If prayer is much like talking, then it should come naturally. But if prayer is the “breath of dependence,” then it doesn’t seem as easy. And that’s because, depending ain’t easy at times (especially the more independent we become). Of course, there’s the fact, too, of talking to someone we can’t see or audibly hear that makes this kind of “religious” expression more elusive to us. There are sinful reasons that we don’t pray that complicate the endeavor, too, but have you ever thought: If Jesus is God, why did he have to pray?
We know from John’s Gospel that the three-in-one Godhead enjoyed perfect loving fellowship in eternity past and before Jesus became human (John 17:24). We know from Jesus’ earthly parentage that he would have been reared to pray.
Here are three thoughts on why Jesus needed to pray.
- He prayed to maintain fellowship with his Father.
Curiously, Jesus prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21). Jesus would often get up long before everyone else and get away to be with his Father (Mark 1:36), or at times he’d spend the night in solitary prayer (Luke 6:12). After he had his disciples chosen, he took select ones up a mountain to pray at which time his glory was “peeled back” a little (Luke 9:28-29).
- He prayed to model prayer for the rest of us.
Jesus didn’t need to pray because he was (and still is) God. He needed to pray because he was (and still is) human. Hebrews 5:7 candidly tell us how it was: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.” Jesus confessed his dependence on God, but unlike us he never had to confess sin. He knew how to pray as one tempted. He modeled dependence from start to finish. If Jesus was dependent on God the Father, so we need to be, too.
While the prayers of the Old Testament, Psalms and the Apostles are exemplary, no single prayer gives us the headliners or categories to pray than the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-11; Luke 11:1-4). His disciples asked for instruction on prayer, and this is what he gave them. It is a jam-packed, massive prayer. You cannot merely recite this periodically as a formula or good luck charm.
- He prayed to ask God specific things for us (intercession).
Though Jesus prayed for himself (in the Garden of Gethsemane), his is a ministry of prayer for us. Around the last supper, Jesus predicted Simon Peter’s denial and said: “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:30). That prayer wasn’t immediately answered, but it was eventually and fully answered. Then, Jesus prayed what has been famously dubbed his “high priestly” prayer in John 17. He was praying for the disciples who were in front of him, and he prayed for their disciples, too (Us!). In fact, Jesus who is physically in heaven is still praying; not for himself but for us. How beautifully Hebrews 7:24-25 says this: “because Jesus lives forever and has a permanent priesthood… He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he ever lives to intercede for them.”
If Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray! The fact that Jesus displayed his fellowship with God through prayer and modeled how and what to pray give us confidence (Hebrews 10:19) that we can pray. Jesus’ isn’t some impossible model to mimic. God doesn’t dangle impossibilities in front of our eyes to gloat in our failures. He answers impossibilities in his righteous Son, Jesus, who becomes our possibility for everything good and lasting; even praying. So, fight the temptation to throw your hands up in frustration that you can’t do it. Bank on his perfect prayer life to infuse your prayer life with power and effectiveness (James 5:16b).
If Jesus Needed to Pray, So. Do. We.