How did Jesus pray?

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By Vezi Mncwango, author of Transforming Glory, permanently in awe of the miracle of transformation into Christlikeness, one lucky husband and father of four …


During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.

Hebrews 5:7 (HCSB)

The Bible records Jesus praying more than anyone else.

During His earthly life Jesus commanded so much authority that nature, rulers and principalities of the invisible world recognised and obeyed Him. In light of this and the fact that all things were created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16), the fact that He prayed as much as He did is simply astonishing.

Although the Bible provides no explicit reason for Jesus’ attitude towards prayer, His words offer some insight. On a number of occasions Jesus says that He only does what He sees His Father doing (John 5:18; John 5:30 and John 12:49). I believe Jesus’ complete dependency on His Father necessitated His intense attention to prayer. For Him prayer was synonymous with fellowship with His Father. He would therefore have used this fellowship as the source of and direction for all He did.

There is however something rather jarring about what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says. If Jesus used prayer as a platform for fellowship with God, why would it feature loud cries and tears? After all, He was praying to His Father, whom He affectionately called Abba. The writer most likely referred to Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46), so what nature of fellowship is this that it would feature such intense anguish?

At times Jesus spent all night in prayer, like when He grieved the death of His cousin, John. Could this prayer also have been filled with loud cries and tears as Jesus wrestled with the pain of sudden separation from John? Whatever the answer, it is clear that Jesus’ fellowship with His Father was not always a calm and serene affair. At least once their fellowship was emotionally painful and intense, resulting in loud cries and tears.

Jesus’ death and resurrection ultimately purchased for us what was most precious to Him – the privilege to fellowship with His Father. As it was for Him, our intimate fellowship with God might also at times be intense. Jesus did not purchase for us a magical formula that would provide us with instant answers to life. He purchased the privilege to fellowship with His Father in good times, confusing times and painful times.

Jesus’ worldview was informed by His relationship with His Father. Thus, in Luke 22:42 (HCSB) at the height of His anguish He cried, “… nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” This is why He said He and His Father were one (John 10:30). His deepest agony, as He prayed with loud cries and tears in the garden of Gethsemane, was the stark reality of impending separation from His Father.

The desire for independence from God is what separated man from God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus, through prayer, modelled for us what He came to restore – our privilege to fellowship with His Father. Beholding His glory ushers us into fellowship with Him, in the same way it did for Jesus on earth.

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