By Bob Hostetler
Special to Inside The Pew
If anyone exemplifies the blessed life, it is Jesus. Though he never owned a home or car, and never held season tickets for his favorite baseball team (the Cincinnati Reds, in case you were wondering), he lived a singular life. A rich life. A healing life. A life filled with laughter and song. A life that exuded beauty and blessing. One man, however, has not only read the Bible numerous times. He has also written it. Every word. By hand.
But how did Jesus live such a life? How did he get those riches? Was he born to such blessing? Did he bring those things with him from heaven? Were such blessings his because he was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah? Or did he access those blessings in the same way we can?
I think the snapshots of Jesus we see in the Gospels show us exactly how he— who was thoroughly human in every respect, yet without sin—managed to live the kind of life he did. I think they depict how we can live the Christ life, too. And I think they reveal that his blessed life was due in large part to his prayer life. Prayer was critical to Jesus. It was essential to his connection with the Father. It was vital to the water-to-wine, walking-on-water, lunch-for-the-multitude, and victory-over-sin-and-death kind of life he lived. It was the source of his ability to speak like no one else, before or since. It was the conduit by which he healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. And it will be no different for us, if we learn from the top seven prayer secrets of Jesus:
He prioritized prayer. The Gospel writers often said things like this: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he
departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35, ESV). In my book, rising before the sun indicates commitment! The Gospels make it seem like prayer, to Jesus, was like a letter from home to a soldier or prisoner—refreshing, reinvigorating, restorative, required.
He prayed relationally. Not a single prayer of Jesus begins, “O Thou Ineffable, Invisible, Intangible Ruler of All…” He said, “Father.” In Aramaic, “Abba.” It was a way of praying that not only assumed a close relationship, but relied on it. And he made “Father” the first word (in Greek) in the prayer he modeled for his followers.
He sought the Father’s agenda. When Jesus taught his first followers to pray like him, he told them to pray, “May your Name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10, CJB). In other words, according to Jesus, prayer is first and foremost about the Father, not about us. It is not about getting things from God but entering into partnership with God and seeking his glory, his kingdom, his will.
He kept it simple. As a first century Jew, Jesus was heir to some of the most beautiful and eloquent prayers ever spoken. But his prayers—at least the ones his biographers recorded—are about as simple and earthy as they come. Like, “Make them one,” Forgive them,” and “Take this cup from me.”
He kept it authentic. Two of Jesus’ most famous prayers seem to be amazingly vulnerable: When he prayed, “Get me out of this,” in Gethsemane, and “Where are you?” on the cross. I’m paraphrasing, of course (his actual words were “Take this cup from me” and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Still, those two moments provide a glimpse into the raw authenticity of Jesus’ prayer life. He didn’t pray platitudes; he prayed authentically, sincerely, even bluntly.
He was specific. Jesus apparently never prayed “bless them” prayers. For example, he prayed for Peter’s faith to withstand Satan’s attacks (Luke 22:31-32). And he told his followers to do likewise. He could have taught us to pray, “Bless us” or “Provide our needs.” But he didn’t. He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11, KJV).
He kept at it. Luke recorded, “At about that same time he climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God” (Luke 6:12, The Message). On the night of his arrest, he prayed three separate times, while his closest friends dozed nearby. Like the friend at midnight and the importunate widow in two of his parables, he prayed insistently and persistently.
Clearly, to Jesus, prayer was “the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings,” as St. John Chrysostom would call it. Jesus’ connection to his Father was key to his enjoyment of life, command of the elements, authority over sickness and Satan, and more. It was prayer—not his special status or privilege—that strengthened him in dark times and blessed him in brighter days. And so it will do for us, if we simply apply a few of his secrets in prayer.
Bob Hostetler is a writer and speaker whose 36 books include The Red-Letter Prayer Life (which inspired this article). He is also the author of the iPhone and iPad app, “31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids,” and blogs twice a week on Guideposts. He and his wife live in southwest Ohio.