Since writing my post on prayer last week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about prayer. So, to help anyone who sometimes struggles with prayer like I do, I decided to do another post on prayer this week… with a different perspective.
Jesus Christ is our Ultimate Example. He was and is perfect. His prayers are no exception. Here are 4 prayers that Christ gave and some of the things we can learn from them:
The Lord’s Prayer
I was hesitant to talk about this one, because the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 is more of an example of how prayer should be set up, approached, performed, whatever.
But there are actually a lot of things to take away from this simple outline of prayer.
For anyone unfamiliar with these verses, here is the Lord’s Prayer:
9) After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11) Give us this day our daily bread.
12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.Matthew 6:9-13, King James Version
It’s pretty simple and straightforward, right? There are a couple of things I noticed though.
First, Jesus shows no expectation of receiving blessings.
Instead, He humbly acknowledges God’s authority and power, accepting that whatever God decrees is what will happen.
When he does ask for blessings, He asks for necessities. Jesus keeps His focus on His Father and not on trivial things. His request for forgiveness (which He obviously didn’t need, being perfect) includes the condition of forgiveness to others.
Having no expectation for blessings but recognizing God’s love and power can humble us as we seek for divine help and guidance. We are asked to offer “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20) when we come to God, and humility is key to that action.
Pray in humility, and God will eagerly accept your supplication.
Second, Jesus hands everything over to God.
God is all-knowing and all-powerful. I think that can be hard for us to comprehend. Personally, I sometimes think that I approach God with the idea that I know more about what is going on than He does.
Not a good idea.
This goes back to humility as well. After all, there is NO WAY I know more about anything than God does. He’s God, for crying out loud.
Jesus’ example of sincerely asking that God’s will be done, no matter what, reminds me that I don’t know better than God. It also reminds me that relying on Him will lead me to where I need to go and help me do what I need to do to progress and become more like Him.
The Lord’s Prayer, though just a simple outline, clearly demonstrates the attitude and perspective we should have as we approach God in prayer.
In absolute essentials, our prayers can be comparable to the Lord’s Prayer. Ensuring humility will strengthen our relationship with God as we pray because we will be able to see both God and ourselves more clearly.
Christ’s Prayer Before Raising Lazarus
A little context on the circumstances of this prayer:
Jesus was close to a family with three siblings – Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (in no particular order). Near the end of Jesus’ own life, Lazarus became extremely ill. His sisters reached out to Jesus, who was teaching in another city and asked Him to come and heal Lazarus.
Jesus waited a few days before journeying to see them. Along the way, He received word that Lazarus had died.
Jesus continued on and came to Martha and Mary. He cried with them, and they asked Him why He had been slow to come. They believed Jesus could have saved Lazarus if He had come before Lazarus died.
Jesus asked to see Lazarus’s body, already buried in a tomb. They approached the burial spot and opened it for Jesus.
At this moment, just before the miracle, Jesus gives this prayer:
And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.John 11:41-42, King James Version
After giving this prayer, Jesus called Lazarus back to life, to the joy of everyone around.
I believe that this prayer is one of the most powerful parts of this touching story. Jesus performed miracles frequently, but He is rarely recorded praying before the miracles.
This prayer is significant in two ways:
- Gratitude is the focus. Jesus doesn’t ask for a SINGLE THING in this prayer. The only thing He does is thank His Father in Heaven for always listening.
- Jesus gives all of the glory to God before He even performs the miracle. He reminds everyone listening that He is God’s Son and Servant.
Gratitude aligns well with humility. When we are humble, it is easier to see blessings and exhibit gratitude.
But gratitude’s power in prayer is bringing us closer to our Father in Heaven by acknowledging how much He does for us. He gives us everything we have and we often take it for granted.
Jesus thanked God for simply listening to Him. Though Jesus is perfect, I’m sure He had many times when He poured His soul out to His Father, and His Father listened.
Just recognizing such a simple blessing can change our whole perspective. It doesn’t take a big thing.
Jesus also didn’t take the glory for bringing Lazarus to life. He immediately established that His work is God’s work and that everything He’s doing is because of and through God, His Father.
Let’s face it – we’re not perfect. But we can still play a role in God’s work. If in our attitudes and prayers we can attribute it all to God and give Him the glory, we will be aligning ourselves with Him in everything we do.
Stepping back and focusing a prayer onto thanking God for all He does for us can change our perspective on prayer. It can be a way of reminding us that we are talking to our Father, not to empty space.
Christ’s Prayer in Gethsemane
According to Matthew 26, Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the first one, He said:
O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.Matthew 26:39, King James Version
The second and third prayers are stated as being identical and are similar to the first prayer:
O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.Matthew 26:42, King James Version
It’s hard to imagine this moment. Jesus was suffering more than any human ever could. He was doing so out of incomprehensible love for us.
It isn’t surprising that He prayed and asked that another way be taken if possible. But even in that moment of weakness, He demonstrated the true, deep strength and faith He had to keep going and accept God’s will.
No matter what He had to do.
The second and third prayers show a greater acceptance, with Jesus’ assumption that the cup would not pass away from Him.
This is something I struggle with.
Last week, when I wrote about prayer, I mentioned a time when I thought I had the answer I wanted… and I was wrong. (See last week’s post here.)
It’s possible that a big part of my problem in that situation was that I was unwilling to accept God’s will at the time. I wasn’t fully aware of my struggle to accept His will, but looking back, it’s a lot more clear.
The biggest take away from this prayer – and really, all of Jesus’ prayers – is that willingness to accept God’s will, no matter what His will is, will guide us exactly where we need to go.
It’s really a matter of learning to trust God. If trusting Him is difficult, maybe start with smaller things. Just talk to Him about what is going on in your life. Ask for help with little things, and as those answers come so will trust.
Another action that could help build trust would be studying the scriptures for other examples of prayer. How have other people prayed? How has God responded?
Taking a moment to check-in and evaluate our prayers could help us see where we could work on improving trust and accepting God’s will.
Then prayer might not feel like such a struggle.
Christ’s Prayer with the Nephites
After Jesus died and was resurrected, He told His followers that He would visit His “other sheep” (John 10:16).
Some of these “other sheep” were the Nephites in America.
He visited with them for several days and visited various times after the first visit. But during that first visit, He gave some powerful prayers. Most of them are not recorded word for word because they are so sacred. But there is one prayer He gave that is fully recorded, and that is the one I would like to focus on here:
20) Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.
21) Father, I ask thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.
22) Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.
23) And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.3 Nephi 19:20-23
Again, we see some repeated themes of gratitude and humility. These are consistent attitudes in Jesus’ prayers, which suggests that they are attitudes that we should mimic.
There are a couple of things that are different from the other prayers given:
Jesus specifically prays for the people.
He really focuses on those people He is with. Jesus talks with His Father about the people, what He loves about them and what He hopes for them. It demonstrates love and joy in His righteous followers.
Which leads into the other thing I notice about this prayer.
At the end of the prayer, Jesus states that He wants the people to be as close to Him as He is with the Father.
This is something He wants for all of us.
As imperfect creatures, we may not be there yet. But that is, I think, the ultimate goal of prayer and the gospel – to be one with Jesus and Heavenly Father.
So maybe the best way to evaluate where our prayers could improve is to ask whether or not they are bringing us closer to our Father in Heaven and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ prayers set the example for us in our prayers. Though prayer will always be a struggle when one is seeking answers, paying attention to Jesus’ habits and attitudes in His prayers can help us be open to the answers God wants to give us.
Let’s take the time to evaluate our prayers this week. Let me know how it goes! Also, comment below with any other insights you have about Jesus’ prayers.
Have a lovely week, everyone!
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