Jesus was certainly busy during his three and a half years of ministry on earth. He spent much of his time with people. He taught multitudes and healed many. He had one-on-one encounters with Jews and Gentiles. He constantly traveled with his twelve disciples. But Jesus knew that he needed to spend time with the Father. How many times do we see in Scripture where Jesus withdraws to pray? Most of the time, he is alone when he prays, spending hours, even days, in uninterrupted communication with the Father (Luke 5:16; Matthew 4:2).
Prayer with God should be a constant in our lives. We learn from Jesus’ life that there are times when we especially need to distance ourselves from everything and everyone. Certain circumstances call for intense “us and God” moments. We should withdraw to pray before we make big decisions, as Jesus did before he chose his twelve disciples (Luke 6:12–13). We should withdraw to pray during our greatest times of need for God’s strength and presence, as Jesus did before the events leading to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:36–44). We should withdraw for prayer during those times when we sense an intense attack from the enemy, as Jesus did when the devil tempted him in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
If Jesus needed to pray, there’s no doubt that we need to pray as well. Getting alone with God removes the distractions and allows us to focus on him. Prayer doesn’t change God, as the saying goes— it changes us. It helps us align our motivations and plans with God’s will and his plan for our lives.
What do we say to God when we pray? One day, after Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1–13). We mentioned the Lord’s Prayer in week two, but let’s revisit it as Jesus gives us this pattern for prayer. It begins with intimate words, “Our Father.” The use of the word Father implies both a familial and intimate relationship with God. And the use of Father sets the tone of what is to follow—at the heart of every request is our dependence upon God. During the course of prayer, Jesus also instructs us to pray:
- that God’s name continues to be honored,
- for his will to be accomplished,
- for daily sustenance,
- for forgiveness of our sins as we, in turn, forgive others,
- and deliverance from temptation.
God is not judging our prayers for how eloquent we sound or how many big words we use. He requires only a humble heart. He promises that if we come to him in faith, he will hear our petitions and answer our requests.