Sermon Series – April 6, 2014

What Did Jesus Do?

#4 When Jesus Prayed

Matthew 6:5-15

April 6, 2014

 

What did Jesus do – when he prayed?

Note that our theme today is NOT “What did Jesus teach concerning prayer?” even though that is important.

Jesus’ followers once came to him and said:

Teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

And the prayer Jesus taught was the one with which we are so familiar:

“Our Father, who art in heaven…”

But our focus this morning is not on what Jesus taught about prayer,

But rather His own experience, on Jesus’ own way of praying.

We may find that we learn as much from how Jesus prayed as from his preaching, or from what he did or from what he said.

What did Jesus do – when he prayed?

First – He prayed often.

Secondly – he prayed alone (well, most of the time)

And Third – in His praying Jesus concentrated on God, not on himself.

Finally, Jesus prayed and lived out life’s greatest prayer, life’s finest prayer, life’s ultimate prayer, the prayer that makes both prayer and life real

He prayed…

But I will get back to that…

I.                     

Jesus prayed often.

Flip through the pages of the Gospel of Luke and you find Jesus praying:

He prayed following his baptism;

He prayed when he faced the anger of the Pharisees because he dared heal the man with the withered hand.

You find Jesus praying before he chose the twelve who would be with Him in his ministry.

You find Jesus praying just prior to asking his disciples the two key questions – “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do YOU say that I am?”

It was during a period of prayer that Jesus was transfigured:

“The appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white…”

He prayed as he sent seventy followers out, two by two, to prepare the way for his coming to cities and towns where he had not been before.

It was when they saw Jesus praying that the disciples were moved to request a model prayer:

“He was praying in a certain place,” Luke tells us, and when he ceased one of his disciples said to him,

“Lord, teach US to pray…”

Jesus prayed on Palm Sunday as he looked over the city of Jerusalem, he wept over it and he prayed:

“Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!”

Jesus prayed on Holy Thursday as he celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and again after the supper in Gethsemane, just before his arrest.

Jesus prayed on Good Friday.

Three of the traditional “Seven Last Words” from the cross were prayers:

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!”

My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”

“Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.”

So the records bear evidence, not only in Luke, but in Matthew, Mark and John –

That not only did Jesus advocate prayer, and teach about prayer and inspire prayer –

But he practiced what he preached – he himself was a man of prayer who prayed often.

When Jesus says to us, “Pray!”…

He can do it on the grounds that he can also say:

“I prayed.

I know the need of it

I know what prayer can do.”

Jesus Prayed often.

II.

Jesus prayed alone.

There is no doubt but that Jesus prayed in the company of others. Look in the gospels and there we can “read all about it!”

And Jesus was a great proponent of praying in church.

Indeed one of the few occasions in the gospels when you see Jesus “with fire in his eyes” and hear anger in his voice, is when he is driving the moneychangers from the temple shouting:

“It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”

But read the record of Jesus’ prayer life and you find that he most often prayed alone.

Matthew tells us:

“…after he had dismissed the crowds he went up into the hills by himself to pray…”

Mark testifies:

“And in the morning, a great while before day, (Jesus) rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”

Luke observes:

“Now it happened that as he was praying alone…”

And the Doctor Luke again, with a keen eye on medical details, and with great interest in the healing of people writes of Jesus:

            “…great multitudes gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities but, Jesus withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.

It is good to note that it was by withdrawing for prayer that Jesus found renewal for living.

Jesus’ source of power was a lonely place of prayer.

Behind his public ministry, with people pressing in on him from every side, was his private time with God.

Power constantly going out of him demanded some deep recharging of the batteries of his soul, and he did this in “His secret place.”

Neither the lack of time or crowdedness of space prevented Jesus from praying,

Jesus went out to put a stout fence around some corner of time and space. – And there he prayed.

 Life has become very public and to find a lonely place and a quiet time is not easy.

The outer world intrudes so completely on us, not just with responsibilities and duties; not just the clamoring of the necessities of life;

But cell phones and texts and radios and Facebook and Twitter and television and I-pods,

Are all things that we like to do better than pray.

Remember that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark picture Jesus feeding the multitudes; and just a little while later Jesus walking on the water. And between these two events was a bridge…

Two sentences…

“After Jesus had taken leave of the multitudes he went into the hills to pray.”

…when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and Jesus was alone on the land.”

Someone commented that…

“The chief thing in this passage is the picture of the great rhythm in the life of Jesus, the spending of himself in ministry to people and the replenishment of mind and soul in communion with God.”

He went into the hills to pray!

We all need to find our own hilltop.  A place where we can be alone and concentrate on our prayers

To have a truly close relationship with God in prayer we too need to “go into the Hills” even if the hills are in our home, our carport, garage or office.  Being lucky enough to be here in Jerome we can indeed have a hilltop experience just by looking out of the windows.  Wherever we are however, we need to pray. Alone.

To have a life filled with mountaintop experiences you have to go up on a mountain, to pray.

III.

In his praying Jesus concentrated on God, and not on himself.

Here we can learn from his practice and His teaching.

In the prayer he prayed as a model both for himself and his followers… note where the concentration is:

Our FATHER, who art in heaven.

Hallowed be THY name.

THY kingdom come.

THY will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

And only then does the thought of ourselves intrude.

Give US this day our daily bread.

Forgive US our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead US not into temptation.

Deliver US from evil.

And that is how it ended.

Though the early church was certainly right in bringing the focus back on God when they added the words,

For THINE is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.

Prayer has the major purpose of relating God and humanity.

In order to do that Human concentration must be focused on the divine, not on the self.

What childish ideas we have of the purpose of prayer!

Do you remember the cartoon of the little girl in her pajamas kneeling by her bed and calling out to her parents:

“I’m going to say my prayers – anyone want anything?”

The thought makes us smile but the fact is that all too often that describes our own philosophy and practice of prayer.

We think of prayer and pray as though it were a way of manipulating God,

             A way of changing God’s mind about us,

              A way of getting God to see things our way.

For Jesus this kind of prayer is totally false and misleading.

For Jesus both prayed and lived out the greatest prayer:

And that prayer was and is both the prayer of the Sermon on the Mount and the prayer prayed in Gethsemane

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in in heaven.”

                                    And

“Not my will but thine be done.”

Prayer is not a technique for managing God but a genuine, unreserved, act of trust that lets God manage us.”

Jesus didn’t use prayer to give orders to God.

Jesus used prayer as a way of reporting for duty.

You and I may learn a lot by observing Jesus’ prayer life, but nowhere more than when we hear him praying:

“Not my will but Thine be done.”

The same prayer which we so much more casually and less thoughtfully pray when we say.  “Thy will be done on earth…”

Reflect on the fact that Jesus consciously, consistently and faithfully in prayer opened himself to the will of God, even though that will included not just a crown, but a cross.

Then reflect on our presumption when we pray, “Thy will be done”

Never dreaming that God’s will could be less for us than a full dinner plate, a happy life, maybe a new car every few years and nothing to worry about….

“Prayer is not a clever way of using divine energy for our own ends.

Prayer is a way of discovering what God wants and fitting ourselves into His plan.

Nor is prayer a life boat to be launched in an emergency, or a magic wand to wave to get what we want.

Prayer for Jesus, and hopefully for us, is relating and adjusting ourselves to God so that “His will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In prayer Jesus said to God:  “Thy will be done!”

“Not as I will, but as Thou will.”

This is not merely the great divide of prayer but the crux of life.

Tennyson wrote:

“Our wills are ours to make them Thine.”

The Hymn we sing:

“Take Thou ourselves O Lord,

            Heart, mind and will;

Through our surrendered souls

            Thy plans fulfill.

We yield ourselves to Thee –

            Time, talents, all;

We hear, and henceforth heed,

            Thy sovereign call.”

So much more can be observed of Jesus in the act of prayer.

How he knelt,

            How he used outward aids;

                        How he listened as well as spoke;

                                    How he kept perspective;

                                    How he alternated between word and deed;

Between seeking God and giving God;

Between drinking in God’s presence; and letting it flow out;

How he used prayer as the background for decision making, and so much more.

But for today –

What did Jesus do when he prayed?

            And what can we do?

He prayed often.

            He prayed alone – as well as in fellowship.

He concentrated on God – not on himself.

And he knew the best answer to all prayer:

Not my will, but Thine be done.”

Amen.

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