Love. Live. Preach. Teach.—Live Him, Part 5

December 6, 2011

by Peter Amsterdam

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The last of the principles I’ll present under Live Him—the Prayer Principle—is one that interconnects with virtually all the other Live Him principles, and is central to our Christian lives.

The Prayer Principle

Prayer was a major factor in Jesus’ life and ministry. There are numerous references throughout the Gospels of Jesus praying. He taught His disciples to pray, they saw Him pray, they heard Him pray for them, He gave counsel about praying. Prayer was an integral part of His ministry. The fact that Jesus made a point to pray and to teach His disciples about prayer indicated it’s an important part of discipleship.

Taking time alone in prayer was a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life. He took time away from the crowds, and sometimes from His closest followers, to pray. He also prayed in His disciples’ presence.

Now even more the report about Him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their infirmities. But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.[1]

Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”[2]

He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed.[3]

Now it happened that as He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him.[4]

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”[5]

Seeing Jesus’ example of prayer had a definite impact on the disciples, as evidenced throughout the book of Acts, which often speaks of them praying. Prayer is important in our lives; it’s part of our communication with God.

Before many of the major events, miracles, and decisions in Jesus’ life, and right up until the time of His death, Jesus spent time in prayer.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”[6]

Now about eight days after these sayings He took with Him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.[7]

In these days He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples and chose from them twelve, whom He named apostles.[8]

Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land. And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.[9]

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”[10]

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[11]

Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” And having said this He breathed His last.[12]

Jesus gave His disciples instructions on how to pray.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”[13]

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.[14]

He told them some things they should pray for:

He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”[15]

I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.[16]

He also taught them how not to pray.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.[17]

Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.[18]

Jesus taught about being persistent in prayer.

He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily.”[19]

Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.[20]

He taught the power of prayer, that prayer gets answered, and that prayers should be prayed in faith and confidence—knowing that God is all-powerful and that nothing is beyond His capability to answer and do.

If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.[21]

Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.[22]

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! [23]

He exhorted His disciples to watch and to pray against falling into temptation and sin. In other versions of the Bible, watch yourselves is rendered as be on guard, take heed, be careful, be concerned.

Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.[24]

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.[25]

Jesus prayed for others.

Then children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and went away.[26]

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.[27]

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.[28]

As shown by the accounts of His praying before His arrest, Jesus prayed desperately.

Going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.[29]

He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.[30]

And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.[31]

Through the example, instruction, and information Jesus gave to His disciples about prayer, its importance is evident. Prayer is a means of communicating with God, of abiding in Him. It’s a means of connecting to His power. It’s a means of loving and helping others as we pray for them. It’s a means of guarding our spiritual life and health. It makes a difference in the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching as we pray for laborers and then pray for those we are ministering to. It gives us the opportunity to humble ourselves before God, as we pray desperately and implore His help, and when we forgive others and ask Him for forgiveness.

As disciples, we are called to pray, and prayer is woven throughout the elements of discipleship. Loving God, living for Him, preaching Him, and teaching Him, all require prayer.

Disciples pray.

(To read the next article in this series, click here.)

[1] Luke 5:15–16.

[2] Mark 1:35–37.

[3] Luke 22:41.

[4] Luke 9:18.

[5] Luke 11:1.

[6] Luke 3:21–22.

[7] Luke 9:28–31.

[8] Luke 6:12–13.

[9] Mark 6:45–48.

[10] John 11:41–44.

[11] Luke 23:33–34.

[12] Luke 23:46.

[13] Matthew 6:9–13.

[14] Mark 11:2 5.

[15] Luke 10:2.

[16] Matthew 5:44.

[17] Matthew 6:5–8.

[18] Mark 12:38–40.

[19] Luke 18:1–8.

[20] Luke 11:5–8.

[21] Matthew 21:21–22.

[22] Mark 11:24.

[23] Luke 11:9–13.

[24] Luke 21:34–36.

[25] Mark 14:38.

[26] Matthew 19:13–15.

[27] Luke 22:31–32.

[28] John 17:9.

[29] Mark 14:35.

[30] Luke 22:41–44.

[31] Matthew 26:39, 42–44.