7 Ways to Pray Like Jesus

What can we learn from the ways our Savior prayed?

By Charles D. Kelley

The more I think about the prayers of Jesus, the more I am astonished.

Why did the divine Son of God need to pray? Didn’t he already know what he needed to know and have what he needed to have? He didn’t need to ask for forgiveness or cleansing. And yet, his prayer life reveals total dependence on the Father.

Jesus loved His Father and spoke with Him often. He asked for wisdom and guidance in His earthly ministry. He prayed for others to come to know Him. He prayed for the twelve disciples, that God would protect them from “the evil one.” He prayed with honesty and reverence. He prayed with joy and praise.

Gaugin's depiction of Jesus praying in the Garden on the night he was betrayed.

1.  Jesus prayed for guidance in places of quietude

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) Mark’s Gospel actually lists eight other passages that show the direct link between Jesus’ solitude and silence and his ministry to others.

2.  Jesus prayed for the unity of his present and future disciples

On the night before he died, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:11, 20-21)

3.  Jesus offered praise to the Father

“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.’” (Luke 10:21)

4.  Jesus prayed with a thankful heart

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body’.” (Mark 14:22) We often observe the Lord’s Table and in so doing, we focus on remembering the cup and the bread. Isn’t it astonishing that Jesus thanked God before breaking the bread? He thanked God as he was facing an excruciating execution

5.  Jesus humbled himself when he prayed

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39)

6.  Jesus prayed with shocking honesty

“About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’’” This means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Imagine the Son of God asking the Father such a question!

7.  Jesus prayed when he was suffering

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) His agony was intensified by his foreknowledge that his physical suffering on the cross would be eclipsed when he took the sins of the world upon himself. Jesus prayed because he needed supernatural strength to persevere.

In the excellent movie Shadowlands starring Anthony Hopkins, we see C. S. Lewis’ faith was put to the test during his wife’s battle with cancer, which ultimately took her life. During a period of remission, one of Lewis’ friends, Oxford Chaplain Harry Harrington, said, “Jack (what Lewis’ friends called him), I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.”

Jack replied, “That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”