The Prayer Life of Christ by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I confess that sometimes when I pray, at a feeling level, I feel like nobody is listening. I can’t see God. I can’t sense Him at times. When I pray, I need faith that what I cannot see and what I cannot sense is nonetheless true, and that God is there and that He is hearing, He is listening, and that He will answer.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, April 5. Throughout the Lenten season, we’ve been studying the life of Jesus, following an outline in a book by Oswald Sanders. Here’s Nancy in the series, The Incomparable Christ.

Nancy: Today, we want to look at one more thing that makes Christ incomparable, no one like Him. That is the matter of His prayer life. The prayer life of Christ. Jesus was a man of prayer, and He prayed because He was a man. That is part of His taking on our humanity. It’s an expression of His sense of dependence as a man, the fact that He prayed to His heavenly Father.

As humans, we are needy and dependent; we are not self-sufficient and independent. We need provision, protection, direction, wisdom, help, comfort, and encouragement. God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is the source of everything that we need.

Prayer is humbling ourselves, acknowledging that we are needy, and asking God—who is the one who has it all—to help meet that need.  That means prayer is the greatest expression of dependence that we can offer to an all-sufficient God. It’s a recognition that we know we need Him.

As I was thinking this week, it struck me that if we truly believed that we are needy and He is all-sufficient, willing, able to meet our needs, we would pray! The fact is, we don’t pray more. Let me make it more personal. The fact is, I don’t pray more because because I don’t realize how needy I really am. I have a proud and self-sufficient spirit. Or, I don’t believe that He is able to meet my needs. Or, I don’t believe He is willing to meet my needs.

If I knew I was needy and that He was willing and able, then I would pray. So, if I don’t pray, then something is wrong in what I’m believing.

You can’t really know Christ without really considering His prayer life. It’s definitely one of the most important things about Him. It’s one of the things that comes up in Gospel accounts—particularly in Luke—over and over again. Sometime read Luke and circle every reference to prayer. He was a man of prayer.

I want, in this session, to make 10 observations about the prayer life of Christ. Nothing really profound here, nothing you probably haven’t heard before. But as I’ve been meditating on Christ as a man of prayer, and my desire to become a woman of prayer, here are 10 things I’ve observed about the prayer life of Christ that should encourage and motivate us.

1. He prayed to His Father. His prayer life was based on a family relationship. The fact that He prayed to His Father reveals the intimacy of His relationship with His Father. His prayers were not just grocery-listing God, as mine so often are—please do this, and please do that, and don’t forget this and I need this. His prayers were so much more than that. He was spending time with someone that He knew intimately, that He loved, and longed to spend time with.

It occurs to me that Psalm 27:4, which is one of my favorite verses, is something Jesus could have said:

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple (NKJV).

Jesus had that longing to be with His father. So His prayers were birthed out of a relationship with His Father.

2. Prayed often. He prayed a lot. Not just a little, but a lot. Sometimes He got away from the crowd for the express purpose of praying; but other times, you find Him praying in the course of His daily activity and routine. As you read through the Gospels, you see that key moments of His life were marked by prayer—His baptism, the choosing the Twelve, the Mount of Transfiguration, the feeding of the 5000, the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross—these are key moments that were marked by prayer.

But He also prayed in the not-so-key-moments as a way of life.  He prayed after full day of ministry, when he was tired. He was a man. You know, drop-dead bone-weary tired. He prayed before starting new day of ministry, with people pressing in on Him and things to do and places to go. He prayed as part of every day life. Every occasion was an occasion for prayer—for communication with His Father, keeping that line open. No event, no happening, no detail was too great or too small to be a matter of prayer. He lived praying and died praying. He prayed often. It was a way of life for Him.

3. He prayed alone, and He prayed in company with others.

In Luke 5:15 we see an instance where we’re told Jesus prayed alone with His Father.

Now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray (vv. 15-16).

So at times He left the crowd—He left the press and the the responsibilities, deadlines, and demands. I was an intentional act on His part. He went to desolate places where He wouldn’t be interrupted or distracted, and He prayed. We also know there were moments when He went to those desolate places and He was trying to get alone and the crowds followed Him.

One thing I love about the Savior is He never got ripped at the crowd. I find myself sometimes when I have those desolate places that I want to study and seek the Lord, the crowd comes in and I can get irked about the very people the Lord has sent for me to serve. Those of you who have little children, you know hard it is to ever really get away from the crowd. Sometimes getting away to a desolate place doesn’t mean you send them to camp or you leave home for a week. Sometimes it means that in the midst of the crowd you find a quiet place in your heart.

Jesus knew how to do that also, to be serene in the midst of a crowd. He prayed when He was alone with His Father, but He also prayed in public settings. Luke 3 tells us that He prayed at His baptism. John 6 tells us that at the feeding of the 5000, He raised His eyes towards heaven and gave thanks—a very public setting. John 11, at the tomb of Lazarus, He prayed. So, he prayed in public settings.

Then, He prayed with His disciples. I have to believe that apart from the times He prayed alone with His Father, those times praying with His disciples must have been very special for Him and for them.

Luke 11 says,

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

So Jesus was with His disciples. They were seeing Him pray. They were hearing Him pray. They were somehow around when He was praying, so they were motivated to say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come”” (vv. 1-2).

He took with him His disciples into the place of prayer. You see see this again on the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9, “He took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray” (v. 28). He took them with Him. He prayed with them.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was with His disciples. When He went to pray, He moved a stone’s throw away, but the way He was praying was earnestly. I can’t help but believe that the disciples knew what was going on. They could see Him, likely. They perhaps could hear Him as He was praying.

I think Jesus praying with others sets a pattern for us praying within the family of God.  We pray together, “Our Father who is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). I know some people are not really comfortable praying with others. But I want to tell you, it’s a sweet thing as we experience this on our staff. Some evenings, I call my mom and pray a blessing on her at the end of a day, occasionally. Pray with those that you know and you love. Seek the Lord together.

On our staff, we love praying together. Not only do we love it, we need it. We’re desperate. Our team will have stand-up prayer meetings. We’ll hear about a need from one of our listeners or something that is going on in the ministry, and they’ll spontaneously get together. Lots of praying going on. Not because we’re super-spiritual, but because we need the Lord, and we need Him together. Let me encourage you to make the most of that opportunity.

Well, I got a little waylaid there, I didn’t mean to spend so much time on one point. Let me move on to some of these others.

4. Jesus always found time to  pray. He was certainly busier than any of us could be—when you think about His to-do list being the whole plan of redemption that He had to accomplish in three years. But He never got so busy that He didn’t have time to pray. It was always a priority with Him.

I was discussing this chapter with some friends that I meet with to have them give me insights into these sessions. One of the gals on the call said that one of the first things when she got to this chapter on the prayer life of Christ in Oswald Sanders’ book was to pray against guilt. I know that feeling. “I’m not a pray-er; I’m going to feel so guilty.” She said, “But as I read this chapter, I realized that Jesus really viewed prayer as His most important work. He would put down all His other demands to do that. I was inspired by reading this chapter to pray when my work is overwhelming.” That’s a good word of encouragement. Jesus always found time to pray.

Who of us can compare our workload with His? Who among us deals with more distractions and interruptions than what He faced each day? His were life and death situations. Things like, “Come now! My daughter is dying.” “It’s too late; she died.” It’s really things pressing in on Him. Emergencies everywhere. But He found time to pray. If anyone could justify skipping or rushing through times of prayer, it would seem Jesus could have. But in the busiest, most pressured seasons of His life, He prayed more, not less.

I was reading another book on the life of Christ, doing some meditation for this series, and I came across another old writer who said, “We make busy schedules and pressing demands a reason for not praying; Jesus made it a reason for praying.”1 Good word there, isn’t it? Jesus always found time for prayer.

5. Jesus prayed for the things that He knew would please and honor His Father and advance God’s Kingdom. He cared about that than He cared about His own well-being. He was always submitting His will to the will of His Father.

I love that passage in John 12:27 where Jesus says,

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. [I came to die, that is why He sent me here. So what does He pray? Not Father save me from this hour. But instead He prays] Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (vv. 27-28).

In His case, glorifying the name of God meant enduring the cross. His own desires were always subjected and submitted to the things that would please and honor His Father.

“Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you’” (John 17:1). That was always the goal. Do whatever it takes to for You to be glorified.

6. Jesus believed God heard Him when He prayed. He prayed in confidence and faith that God would hear and would answer His prayers. At the tomb of Lazarus in John 11 it says, “Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I know that you have heard me’” (vv. 41-42).  Did you know that you can have that same confidence when you pray? You say, “I’m not Jesus!” Well, listen to this verse.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).

He believed that God heard Him when He prayed and that God would answer.

Do you believe that when you pray? I confess that sometimes when I pray, at a feeling level, I feel like nobody is listening. I can’t see God. I can’t sense Him at times. My prayer life is not one of these—when I read about some people that just felt the presence of God—that’s not often true with me. When I pray, I need faith that what I cannot see and what I cannot sense is nonetheless true, and that God is there and that He is hearing, He is listening, and that He will answer.

7. Jesus prayed much during the days of His passion. That’s the week we’re coming up to in this series, of the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion of Christ. Holy week. He prayed much in particular during those days. In Luke 22, you see Jesus in Gethsemane. We’ll do a whole session on that instance. We hear Jesus praying on the cross. Shortly in this series we’re going to take a look at the things He prayed on the cross.

I want to take a look for a moment here at John 17, the high priestly prayer of Jesus—the real Lord’s prayer—that Jesus prayed in the upper room in Gethsemane. This is an intimate look into the prayer life of Christ. Let me just give you an outline for that chapter.

  • He prayed for Himself. (Jn 17:1-5)
  • He prayed for His disciples. (Jn 17:6-19)

He said, “Keep them in your name, that they may be one, even as we are one” (v. 11); “Keep them from the evil one” (v. 15); “Sanctify them in the truth” (v. 17). He prayed first for Himself, then He prayed for His disciples.

  • Then, I love this, He prayed for us!

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word [that’s us!], that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory (vv. 20-26).

Think of Jesus praying those things for us. It shows His heart that He prayed for others when He might understandably have been consumed with His own needs. He prayed for Himself, He prayed for His disciples, He prayed for us, but above all—in His prayer life during that passion week and throughout His life—He prayed for the glory of God, for the will of God to be done.

Just hours after praying that prayer in John 17, He prayed in Gethsemane. He said to disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:41). Isn’t it interesting that the disciples slept and fell into temptation; Jesus prayed and He  overcame temptation. He conquered sin and death. He purchased our salvation. The thought occurred to me last night as I was meditating on this passage, imagine what if He had not prayed? What if He had slept when He was supposed to be praying?

We can’t answer that because He would only do His Father’s will. But just think about it. What if He had slept instead of praying? Would He too have been overcome by temptation? Jesus did not sin and He could not sin, so it’s a preposterous question. But aren’t you glad He prayed? I wonder what difference it would make in our lives if we prayed instead of sleeping. Of course sleep is a good gift, too. There’s a time to sleep, but there’s a time to wake up and pray.

8. Jesus prayed earnest, passionate prayers. Not ho-hum prayers. I think sometimes our prayers put God to sleep, if that we’re possible. He must be up there wondering do they really care whether I do what they’re asking. Does this really matter to them? I think God could think that way about a lot of my prayers. Not Jesus!

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence (Hebrews 5:7).

We’ll come to the Garden of Gethsemane in just a little bit in this series. How few of us have little sense of what it means to agonize in prayer as Jesus did.

9. Even when He was abandoned by His Father, and God refused to answer, He still prayed. We know that Psalm 22 is a Messianic psalm. It’s words that Jesus prayed from the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (vv. 1-2).

When Jesus became sin for us, God turned His back on His Son. But Jesus kept praying. In the darkest and bleakest hour of His life, He demonstrated, through His prayers from the cross, faith that God was still there. Even when He couldn’t feel or couldn’t sense it.

Praise God. For those who are in Christ, God will never forsake and abandon us. But at times it feels as if He has. Am I right? We cannot sense His presence, cannot see what He is doing. The question is, will we, like Jesus, keep on praying anyway?

10. Jesus is still praying. He continues praying for us today in heaven. He prayed throughout His earthly life. He prayed throughout His passion. He prayed on the cross. He’s still praying! He hasn’t stopped praying. “He always lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God” (Hebrew 7:25). Romans 8:34 tells us that He is “at the right hand of God, interceding for us.” Are you glad?

Thank You, Jesus, for Your prayers for us! Thank You Lord, that You prayed when it was easy and when it was hard, and You prayed in the busy times, when You prayed in the quiet times, when You prayed with others, and when You prayed alone, when You prayed to Your heavenly Father because you knew Him and You loved Him and You longed to be with Him. Lord, we’re encouraged by your prayer life. We’re grateful. We thank You. We ask with the disciples that You would teach us to pray. O Lord Jesus, you are truly incomparable, and we worship and love You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss helping you learn more about prayer through the life of Jesus. That message is part of a series called, The Incomparable Christ. To hear the messages in the series so far, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com. When you’re at our site, you can listen to past programs or read the transcripts.

It’s what a listener from the United Kingdom discovered not long ago. She was sick in bed for several weeks and wanted to use her time wisely. She couldn’t get out of the house for church and says that she didn’t have the energy to read. As she discovered ReviveOurHearts.com, she says,

I soaked up so much of the ministry off of the website—listening daily to the broadcasts, but also listening to series after series from the archives. There was such richness there. and I was so built up in many areas.

No longer confined to her bed, she still listens to the Revive Our Hearts podcast. She goes on,

I feel attacked from all sides in terms of the world’s values, and feel I have come to understand God’s pattern for womanhood so much more clearly through the teaching on Revive Our Hearts.

Women around the world are able to access ReviveOurHearts.com thanks to the listeners who contribute financially and make the ministry possible. Would you ask God what He might have you give to support Revive Our Hearts?

When you donate any amount, we’ll show our appreciation by sending a book from our friend, Elyse Fitzpatrick. It’s called Comforts from the Cross. It’s a series of short daily readings that will help you understand what Jesus did for you on the cross. You’ll understand how His sacrifice applies to your life each day. Elyse writes in a very personal, practical style while pointing you to deep truths we celebrate during the Easter season.

We’ll send you Comforts from the Cross when you donate any amount atReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1-800-569-5959.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus agonized in prayer. Why did He approach His upcoming trial with such anguish? It wasn’t only the pain of the cross. Something far deeper was at work. Consider the sole anguish of Christ tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Scriptures for Meditation

  • Luke 3:21-22; 6:12-13; 9:28-29; 22:39-46; 23:34—Examples of when Jesus prayed in key moments of His life

  • John 12:27-28; 17:1—Jesus’ prayers were born in submission to the Father’s will.

  • John 11:41-42; 1 John 5:14-15—Jesus had confidence that His prayers were heard, and so can we!

Making It Personal

  • Jesus felt it necessary, in His humanity, to rely on the Father. Do you sense this in your life? Consider John 15:5: “Without me you can do nothing.” How would embracing this truth change your prayer life?

  • Do you have the confidence that God hears you when you pray? If not, what might be standing in the way, robbing you of intimacy in prayer?

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