The Prayer Life of Jesus

By L. J. Fowler

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


If for a moment, we were to discard our Bible and were to seek in human knowledge an explanation. of the One Who walked in Galilee healing the sick, comforting the sorrowing, rebuking in scathing terms the hypocrite, controlling even the forces of nature herself, we would find that we were facing the greatest enigma that has ever entered upon the pages of history. From whatever angle we approach Him, whether to study some phase of His matchless teaching or to view His perfect life, we find Him an unsolvable riddle. We are baffled by this One Who is so lowly and yet so mighty, and thus we must remain till we are willing to receive the testimony of the Word of God and confess with the centurion at the Cross, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” No other explanation can fully satisfy any or all of the recorded facts of the life of Jesus Christ. The Infinite declaration to finite man is that He was ‘God manifest in the flesh.” He was a man who was also God. Any study of the life or teachings of Jesus which would disregard this explanation must of necessity be valueless. He must be seen as the One Who was fully God and fully man, the Second Person of the Trinity taking “upon Himself the form of sinful flesh.”

It is in full recognition of this infinite declaraiton of fact that we approach the study of the Prayer Life of Jesus. Why One Who was God must needs draw aside from the throngs of Judea into a solitary place to pray, we cannot say. The infinite realm has joined itself to the finite and God gives us in His Word no explanation. But the child of God reaches out and receives in simple faith God’s statement of infinite truth. As man, He was subject to all the testings which come to man, “was tested in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” Therefore He must pray. And pray He did. From His baptism in Jordan as He entered upon His public ministry, until His last moment on the Cross, His heart was being. poured out to the Father in supplications and thanksgivings. He breathes forth His loving petitions for His disciples, cries out in awful agony in Gethsemane that the will of the Father may be done through Him, asks forgiveness for His enemies, and lifts His soul to the Father in thanksgiving at the tomb of Lazarus that He has been. heard. To discover what prayer meant in His life as man, that we may learn what prayer may accomplish in our lives, is the purpose of this study.

Prayer and Transformation

It  is with sorrow that we face the fact that a great host of those who fill our churches today have become so engulfed in the worldliness and modernism of this hour that there is left but little desire for a transformed life. Few indeed are those who could say:

“My tears have flowed, when

     I have thought,

  How little I resemble Thee,

How weak at best, when I

     have sought

  Thine image to reflect in me.”

Oh that there might be raised up in our day an ever-increasing number who have a wistful longing to be in the likeness of Jesus!

That prayer does bring transformation is beautifully set forth in the event which occurred on the mount of transfiguration. Matthew records the fact that the Lord took with Him Peter, James and John and went into a high mountain and there was “transfigured before them” (Matt. 17:2). It is interesting to note that the word here translated, “transfigured,” is the same Greek word which is rendered “transformed” in Romans 12:2 where Paul's appeals to the believers at Rome not to be “conformed to this world,” but to be “transformed” by the renewing of their minds, The explanation of what was back of the transfiguration or transformation of Jesus is recorded by Luke. He says:

“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering” (Luke 9:28-29).

‘There is just one path of living the transformed life, Paul says that it is made possible by getting a renewed mind. The Holy Spirit speaking through Luke declares that it is by prayer. And what is prayer but getting a new mind? It is changing the habit of the mind from dependence on self to dependence on God. ‘The prayer which brings transformation is the prayer that recognizes the weakness of the flesh and the glorious strength of the Lord. Prayer brings transformation.

Prayer and Guidance

One needs but to give to the Gospels a casual read ing in order to have the fact indelibly impressed upon the soul that the life of Jesus on this earth was but the living out of a plan which was scheduled long before He became the Son of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. We find that He must needs go through Samaria; that He knew the very hour in which it was the Father's purpose for Him to go to Jerusalem that He might suffer on the Cross. His life is. preserved because His hour is not yet come, and He Himself declares to the Father that He has finished the work which He was sent to do. His was a life lived in constant communion with the Father, and which fulfilled in every detail the Father's plan for Him upon this earth.

How unlike is His life to the lives of those who name the name of Christ today. For the most part, Christians walk in the path of their own choosing. From childhood they are encouraged to choose their own calling, and so thoroughly has the thought become instilled in the souls of the youth of our day that to talk to a young man or a young woman about letting God's plan for the life have pre-eminence is to receive the response that one is treading on sacred ground. In John 17:18 Jesus utters these remarkable words in His intercessory prayer to. the Father:

“As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Jesus was sent into the world to live out a definite plan which the Father had ordained. He came to do the will of another. Likewise we too are sent forth to live out the plan, the will, which another has ordained. It is that “good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ‘The question naturally comes, “How may I know and do the will of God?” ‘The answer is to be found in an outstanding event in the life of Jesus:

“And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom. also He named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).

This is the only recorded instance in which Jesus prayed “all night.” Again and again He withdrew Himself and prayed, but never did He pray all night, as far as the record is given, except just preceding the time when He chose His disciples. Here were men who were to receive the teachings of Jesus; would be witnesses of His death and resurrection; and were to be used by God in giving the divine record of His life. The Father's will must be known in such a task. And to prepare Himself for that eventful day, Jesus prayed. If this One Who was without sin must needs pray for guidance, how much more should we whose souls have known so much of rebellion toward God learn to pray if we would know and do His will.

Prayer and Service

Jesus Christ is God's only anointed Prophet, Priest and King. Every prophet of Israel, every priest and every king were only pictures of the true Prophet, Priest and King—Jesus Christ. John calls Him in the Book of the Revelation, “The Faithful Witness, the First Begotten of the Dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the Earth.” He came two thousand years ago as Prophet, He is now Priest, and He is the coming King.

As the Prophet of God, He spoke forth the words of God. He was the perfect witness, the perfect servant and minister. In the first glimpse we have of Him in His public ministry He is praying. He is at Jordan, and Luke describes the incident thus:

“Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened” (Luke 3:21).

He prays. It is the secret of the perfect life of the perfect Prophet of God. It is the natural thing for Him to do. And not only do we find Him praying as He steps upon the scene of His public ministry, but His life is filled with prayer. His prayer life divides itself into three groups.

First, we find Him entering into that phase of the prayer life which must be the basis of all true praying. He prays alone. Five times, it is recorded, He went apart to pray. He goes into a solitary place, into a mountain, or into the wilderness. (See Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16, 9:18; 6:12 with Mark 329-14.) It will be found in reading the events which precede each time of solitary prayer that Jesus had either healed or fed a multitude. At one time Peter interrupts His prayer time and urges the human reason for omitting prayer, “All men seek Thee.” Charles G. Trumbull stated a deep truth when he said, “Those serve best who pray, and they serve while they are praying.” How slow we have been to learn this lesson, and yet how necessary it is for us to realize that no service is sufficiently important to crowd out our time alone with Him.

Again, Jesus took aside a small group of His disciples, Peter, James and John, and prayed. He promised that “where two or three are gathered together in My name there am J in the midst.” Ina singular’ way God has blessed this phase of the prayer life in the lives of His children, Samuel Mills and four of his fellow students of Williams College fired in the hearts of the Christian people of America the first spark of foreign missionary enthusiasm by such a prayer time under the shelter of a hay stack. ‘The great Torrey-Alexander world evangelistic campaign had behind it such a prayer time. Many are the testimonies which might be brought of God's blessing on the earnest cryings of the small group of His believing children. It has the Divine sanction.

Third, we find Jesus praying in public. He prayed with all of His disciples present, when many brought to Him the little children, and when the five thousand were present as He blessed the five loaves and the two fishes.

Does not such a prayer life condemn all of us who would enter into service for Him? May God’s children learn in this hour of great need that any service which is not backed by fervent, believing prayer is not service—it is a mockery of God.

Prayer and Testing

There are places where the Christian cannot presume to go. He can never tread the path to Calvary and receive the wrath of a righteous and holy God, neither can he enter Gethsemane where Jesus went alone, bearing a load too heavy for human strength. We may, however, make an application which will be of blessing to us.

‘There is nothing in the Word of God to indicate that the Christian life in this age is to be a bed of roses, On the contrary, Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Jesus did not pray that we should be shielded from the testings of this world, but that we should be kept “from the evil one.” ‘The truth about testings is declared in I Cor. 10:13:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is commen to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you “to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

What a relief is brought to the soul by the knowledge that there is “a way to escape.” However, it is well for us to keep in mind that there is also a sure way to defeat. The two paths may be clearly seen in the things which transpired in two memorable gardens. It was in a garden that the First Adam lost the victory in his conflict with Satan and thereby brought ruin upon the race, and it was in a garden that the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, defeated the Adversary and made possible’ our eternal salvation. ‘The first Adam faced a testing and willed to do the will of Satan, but the Second Adam yielded to the will of God. ‘The First Adam prayed no prayer but rested on his own wisdom, but the Second Adam fell on His face and prayed, “and being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” By nature we partake of the tendencies and habits of the First Adam. We even yield to the will of Satan and refuse to pray. But by the strength of the New Man, which is Christ in us the hope of glory, we may yield to the will of God and learn to pray. This is the only Divinely appointed way by which we can face the testings and bear the burdens of this life. When the load seems to grow just a little too heavy and the path is enveloped in darkness, “‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding” may in a moment flood our souls as we commit our way unto Him and with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane simply say, “Father, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

The life of Jesus was a life of prayer. Although being very God of very God, He was “found in fashion as a man,” and as man He prayed. By His example He has taught us that all transformation is dependent on prayer; that guidance may be received through prayer; that true service is impossible without prayer; and that the testings of this life can only be met as we learn to pray.