Pray continually.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
My niece is a senior in high school. In a few short months, she will walk in procession with the rest of her class to receive her diploma. It seems like yesterday she was a baby asleep in my arms.
As a child, she loved to talk with me. She started the minute she saw me and continued until I left. She told me stories of her day, tattled on her brother and explained her plans for the future. Sometimes she talked so much, I had to reminder her to take a breath every few sentences.
Now that she is a young woman, our conversations are not as lengthy, but I still love them. When my phone rings and I see her name on my screen, my heart does a little dance. Her willingness to reach out to me makes me shout for joy.
God must have the same reaction when we reach out to him in prayer. The authors of the Psalms knew how to pray. They communicated with God on every occasion – when they were thankful, happy, angry, sad or hurting.
Jesus also knew about prayer. Like Paul advises in 1 Thessalonians, Jesus was in constant prayer with the Father. It was the center of his life.
When he chose to leave the heavenly realms of glory to walk among us, his lifeline to God was through prayer. It was so important that he taught his disciples how and when to pray. We can learn a lot about prayer from his teachings.
1. Jesus prayed alone.
The phone rings. The television is blaring. The kids are screaming. Activities of the day want our immediate attention and pull us in many directions.
Jesus may have felt this way. He was in constant demand to heal the sick and debate political issues with the Pharisees. But throughout scripture, we often see him taking a break from these disturbances.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16
He did not wait until the crowds were gone and no one was left to debate with him. Instead, we often see him leaving the crowds and sending the disciples ahead of him so that he could spend time alone with God. His prayer life came natural to him.
2. Jesus prayed with others.
Jesus not only taught his disciples how to pray, he encouraged them to pray together. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
God’s presence in prayer unites us together. We become aware of the needs of others and can provide comfort. Life can be hard and there are not always answers. Sometimes we don’t know what to pray or maybe we just can’t pray. That’s when the prayer community takes over and prays for you.
3. Jesus prayed before a meal.
Praying before meals was a common practice. Jesus used this ritual to remind his disciples of the blessings God has provided in the food placed before them.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Luke 24:30
Praying before each meal is a reminder that that all things come from God. He is the source of everything we have.
4. Jesus prayed for others.
Before Jesus was arrested and hung on the cross, he prayed for his disciples. He knew their mission was not going to be easy and prayed for their protection.
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9
He asked God to bless them with perseverance, unity, and spiritual satisfaction as they witnessed to the world.
5. Jesus prayed for us.
Last, but not least, Jesus prayed for us. That’s right. He prayed for each and every one of us, even though we would be born in this world for many, many years.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” – John 17: 20
And he has never stopped praying for us. He is our delegate, who stands before the throne of God and intercedes on our behalf.
Jesus prayed because he could do nothing without God, and neither can we. It is important to spend time in prayer every day.
I wonder if our Father’s heart does a dance when we go to him in prayer like I do when my niece calls. I bet he does. And I bet he is waiting for you right now. Go ahead. Reach out to him in prayer today.