THE GOSPELS 92
JESUS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
We have just finished John’s account of Jesus as “The Good Shepherd”. I think it is appropriate that we move now into Luke’s record of Jesus’ use of and attitude toward prayer. The relation between these two subjects will be clearly seen when we note Jesus’ prayer life and teaching about prayer.
Many times during His ministry, the Bible says, Jesus went apart to pray. Have you ever wondered what these prayers were for and why He did it so often? Certainly, His prayer was not to inform God of what was going on. God, who is always present and knows all, does not need to be informed. Nor was Jesus needing instruction for His mission. He obviously knew where He was going and what He had come to do. He told His disciples, more than once, about what the future held for Him. So, as He told His parents when He was only twelve, He knew that He was “going about His Father’s business”. Then why did He so often engage in prayer?
In His prayer, recorded in John 17, Jesus speaks of the love the Father had for Him, and the glory they shared even before the world began. So His prayer time with the Father was sharing the trials of His everyday life on earth and the anguished anticipation of the Cross with the One who loved Him and who also shared the anguish because of that love. It was a closeness with His Father and His Shepherd, as David had referred to God. The only One who could comfort
Him in all His trials.
Jesus never considered prayer as a group activity, nor as a formal ritual. With Him, prayer was a very personal communion with the Father. God is not limited in space and time as we humans are. He can, and does, give us a personal listening ear as we share our hearts’ desires with Him. As it was with Jesus, our prayers are not to inform God of our needs. He knows. Nor are they to tell Him what we want Him to do. His wisdom is greater than ours and His love surpasses our understanding. He alone knows the future, and, therefore, His answers will always be the best for us.
In Jesus’ prayers, He acknowledged the presence of the Father and His dependence upon Him. He expressed His faith and love by submitting His will to the Father, and by recognizing that He was dependent on the Father for all things. If we, like David, are to have God as our Shepherd, then our prayers should be like this also.
Prayer, as Jesus made so emphatic, is not for men to see our piety, nor is it a ritual we perform as a part of our “program” of worship. Luke, the only Gentile writer of the Gospels, was not present for the Sermon on the Mount. So the account of the Lord’s Prayer, which he gives here, is a recording of what those who were present told him. He considered it important enough to include in his report of the ministry of the Lord. Every word of this prayer is fraught with sacred and deep meaning and should never be ritually droned without a sincere recognition of what we are saying.
To Jesus, prayer was a personal communication with the One closest and most important to His life. It is the kind of communication we have with our closest and most beloved friend. It is not for instruction or information, but for closeness, and a display of our loving relationship one on one. God is not just our Creator and King. He is our Father, and He wants the love He has for us to be reflected and shared in our prayer life. The Lord is our Shepherd, and He is concerned personally with every sheep. Only when we recognize this are we really praying to Him.