Prayer is the oxygen by which all vital life organisms are kept alive and organized in the life of a Christian. Whether you pray hard or hardly every pray, it is important to understand some principles about prayer. If you catch yourself gasping for breath from the breadth of life, processing the position of your prayer life (or lack thereof) can empower you to gain essential oxygen for a life well lived.
When looking at an episode in the life of Jesus that happened in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46), we glean essential principles for prayer. We need to take a deep breath and start applying them in our life instantly. Here are six principles for prayer from Jesus:
1. Distance. Jesus was constantly surrounded by crowds. So are we. We might not be surrounded by individuals, but we are submerged under non-stop notifications. We experience duress from a deluge of information that comes at us from diverse sources. We need to create some distance and disconnect, literally. We need to practice digital discernment. We need to take a purposeful Sabbath. Or, one might be imposed upon us. It does not necessarily have to be lengthy, just intentional. When Jesus went into the garden to pray, he withdrew from the three disciples about a stone’s throw away. We need to create some distance between us and people so that we can communicate with our Creator. The more we do this, the more we will desire to do this. We won’t be able to even imagine how we lived life without creating an intentional distance from distractions to pray.
2. Demeanor. The gospel writers tell us that Jesus fell on the ground and on bended knee, fervently addressed His Father. His demeanor signified his urgency. His position signified his humility. What I am not saying is that the only prayers pleasing to God are those prayed kneeling down. What I am saying is that, if you are led, kneel down or fall prostrate before a Holy God and cry out to him. Or sit and do the same with equaled intensity and passion. Although sometime, our physical position may convey our spiritual readiness. Whichever way you pray, let your heart be saturated with humility and your posture be appropriate for a close communion with God.
3. Disposition. Jesus called out to His Father by calling him Abba! This is the equivalent of saying daddy or папочка! This demonstrates to us the disposition of Jesus towards His Father. They were intricately connected. They could commune on an intimate level. There were no walls or barriers. There were no awkward moments. This disposition promoted transparency and initiated authenticity during the prayer. This shows that Jesus believed God could sense precisely what he was going through and was ready to support him. I still remember the endless conversations that I used to have with my dad. I called him папа and he always addressed me as сынок or сыночек, also a term of endearment. The disposition was mutual. It should be the same way when we pray to God the Father. When we understand that we have received the Spirit of adoption, it alters the perspective of our prayer. We are God’s children. Let us commune and communicate with Him as we do (or did) with our earthly parents.
4. Declaration. When Jesus prayed, he was not discreet in his declaration. He boldly proclaimed it and intentionally lived it. He remained resolutely devoted to accomplishing the will of God. His exclusive focus during his earthly ministry was to bring glory to God. Jesus simply says: Your will be done (Matt. 26:42). Although Jesus would have preferred not to drink the cup of wrath that the Father prepared for him (Matt. 26:39), he declared that it was not up to him to make that decision. Jesus knew that he came to seek and to save the lost. He not only understood it. He declared this truth in his prayer. My wife knows I love her. But, I still make sure to declare this truth to her every single day! Do we declare bold truths in our prayer? Are we specific when we pray? Do we bind our benediction with a passionate plea for the Lord’s will to be done? It is not enough for it to be understood, it must be declared.
5. Dedication. Jesus was dedicated during his prayer. His level of dedication was so intense that he almost died while praying. Matthew says Jesus experienced sorrow that almost lead him to death (Matt 26:38). Luke the physician recorded that Jesus experienced such agony that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). Jesus was so dedicated in prayer that he had to have an angel come from heaven to strengthen him (Luke 22:43). In His prayer, Jesus stretched his physical capacity and engaged his every single human faculty. He was not rambling platitudes nonchalantly or repeating the same phrase, unthinkingly. He was in a battle. He was in agony. He was sweating blood. He was intensely dedicated to having his Father hear him and heed him. Have we ever prayed so intensely that we almost experienced physical death? Or at least felt like we were going to? I am not saying that we must engage in some sort of physical mutilation. I am saying that we should emulate Jesus in the level of his dedication and in the depth of his intensity. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says that in our struggle against sin, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our blood (Heb. 12:4). Jesus did this on our behalf. Are we so dedicated to and in our prayer life that we, in a proverbial sense, bleed profusely?
6. Determination: Jesus was determined, not distracted in his prayer. When we read the gospel accounts of this episode, Jesus went back to pray a total of three times. The bible says that each time Jesus went back to pray, “saying the same words again.” He was persistent in his prose. He was persistent in his prayer. The determination of Jesus was akin to an athlete, training and straining his physical faculties to the point of sheer exhaustion and borderline death. The determination of Jesus was not in vain. Gethsemane prepared him for Golgotha. After he prayed, he stood up, like a mighty warrior of valor, with blood dripping from his robe, ready for the cross to die for our cause.
Question: What about these principles for prayer from Jesus can revive our prayer life and pump oxygen into the life of our prayers?