Why Did Jesus Pray?
By Dot Bowen
After he had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NIV)
Cup of Joy’s August retreat is fast approaching! As I prepare to speak on prayer, I find myself wrestling with the question, “Why did Jesus pray?” If Jesus prayed to teach those watching how to pray, why did He slip away from the crowds and pray alone? As I pondered this question, I compared the reasons why I pray with why Jesus prayed:
- I pray to seek God’s will for my life. Jesus knew the will of His Father.
- I pray to ask for circumstances to change. Jesus knew what His future held before it came to pass.
- I pray for forgiveness. Jesus didn’t need forgiveness but came to forgive.
- I pray for miracles. Jesus performed miracles.
- I pray when I’m stressed. Jesus is peace.
This comparison brought more questions than answers for me.
The Gospels record Jesus going to secluded places and spending the entire night praying. For the life of me, it’s tough to wrap my mind around why Jesus would leave those He came to die for to pray alone? But when you read Scripture, you find everything Jesus did occurred after He prayed. He called His disciples following a night of prayer. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He first prayed, “I thank you because You have heard me.” Jesus prayed before arriving at the tomb of Lazarus. If Jesus knew what was going to happen, why did He pray? If you knew what was going to happen before it happened, or you had the power to change your circumstances, would you pray? And since we do not have that ability, don’t we turn to God and ask Him to hear our prayers and respond ASAP?
It occurred to me that perhaps I was asking the wrong question. Instead of trying to understand why Jesus prayed, maybe I should instead ask, “What is prayer?” If I understood prayer, maybe I would be able to understand why Jesus was so passionate about praying. As I studied the prayer life of Jesus, I clearly saw that Jesus prayed to talk to His Father.
Jesus possessed the power to change His circumstances. He knew what was going to happen before it happened. Jesus didn’t need anything He could not provide for Himself. Jesus talked to His Father because He loved Him. I understand the desire to talk to the one you love. There are no magical words. There is not a spiritual position we need to assume to talk with Jesus. Prayer is not just asking God to do what only he can do; prayer is simply talking to God. We simply follow Jesus’ example and talk to God because we love our Father.
I have often said, “If I truly believed I was entering into the presence of God when I prayed, would it be difficult to find time to pray or would it be difficult to leave His presence?” I feel a tug at my heart just writing this. I believe Jesus got away to be with His Father because He loved spending time talking to Him alone. There are some people I want to talk to without anyone else around. I want their undivided attention because I adore them so. I’m beginning to realize it’s not lack of time that keeps me from talking to God but my lack of love. Ouch! Perhaps my first request should be to ask Him to give me a greater love for Him.
So, why did Jesus pray? I believe Jesus wanted to talk to His Father because of the love they shared. Have you ever wondered why you—or why you don’t—pray?
Further Reading Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:29 ;John 11:36-44; John 12:36b