How Jesus Prayed

And it happened that Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say…”

–Luke 11:1–2

A friend asked me to pray for her father, who was in an advanced stage of lung disease and desperately needed an organ transplant.

“Please pray for my family, especially for Dad,” she pleaded.

“I will,” I assured her.

During my next devotional time, I remembered my friend’s request and started praying for her father. With boldness, I asked God to give this man a new lung. As soon as those words left my lips, however, a white-hot flash exploded in my mind’s eye. The reality of what I had just prayed flooded my heart and left me suddenly breathless. If God indeed granted my request, then someone healthy would soon die in a tragic accident: perhaps a talented young person with a promising future, perhaps a single parent with small children, perhaps a beloved member of my own family…I stopped praying and started thinking about my prayer.

Thus began one of the most acute spiritual crises I have ever experienced, a crisis which raised some critical questions about my prayer life: How was I praying? What was I praying? Why was I praying? I kept thinking about my friend and her father. I knew that they needed my prayers, but what was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to pray? For many days I struggled with these questions, then one morning I fell to my knees and begged, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

That was perhaps the best prayer I have ever prayed. With those words, I began a journey, an extraordinary journey that has changed not just my prayer life but the very nature of my relationship with God. It has been a journey that has led me through the Scriptures and straight to the heart of Jesus himself.

I launched my journey by searching the Gospels for every recorded prayer of Jesus. What better way to learn about prayer than to study the words Jesus himself had actually prayed? I was surprised to find that there are only twelve places in Scripture where Jesus’ actual prayers have been preserved. I pulled out these twelve prayers and examined each word in its original language. I also studied the context of each prayer — what was happening in Jesus’ life during that moment of prayer and what happened afterward. Next, I looked at other passages of Scripture that mentioned Jesus in prayer, even though his actual words were not recorded. Always as I searched and explored, I kept one question foremost in my mind: how could understanding Jesus’ prayer change the way I prayed?

Perhaps you would like to join me on this extraordinary journey. Perhaps you have your own questions about prayer. Perhaps your prayer life needs a spark, a new direction, a new insight. Perhaps your relationship with God can be deepened. If so, join me and discover this truth for yourself: understanding how Jesus prayed can change more than just your prayers. It can change your life.

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