January 31-February 1, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Jesus in Prayer
#1—Jesus Prays: an overview of Jesus in prayer
Do you ever wish you were a better pray-er? I do, and let me tell you why.
Being a Christian is having a relationship with God.
Relationships are built one conversation at a time.
Prayer is a conversation with God.
So if you want to be close to God, you’ve got to talk with Him. The better pray-er you are, the more and better conversations you have with God, the closer to God you will be. I want to be close to God—since you’re here, I assume you do too. So this month, we’re going to learn how to pray by watching Jesus, and try to get better at it so we can be closer to God. Deal?
Last year about this time, we did a five-week series on prayer entitled “Jesus on Prayer.” I’m sure you all remember it! We looked at Jesus’ teaching on prayer—Jesus said a lot of radical things that revolutionized the way we pray.
This year we’re changing the preposition—from “on” to “in”. Last year was Jesus on Prayer—His teaching. This year, it’s Jesus in Prayer—His example. We’re going to watch Jesus pray.
Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
The disciples watched Jesus pray, and they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We’re going to watch Jesus pray too. When did He pray? What did He pray? How did He pray? And we’re going to ask the same question: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Our goal is to become better pray-ers so we can be closer to God.
Today, we start with an overview of Jesus praying through the gospels. Here’s:
The Big Idea: Jesus prayed a lot! If the sinless Son of God needed to pray, how much more do we!
Here’s the first thing:
1. Jesus prayed a lot.
By the time we go through all these verses on your outline, you’ll be thinking, “Wow! Jesus prayed a lot.” Yes, He did—and that’s the first thing we can learn from Him. It was His habit to get alone and talk with His Father. A few examples:
Matthew 14:22–23 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
In Matthew 14, Jesus learns that John the Baptist has been beheaded. He withdraws to a solitary place, presumably to grieve. But the crowds somehow found out where He was going and followed him. Now at this point, I would have drawn a line. “Give a brother a little space! Take a hike and leave me alone!” But when Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, spoke to them and healed their sick. When evening came, His disciples said, “Time for a break. Send them away to get some dinner, and let’s chill.” (I’m translating directly from the Greek.) But Jesus said, “You feed them.” And of course, Jesus ended up using a young boy’s sack lunch to feed over 5000 men, not counting women and children.
How many of you think that after all this, He might have been exhausted? So what does He do next? He sends the disciples by boat across the lake, He dismisses the crowd, and “He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”
Jesus emptied Himself, gave Himself away to people, then He replenished Himself alone in prayer. We’ll see this rhythm repeated in every passage here. Stand before people, kneel before God. Give to people, receive from God.
There is a profound lesson here. Solitude with God—getting alone to pray—is one of the most powerful ways to refuel your sagging spirit. Jesus was in high demand—everywhere He went, people pressed in to touch Him, to listen, to receive. It had to be draining. Yet in the midst of a packed, intense and demanding schedule, Jesus made time to get alone with His Father. He made time for unrushed conversations with God. Without doing this, without spending unrushed time alone with God, we get depleted. We get overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, tapped out; we feel far from God. Does this ever describe you? Then you need to make time for God.
ILL: I remember when I learned the difference between finding time and making time.
In high school, I played three sports, led in student government, was active in drama and music, and kept a high GPA. My schedule was full, and I tried to find time for God. At night, I was so tired that I’d often fall asleep reading my Bible. So I tried to find time in the morning. But I grew up with 5 younger sisters—and one bathroom. Do you how long it takes a teenage girl to get ready for school? Until she’s 22! It was a scramble every morning! I struggled to find time for unhurried conversation with God.
It was the same in college. I was taking a big class load, trying to graduate in three years (don’t ask me why—I have no idea), playing college basketball, and traveling with a Christian band. I struggled to find time for God.
Then I read a book by E. Stanley Jones that changed my life. He said that we don’t find time for God, we make time. We don’t squeeze God into our schedule; we build our schedule around God. If our relationship with God is truly the most important relationship in our life, we give God the best time. When am I at my best? Make some time there, and build the rest of your schedule around it. We don’t find time, we make time for unrushed conversation with God.
I started getting up early every morning and giving God the first hour of my day, and my relationship with Jesus grew like crazy.
When was the last time you had an honest, unrushed conversation with God? Make time for unrushed conversation with God.
A couple more examples of Jesus in prayer:
Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Here is this rhythm again. Give to people, receive from God. Jesus had been up late into the night teaching and healing people. Yet he got up early in the morning, while it was still dark, and went off alone to pray. He made time for unrushed conversation with God.
Luke 5:15–16 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Here is this rhythm again: give to people, receive from God. People crowd around Jesus; they want access, they want something from Him. And He generously gives His time, His energy: He teaches, heals and feeds. Yet He often slips away alone to pray; He makes time for unrushed conversation with God. He empties Himself for people; He fills up with God.
Friends, if Jesus needed to do this, how much do we? Make time for unrushed conversation with God. Whenever I do this, I always come away filled, refreshed, energized. Make time for unrushed conversation with God.
2. Jesus prayed with gratitude.
Whenever Jesus broke bread, He always prayed with gratitude. He thanked God for the food. Have you ever seen this famous Norman Rockwell painting? It reminds me of this story:
ILL: A man whose wife had left him and he was completely depressed went to a small diner for breakfast one rainy morning. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. This miserable guy hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon.
In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by asking loudly, “Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?”
The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, “Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?” And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, “Bow your heads.”
Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen.”
That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, “We should do that every morning.” The depressed man wrote, “All of a sudden, my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl’s example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stop majoring in all that I didn’t have. I started to choose happiness.” Hold that thought.
Christians through the centuries have prayed a prayer of thanksgiving over their meals. This practice comes from Jesus’ example. When He fed the 5000 in Galilee with that sack lunch, He gave thanks first.
Mark 6:41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.
Later, when He fed the 4000 in Decapolis, He gave thanks first.
Mark 8:6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so.
At the Last Supper, the final meal He shared with His disciples, He gave thanks first.
Mark 14:22–23 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
Every time we see Jesus eating, we see Him praying first, pausing to thank God for His provision. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He saw God as our Father we ask to provide, and the One we thank for that provision.
Here’s a thought. What if every meal was a reminder of the goodness of God in your life, and so was a catalyst to thanksgiving? I pray over my meals, but honestly, it tends to be perfunctory. Routine. We can say rote prayers.
God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. Amen.
Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive through thy bounty through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Yay God!
There’s nothing wrong with these prayers—except for the last one—if they are prayed from a truly grateful heart. But it’s easy to reduce this to nothing more than a perfunctory nod to God. What if I was truly grateful? What if the meal reminded me of God’s goodness in every area of my life and I prayed with gratitude? What I’m suggesting is not simply saying grace over meals, but being truly grateful and expressing that in prayer. “A new frame of mind in which I thank God for all I have.”
Jesus not only prayed with gratitude over meals, but at other times as well. Here’s an example.
Luke 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
So what can we learn from watching Jesus pray? I want to pray with gratitude. It’s easy for prayer to turn into sanctified whining. We constantly come to God with our hands out, asking for more. We’re like Bob with Dr. Leo Marvin: “Gimme, gimme, gimme. I need, I need, I need.” What do you do with people like that? You avoid them! I don’t want God to see me coming, and take cover! I want to pray with gratitude.
Just for clarity: I don’t really think God will avoid you, or take cover when He sees you coming. It’s good to ask for what you need. Jesus taught us to do that. But it’s also good to be grateful for what you have. Jesus modeled that. The apostle Paul wrote:
Philippians 4:6–7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Present your requests. Tell God what you want. But do it with thanksgiving. Thank God for what you have! When was the last time you prayed with gratitude? When you remembered all of God’s goodness and simply thanked Him? Pray with gratitude.
3. Jesus prayed before every big moment.
When you read the gospels, you will notice that Jesus is praying before every big event in His life. He seems to face every big moment on His knees.
Jesus was praying at His baptism.
Luke 3:21–22 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus’ baptism was the official start to His three years of ministry. It was His going public event. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as He was praying, the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the Father spoke His blessing, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus prayed all night before He chose the 12 apostles.
Luke 6:12–13 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.
This was a big deal! Jesus knew that He would be leaving His entire enterprise in the hands of this small band of brothers. So He spent an entire night praying about whom to call.
Jesus prayed before revealing who He was to the disciples.
Luke 9:18–20 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
This was another turning point moment. From this time on, Jesus began to explain to His disciples what it meant to be God’s Messiah. He explained that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer and die and be raised from the dead. Notice that Jesus was praying before He asked the question that would change everything.
Jesus was praying before the Transfiguration.
Luke 9:28–29 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
Jesus takes the inner circle up onto a mountain to pray, and there they are given a glimpse of Who He really is. It’s no coincidence that this unforgettable mountaintop experience happens while they are praying.
Jesus prayed when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus prayed with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He went to the cross. And of course, Jesus prayed on the cross, as He gave His life for us. We’ll look at those prayers more closely in the weeks to come.
What I want you to notice is that at every big moment, every turning point, we find Jesus praying.
Have you ever faced a big moment and felt totally unprepared? Would you like to be ready for whatever life throws at you? Would you like to be ready those big moments when they come? How did Jesus do it? I think there are two answers.
First, when Jesus knew a big moment was coming, He got ready. He prayed first. When He knew He was going to choose the 12, He prayed first. When He knew He was going to the cross, He prayed first. He got ready for big moments by praying first.
What big moments are you facing? When you know a big moment is coming, make time and get alone with God. Get your heart ready. Ask for God’s presence and power and wisdom.
ILL: This week, I’m traveling. I go to LA to meet with the President of our denomination and a small group of pastors. It is an opportunity to influence the direction of our denomination—something that could affect all our churches. So I’m praying…
Then I go to Eugene where I’ll speak at my alma mater, Northwest Christian University. It’s an opportunity to influence hundreds of students. So I’m praying…
Those are two big moments I’m facing this week. What are yours?
It could be an important conversation you need to have with someone.
It could be something happening with your family or your job.
It could be a decision you’re facing that you know will have huge consequences.
Get your heart ready—pray first. It’s what Jesus did.
Second, because Jesus prayed often, He was ready for the big moments when they happened. In other words, He didn’t just get ready, He stayed ready. And some of the big moments happened because He was praying!
There will be lots of big moments that you can’t predict, that you can’t prepare for. But if you’re praying regularly, you’ll be ready. And some of those big moments will happen because you’re praying! God will respond to your prayers and big things will happen.
ILL: I told my mentor groups this past week that one of the biggest turning points in my life and ministry happened in my devotions one morning. It was one of those days that I didn’t get much out of the Bible reading, but I wanted to write something down to show I’d done my devotions. So I dutifully wrote a couple sentences, and set down my pen. Then God spoke and changed everything! I wasn’t expecting a big moment; I was just faithfully doing my PBJ—prayer, Bible, journal. But God showed up and this ordinary moment became a big moment, a turning point in my life.
Jesus seemed to meet every big moment on His knees. He was praying. I want to do the same. So when I know a big moment is coming, I want to pray first. But I also want to be praying faithfully, regularly so that I’m ready for the big moments when they come.
4. Jesus prayed for people.
Jesus not only prayed for Himself, but for others. Jesus prayed for children who were brought to Him.
Matthew 19:13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
Jesus welcomed children and prayed for them. He prayed “for the least of these.”
He prayed for Simon Peter. At the Last Supper, Jesus predicts that Peter will fall away and deny Him.
Luke 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
“I have prayed for you, Simon.” Obviously, Jesus prayed for His disciples. I wonder if Simon found comfort in these words. “I have prayed for you, Simon.” Jesus clearly expected His prayer to be answered, for He told Simon that when he turned back, he should strengthen his brothers. He predicted Simon’s fall, but He prayed and expected Simon to turn back. “I have prayed for you.”
Here are two take-homes from this. First, I should pray for people. If you only pray for yourself—well, that’s not the Jesus thing to do. Of course it’s ok to pray for yourself and your needs, but you can’t stop there. Jesus prayed for people; we should too. Who should you pray for?
Your family and friends.
Those in need: the sick, hurting, hungry, suffering, lonely.
Leaders: civic and spiritual. 1 Timothy 2 tells us to pray for kings and all in authority. Paul often asks the churches to pray for him and his ministry—so pray for spiritual leaders.
Those far from God. Many of us have a Love List. This is a list of people we love who are not yet following Jesus. Our mission is to help people find and follow Jesus, and that starts by praying for these people. Who do you know and love who needs Jesus. Would you write their names down and pray for them every day?
Pray for others—it’s the Jesus thing to do!
There’s one more take-home. If you could pick one person in all the world to pray for you, who would you pick? Pastor Noel? He’d be good. Here’s who I would pick: Jesus. (Remember: Jesus is always the right answer in church!) Wouldn’t you want Jesus to pray for you? Here’s the good news: He is! Second, Jesus is praying for you! Right now! He’s praying for you and for me.
Romans 8:34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Jesus is at the right hand of God and what’s He doing? Interceding for us! He is praying for you! You are going to make it! Jesus is praying for you! (Say this to someone.)
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Jesus will save you completely! He will finish what He started in you. He always lives to intercede for you. You are going to make it! Jesus is praying for you!
Close your eyes. What is the most difficult thing you are facing right now? Listen to what Jesus says to you: “I am praying for you.” You are going to make it! Jesus is praying for you.
What will I do?
Who will I tell?