Prayers of JESUS
Some might question why JESUS gives us the example of a very brief prayer when HIS own prayer in John 17, fills an entire chapter. The answer is of course, we are not HIM. What is suitable or required of us is not necessarily what is required of GOD's SON. There are at least 4 things mentioned in HIS prayer that can never apply to us. Verse 1 speaks of HIS glorification that was to come from HIS death on the cross, verse 2, HIS ability to give eternal life, verse 5, HIS presence with GOD before creation.
Finally, in verse 6, HE begins what has been of the utmost importance to us, HIS intercession for mankind. This was the beginning of what HE has done for the 2000 + years since HIS ascension into heaven. See Rom. 8: 34, 1 Tim 2: 8, Heb. 7: 25. HE starts by initially praying for the believers/disciples who were present in HIS earthly ministry. In verse 20, however, HE expands the intercession to include you and me when HE said,
". . . them also which shall believe on me through their word . . . .". HE is of course speaking of the word that the disciples will later start disseminating. The remainder of the prayer is for our benefit. It includes what HE expects from us and what HE anticipates GOD will do for us.
We have four other instances of JESUS praying in which the words HE used are given.
There are several verses that tell us HE gave thanks for food, but we are not given the actual words HE used.
- Matthew 26: 39-44, Mark 14: 36-41, and Luke 22: 41-44 all relate CHRIST's prayer in the garden when he asks that if it could be GOD's will that ". . .the cup" might pass from HIM. HE was of course speaking of HIS impending execution.
- In Matthew 27: 46 & Mark 15: 34, HE questions why GOD is forsaking or turning away from HIM in HIS crucifixion.
- In Luke 23: 34, HE prays for those who are persecuting HIM. This prayer is in keeping with HIS secondary instruction on prayer that we find in Matthew 5: 44, in which HE advises the disciples about dealing with adversaries. HE told them to ". . . pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
- HIS final prayer from the cross, "FATHER, into thy hands I commend my spirit" is found in Luke 23: 46
- Matthew 26: 26-27
- Mark 14: 22-23
- Luke 22: 19
Prayer of others
Through out the remainder of the New Testament, we have accounts of the apostles and other believers praying. In several instances we are told for what they prayed. See 2 Cor. 13: 7, Phil. 1: 9, Col. 1: 3, 2 Thes. 1: 11, James 5: 14. With the exception, however, of Stephen's short prayer when he was being stoned, we have no further record of the actual words used in anyone's prayer. See Acts 7: 60.
There is at least one time in which praying in the presence of others is called for. In James 5: 14-15, we are told that the elders of the church are to be called upon to pray over someone who is sick. It is not enough for them to pray from church or their own home; the scripture calls for " . . . anointing him (the sick person) with oil . . .". That means that the elders physically have to be with the sick person. Are they to pray audibly? James doesn't say, but I prefer to think not. Even though somewhat public, this is still very much communication with GOD and should not be what you think the others present might want to hear.
Scripture records a few times when the early believers seemed to be praying in the presence of each other: Acts 1: 14, Acts 12: 5, Acts 16: 16.
Most of the apostle Paul's prayers about which he writes are of an intercessory nature, not totally unlike that of JESUS in John 17. While they are a deviation from the example CHRIST gave us in Matt. 6, they may still have been acceptable in HIS sight. We should acknowledge that Paul's intercessions were the result of the HOLY SPIRIT's intervention in his prayer life. See Romans 8: 26-27. In either case, it is not the purpose of this work to judge Paul's communication with GOD nor do we seek to analyze or criticize the prayer life of contemporary man. The purpose of our effort is simply to present prayer as it is found the Bible and encourage you to act as scripture directs you.
To whom should we pray?
None of what we have studied thus far is of any value if we ignore to whom our prayers should be directed. In CHRIST's instruction in Matthew chapter 6, HE refers to FATHER 4 times in verses 6 - 9. In verse 6, we are told specifically to pray to our FATHER and that HE hears and responds when we pray correctly. Verse 8 speaks of HIS prior knowledge of our needs. In verse 9, we are instructed to address HIM directly.
If we accept that our heavenly FATHER is GOD ALMIGHTY, then there can be no doubt that we are to pray to GOD.
There are some verses that refer both to JESUS and the HOLY SPIRIT as being our intercessor or mediator with GOD. See Heb. 7:25, Rom.8:26 & 27, 1 Tim. 2:5. This simply means there is someone between us and GOD, someone who gives us access to HIM. Never is this more true than when we pray. Paul says in Romans that we should look to the HOLY SPIRIT for guidance in our prayer life. In John 14:13, JESUS tells us that we should ask (paraphrased, pray) in HIS name. Although we are directed to pray through them, there is no place we are told to pray to them.
In spite of the wide spread practice that exists, there is no scripture calling for prayer to saints or angels. Communication with angels is found through out the Bible, more in the Old Testament than the New, but nevertheless, in both. Angels are given many duties from praising GOD to being servants, messengers, executioners, as well as others, but no where do we find where they receive or answer prayers directed to them.
Finally, in order for our prayers to be answered, the Bible gives us two conditions that must be met:
Below, most of the scriptural references to prayer have been categorized as to what they teach us. You are encouraged to read each of the passages to see if they have additional meaning for you. As is often true in the gospels, some of the verses are repeats of the same instruction or record, but don't skip any of them. Because of the different wording, you may realize something from one that you did not see in another.
Matt. 6: 9 says in part, "Our FATHER which art in heaven . . . ." To address GOD as our FATHER indicates that we are HIS children. If you are not certain of being HIS child, please visit Heaven in Your Future.
- In 1 John 3: 22 & 23 we are given the second condition, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment." Without belief and love, we cannot expect our prayers to be answered.
Why pray/What to pray for:
Matthew 5:44, 9:38, 17:21, 19:13, 24:20, 26:41, 26:53
Mark 11:24, 13:18, 14:38
Luke 6:28, 10:2, 21:36, 22:40, 22:46
John 17:9, 17:15, 17:20
Acts 8:22, 8:24, 1 Cor. 14:13, 2 Cor. 13:7, Phil. 1:9, Col. 1:19,
1 Thes. 5:23, 1 Thes. 5:25, 2 Thes. 1:11, 2 Thes. 3:1, 2 Tim 4:16
How to pray
Matthew 6:5-7, 6:9-13, 14:23, 21:22, 26:36
Mark 6:46, 11:24, 13:33, 14:32,
Luke 6:12, 11:2-4, Romans 8:26, 1 Cor. 11:13, 1 Cor. 14:14-15,
1 Thes. 5:17, 1 Tim. 2:8
Where to pray
Matthew 6:6, 14:23, 26:36, Mark 6:46, 14:32, Luke 6:12, 9:28,
When to pray
Matthew 24:20, Mark 13:18, 13:33, Luke 18:1, 18:10, Acts 10:9,
James 5:14, Col. 1:9, 1 Thes. 5:17