to the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).
Jesus is fasting and praying for 40 days, and Satan comes to tempt Jesus. Satan tempts Jesus to rely on Jesus’ own personal power as God, the Son to sustain His human life by asking Jesus to turn rocks into bread. Second, Satan tempts Jesus to test God, the Father’s protection and promises to Jesus, the Son, and third, Satan tempts Jesus to worship (bow down) to Satan for him to grant Jesus rule over the earth.
How does the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness answer the question, why is prayer important to your spiritual growth?
When Satan tempts Jesus, Satan is tempting Jesus to alter His relationship with God, the Father. Jesus in His Divinity could have completed each action (i.e., turn stones into bread, jumped from the pinnacle, ruled the earth). However, each of Satan’s temptations attacks Jesus’ Humanity and seeks to expose Jesus’ Divinity. Jesus as fully human, requires food, is subject to gravitational laws, and has willingly limited Himself in human form. Yet, Jesus is fully God able to remain true to Himself as well as His purpose and plan of redemption.
Satan quotes God, the Father’s words – His promises recorded in the Old Testament – back to Jesus – God, the Son. Satan is aware God, the Father keeps His promises – just review biblical history to see how God always keeps His promises. Satan is trying to use God’s trustworthiness against Himself to separate God, the Father and God, the Son. Would Jesus, the Son put God, the Father to the “test”? Would the unity of God, the Father and the Son, be divided by these temptations?
God has a redemptive plan. Jesus, the Son and God, the Father have agreed on this plan since the beginning. God will redeem sinful humanity through Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection.
Satan’s tactic is to get humanity to reject God’s plan of redemption for them so that humanity lives separated from God forever. Jesus wisely does not test God with acting as Satan tempted Him to do, but rather lives within the established relationship with God, the Father.
Satan tries to convince Jesus to alter His relationship with God, the Father, usurp God, the Father’s authority, defy the unity of their relationship, and thwart God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
Again, how does the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness answer the question, why is prayer important to your spiritual growth? Because prayer is not about you testing God’s response to your requests or actions, quoting God’s promises back at Him, trying to use God’s promises to control Him, disrespecting God’s authority, or altering your relationship with God. God is not manipulated by our prayers into responding.
What could be an alternative thought about prayer from Jesus’ Temptation?
God has not obligated Himself to respond to your actions when you pray to test or control Him, but God has obligated Himself to listen and respond to your prayers because He designed prayer as a part of His plan and gave you prayer as a means of communicating with Him and being with Him. Prayer helps you grow your relationship with God because you stay in constant communication with God, and you respect the relationship God has established with you through the redemptive death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have access to God to pray because of the relationship Jesus made possible for you. “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” (Ephesians 3:12, NLT).
How might you confirm that the purpose of prayer is about growing your relationship with God and not about getting your request granted?
Another example of Jesus praying is in the Garden of Gethsemane, found in Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46. “They [Jesus and His disciples] came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” (Mark 14:32) What does Jesus (God, the Son) need to pray about? Jesus is God and yet, His consistent pattern throughout His incarnation (life on earth) is He schedules time to engage in prayer with God, the Father. Jesus’ time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is recorded in Luke 22:39-46.
Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.” (New Living Translation)
Jesus is facing temptation again in the Garden of Gethsemane. Would Jesus fulfill God’s plan of redemption for humanity? In His Humanity, would Jesus alter His relationship with God, the Father thus jeopardize the unity in their relationship, their agreement to redeem humanity, and leave humanity forever separated from God with no hope of relationship with God? Or would Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, remain committed to the unity of God and fulfill God’s plan of redemption?
In this passage, what can be learned about prayer?
Jesus reveals that prayer is about a relationship with God. He affirms that prayer is accessible to His disciples whether they choose to engage in prayer or not. Jesus knowing the importance and power of prayer, prompts His disciples to be strengthened in their relationship with God through prayer.Jesus professes His relationship with God by addressing God as “Father” and acknowledges He is aware of God’s plan, their agreement, and His participation in God’s plan, but Jesus also surrenders His will to God, the Father – “I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42)
Prayer is relationship work.
At times, prayer can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining. Jesus is in agony praying earnestly, sweating blood (Luke 22:44). God, the Father responds to Jesus’ prayer by sending an angel to strengthen Jesus to fulfill God’s redemptive plan. (Luke 22:43)
When Jesus returns and finds His disciples sleeping, He shows His frustration that they have forsaken their access to God through prayer. The disciples’ actions display they don’t understand importance and power of prayer to resist temptation, nor do they comply to Jesus’ request for them to pray for themselves. The disciples have forsaken what is theirs – an intimate relationship with God through prayer.
This prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane by Jesus qualifies as persistent, and the intensity of the request is present. Jesus was praying so persistently “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44)
Did Jesus, the Son have enough faith for God, the Father to grant His request and “please take this cup of suffering away from me.” Absolutely! Jesus is God! He has perfect, unified faith in God, the Father and their relationship.
In Mark’s account of Jesus’ prayer, Mark records Jesus praying, “Abba Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36, NASB) Jesus saying, “All things are possible for You” would signify His complete faith in God. Therefore, the highest degree of faith in God is present in Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer!
If Jesus’ prayer demonstrated persistence and exhibited complete faith, why did God not answer His request as Jesus desired – “please take this cup of suffering away from Me”? (Luke 22:42, NLT)
The answer Jesus received from God is die a sacrificial death for all sinful humanity. Go and endure the excruciating pain and suffering of death on cross and absorb the wrath of God, the Father to provide the way for humanity to have a relationship with God. The response Jesus receives to His prayer is not favorable for Him by any means. But what was Jesus’ full prayer? – “remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36, NASB) God listened to Jesus’ prayer and responded to Jesus’ prayer in such a way that their relationship commitment was affirmed, and their character was displayed. God was true to Himself – His relationship with Jesus, His promises to humanity – His love and His justice was displayed. God granted Jesus’ request for His will to be accomplished and sent angels to strengthen Him to fulfill God’s plan.
Why is prayer so important to your spiritual growth?
Prayer is about being with God, communicating with God, knowing God, and trusting God. You choose to be with God and communicate with Him about everything. You trust that God listens and responds to your prayers when you talk with Him. You trust in God’s character to remain constant and true to who He is – both loving and just – in response to all your prayers. God is faithful to His commitment to be in a relationship with you through your belief in Him (Jesus). This is God’s plan – for you and Him to do life together!
Prayer is your most powerful possession as a follower of Jesus!
Not because your requests are granted, but because you have continual access to God. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:14-15, NASB1995)
God is committed to a relationship with you! Only a sovereign, all-powerful God could obligate Himself to such an enormous responsibility of having a personal relationship with you such that He listens and responds to every prayer you pray.
God has obligated Himself to listen and respond to your prayers because God made a commitment to you when you responded to His invitation for a relationship with Him through Jesus’ redemptive work. Only God can make and fulfill such a bold and magnificent relationship commitment.
Prayer is important to your spiritual growth because prayer is how you remain connected to God and do life together with Him.
God is faithful to His commitment to be in a relationship with you, so don’t forsake something that is already yours – access God through prayer and begin growing in your relationship with God!
Watch the LIVE REPLAY of our discussion on prayer. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.