We have all heard many great lessons on prayer, yet prayer is such an important part of our Christian life. It is always useful to have a different perspective. These are a few insights from the gospel of Luke and the life of Jesus.
1. A habit of prayer
Jesus prayed a lot, that much is clear.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
It says that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed".
At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.
We see Jesus going to a solitary place at daybreak, presumably to be with God. Jesus was an early riser! No laziness in this man's life.
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"
Jesus is praying in private. It seems it was not unusual for the disciples to be looking for Jesus only to find in prayer by himself.
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.
In the same chapter, Jesus takes some of his disciples with him up a mountain to pray.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Jesus tells them to pray and not give up.
"It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be a house of prayer' ; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"
Jesus is upset because the house of prayer has not been shown respect.
Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives,
It says that Jesus would go up to the Mount of Olives every evening, and ofcourse he goes there on the night before his betrayal to pray.
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.
40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."
41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.
46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
There are lots of instances of prayer in Jesus' life. It really was part of who He was.
How are we doing in this area? Is prayer a big part of our Christianity or just twenty minutes that we sometimes forget? So many of us feel tired, burnt out, we don't see miracles in our life, we are losing hope and faith, yet if someone were to ask us how much we pray, would we feel ashamed to answer? Prayer strengthens us, every area of our life and don't we need strength!
2. Lots of spontaneous prayers of praise and thanks
46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
Mary breaks into a long prayer of thanks.
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us--
72 to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."
Zehariah does the same. By the way if you having a "low" day prayer wise you can use one of these to spice up your quiet time.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The shepherds start praising God spontaneously.
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
It says that Anna used to worship God all the time. In the next verse she starts thanking God for Jesus. How often do we thank God for Jesus? We are probably more likely to thank God for the wonderful life we have and all the blessings God has given us. There is nothing wrong with that in itself but those things may disapper and maybe they are not blessings (who knows?) but Jesus stays forever, in good times and bad times.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.
Jesus praises God before feeding the 5,000. In another passage, Jesus starts praising God joyfully.
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
What we can notice through the study of this point is that prayers of praise were spontaneous and frequent. There was no big show or preparation, but any time, any place, for many different reasons, people would start praising God spontaneously. Let's do that more.
3. Very few specific needs induced prayers
While we see a lot of examples of spontaneous prayers, we don't see so many of specific prayers geared at specific needs. That is not to say the disciples and Jesus did not pray for particular problems but the majority of their prayers seem to have been prayers of praise and thanks. That is an interesting insight for us today. Most Christians probably spent a small part of their prayer time in praise. Infact many of us have a difficult time praising God. We run out of words, we repeat ourselves, we get distracted or bored. We then quickly proceed to our needs and to a certain extent to the needs of others. A few examples in the book of Luke..
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her.
Jesus prays for Peter's mother in law.
In Luke 5, he intercedes for the man with leprosy. In Luke 8 he helps Jairus. In chapter 9 after the transfiguration he heals a boy (v42).
4. Limited actual teaching on prayer
Jesus hardly taught anything on prayer. He would explain if someone asked him, example his disciples in chapter 11. But overall his influence in this area was through praying with others, in front of others, or by his personal example.
One of the only other instances where Jesus taught on prayer is found in Luke 18 (the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector).
The impact Jesus had on others in terms of prayer was mostly by osmosis and imitation and not so much by teaching. This is an interesting point to ponder.
Prayer was present in Jesus' ministry, probably much more than it is in our own lives today. Let us be inspired by his example and draw on the untapped power God keeps in store for us.