Jesus taught His disciples to pray—in response to their request—by teaching them the “Lord’s Prayer.” But that is not the only way He imparted the need to have a vibrant and rich prayer life to His disciples—He modeled it before them. Jesus lived a life full of prayer; His ministry was marked by time spent with the Father.
There is a simple reason why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
They noticed His prayer life.
They longed to pray in the same way that they had often observed their Master pray. This should be true of all of Jesus’ disciples. We should desire to pray like Jesus.
In addition to studying the Lord’s Prayer, we can look at Jesus’ actual prayer life during His earthly ministry in the hopes of learning to pray like Him. When did He pray? What did He pray for? How long? What details are mentioned in relation to His prayers and prayer life? What are the circumstances surrounding His times of prayer? Trying to answer questions such as these will help us learn to pray like Jesus.
When Did Jesus Pray?
At night. Luke 6 records that Jesus prayed at night—actually, in this case, all night long. At the end of a long and stressful day, and faced with making an important decision the following morning, Jesus made sure to spend time in prayer. We would be wise to follow His example. Often our days are filled with stress, anxiety, decisions, and busyness. All that can create a sense of chaos and uneasyness in our souls. We need to calm down, get synced up with the Father, and experience His presence if we are to face another day. I would also submit that spending time in prayer at night would help many sleep better. One aspect of prayer is taking the weight we feel in our souls and on our backs and giving it to the Lord. Doing this nightly may help many experience better rest.
In the morning. Mark 1:35 shows us Jesus beginning His day with prayer. Jesus knew He needed some solitude for communion with God and sought after it in the early hours of the morning. How different would our days go if we were to begin each day with prayer? How many situations would we be better equipped to handle? How many people would our eyes be opened to who are in need of ministry? We don’t know what each day holds and this should steer us towards a humble trust in the Lord that comes through spending time in prayer.
Before important life events and decisions. Jesus prayed before He was baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit, before entering into public ministry, before choosing the twelve disciples, and, really, before all important events during His earthly ministry and life. What an example to follow! The decisions we make are important and there are life-changing events that every person walks through. To ensure that we handle the pressure well, make wise decisions, and honor the Lord, we should be sure to spend time in prayer concerning important life events and decisions. All too often we simply make the decision we want and expect God to make it work out the way we want it to. That is not the example that our Lord provided for us.
After great victories and in times of crisis. When ministry seemed to be going well and when ministry seemed to be having little impact, one thing remained constant in the life of Christ—prayer. The New Testament records Jesus slipping away to pray after long days of ministry that included both positive and negative interactions. Both the mountaintop and the valley drove Jesus to commune with His Heavenly Father. This should be our first response as well. Let the victories spill over into praise and thanksgiving and allow difficult circumstances to lead us to cry out for help and wisdom.
Before he ate. It is a common practice among Christians to pray a prayer of thanksgiving before receiving their meals. Why? Because Jesus did the same. Matthew 14:19 and Luke 24:30-31 record Jesus giving thanks before consuming a meal. This simple and short time of prayer is an acknowledgment that God is ultimately the Provider of all things—He alone can sustain us. It is easy to spot the many blessings we enjoy—like warm and tasty meals—and we should pray that we receive them with the right hearts.
When life was busy. Busyness is not something only 21st Century Americans experience. Imagine being the Son of God, able to heal the sick, and perform miracles. This would surely attract quite the crowd—and it did. Almost everywhere Jesus went, there were crowds and ministry to be done. And imagine the level of desperation that most had when trying to get to Him. For some, He represented their sick child becoming well, a beloved family member returning to their old self, or some other seemingly impossible action being done. And in the face of all this busyness, Jesus made time to pray. It actually seems the busier He got, the more He prayed. It is tempting to think that because of our busy lives and schedules, we just don’t have time for concerted and focused daily prayer. But the opposite is true. Because of our busy lives we cannot afford to neglect prayer. It is dangerous to lead such busy lives without the empowerment and leading of the Holy Spirit. It is dangerous to lead such busy lives without being committed to prayer.
At the end of his life. The last words of Jesus were addressed to His Father—a prayer. Even as He suffered on the cross, Jesus prayed. Pray was not a last resort for our Savior. He wove prayer into anything and everything He experienced. It’s what sustained Him and kept Him going. It was His comfort in the face of death and the great joy in His life. Oh, that the same could be said about us.