The Lord's Prayer
Tim Temple

Introduction

Probably the best known prayer of the Lord Jesus is the one that is given to us in Matthew, chapter 6, commonly called the Lord's Prayer . That particular prayer was never prayed by Jesus Himself. The Lord's Prayer, as you probably know, was a pattern for His disciples, including us, to use in praying; but the longest prayer that is actually prayed by Jesus is here in John, chapter 17. He prayed many times during His time on earth, and so there are probably prayers that are longer than this, but this is the longest one that is recorded, and that is the one that we want to think about in this study today.

Since it is such an important chapter, from the standpoint of having Jesus as an example of prayer, we are going to look at it primarily from the standpoint of prayer and use it for a jumping-off place to talk about some other aspects of prayer also. In our next study, the Lord willing, we will look at the chapter more from the standpoint of the content of the prayer. Today we want to look at the subject of prayer more generally and especially the prayers that Jesus prayed.

The farther I go in the Christian life the more I realize how important prayer is and how much we take it for granted. I have been guilty for many years of not giving prayer the emphasis that it deserves and not trying to understand it in the way that it should be understood. I don't know that we ever will come to an understanding of all the intricacies of prayer, how God knows everything He is going to do and He has plans for us and He knows the number of the hairs of our head. Yet, He tells us that we can come to Him and ask His provision in our daily needs. How those two intertwine and enmesh is something that we probably won't fully understand until we get to Heaven. At the same time, we should keep seeking to understand this great privilege that we have and certainly to practice it whether we fully understand it or not.

This prayer in John, chapter 17, was prayed at the close of Jesus'ministry. If you are familiar with the Gospel of John or have been with us in these studies, you know that in the very next chapter, Jesus is going to be arrested and the process of His trial and crucifixion is going to begin. As we have been looking in some detail for the last several lessons, beginning in chapter 13 and moving on through chapter 16, Jesus was very specifically preparing His disciples for that event, giving them all of the various details about it and telling them that He has made provision for them of the Holy Spirit to take His place. As we have seen, that applies on down through the generations of Christians even to you and me.

Jesus' Prayer for Us

The scene changes, and here in chapter 17, we have an entire chapter devoted to the prayer Jesus prayed. The subject of this longest recorded prayer is His disciples, and as we will see before we are through today specifically including you and me, those who would follow those original disciples. We want to look at this prayer that He prayed for you and Me. Let's begin by looking at verses 6-9, as He specifies His prayer for us:

John 17

6I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

You see that He is praying for believers. Let's skip down to verse 20. He says:

John 17

20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

Not only was He praying for those original disciples, the twelve and then those who came to know Him after they did, but He is praying for those who came to know Him through their testimonies and those who came in the succeeding generations through their testimonies, and as each generation of Christians has reproduced itself. Jesus was praying this prayer for every generation of believers, so this is something that we can take literally, specifically for ourselves—that Jesus Christ prayed for us.

The Address of Jesus' Prayer

Let's look at this prayer now, and notice the way Jesus prayed—the kinds of things He prayed about. First, let's think about the address of Jesus' prayer in verse 1. Notice how He begins:

John 17

1These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

He begins: “Father, the hour has come…” In every prayer that Jesus prayed—and there are a number of them recorded in the Scripture—He addressed God as His Father. There is never any sense that He thought He had to get the Father's attention or that He had to wake up somebody in the throne room and get them to listen to His prayer. He never had any doubt that God the Father still loved Him even though He was here on the earth and God heard His prayers. In fact, in Mark, chapter 14, verse 36, He used the very personal word abba , which we have seen in other studies is the Aramaic word for daddy , and so it was not just a matter of this word here in verse 1 being the formal way to begin a prayer, but it was a reference to His own loving relationship with His Daddy, if you will. That was the very word that He used there.

I think we have a tendency to begin our prayers, “Our Father,” or other terms for God, and that is good. We should do that. Jesus is the pattern for that, but we have a tendency to just use that as an opening address. Many times, we do not even stop to think Who it is we are really talking to. We are really talking to the Father. The God of the universe has allowed us to have Him as our Father.

Even in His darkest hour when Jesus was hanging on the Cross, even at that time of His greatest agony when He cried out, “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken Me?”, He didn't refer to Him as Father there, technically speaking, because the Father had forsaken Him. His Father had turned away His face from your sins and from mine, but it is interesting to notice that He still addressed Him as “My God.” Even though, at that point, He couldn't call Him Father , He still believed that Jehovah was His God.

Psalm 22 gives the prediction of the things that Jesus would say while He was on the Cross and the things that would take place as a part of His crucifixion. If you are not familiar with this Psalm, it is a Psalm that you ought to read carefully and become familiar with because it contains a number of prophecies that were fulfilled in that one day of Jesus' life, in that matter of a few hours as He hung on the Cross. In verse 19, He goes on to say:

Psalm 22

19But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

That was His personal relationship with the Father even in that darkest hour. Because of that confidence, that deep, underlying realization that God was His Father, He was very personal in His prayers. He was never arrogant or demanding, never disrespectful of God in any way, but at the same time, very free to be open and honest with the Father and to tell Him what He wanted, what He hoped for, and how willing He was to do the Father's will.

Something that is very important to remember, though, is that even though He has and we have this close, personal relationship with the Father, even though He was Abba Father, if you will look down at verse 11, He refers to Him as Holy and Righteous Father . Look at verse 11:

John 17

11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

This is close, personal intimacy, calling Him Daddy , but never forgetting that, at the same time, He is the Holy Father. Incidentally, here is another example of why no human being should ever have a title such as the Holy Father . That is God's name. That is the personal way in which Jesus referred to Him.

Skip down to verse 25:

John 17

25O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

In Luke, chapter 10, verse 21, He refers to Him as Lord of Heaven and earth . There is an important lesson for us in this that we are trying to see as we look at the chapter from this perspective today, and that is even though we, too, can look at Him as our personal Father and call Him Daddy , we need to always remember that at the same time, He is the holy and righteous God of the universe and Lord of Heaven and earth. He is the holy Father, the righteous Father, and in fact, it is not a bad idea for us to use those terms ourselves when we pray to remind ourselves and to demonstrate to Him that we understand that aspect of our relationship to Him, even though it is such a personal relationship as well.

Belief In Jesus Necessary to Pray

The first thing that is necessary to begin praying like Jesus, is to be sure that in the first place you are a child of God. There is a sense in which the unbeliever cannot pray. There are records in the Scripture of unbelievers praying and of God's hearing them, but that is a prayer that is answered out of the mercy and grace of God.

The King of Nineveh and the people of Nineveh cried out to God in repentance of their sins, and God heard their prayers and turned away the judgment that He was about to bring on their nation. So it is not to say that an unbeliever has no hope of praying at all, but the only prayers that God hears from unbelievers are prayers of repentance, prayers of calling on Him for salvation.

From time-to-time, we hear about some unbeliever who cried out to God for help in an emergency and God helped him, but in terms of being able to talk to God our Father and to make our wants and wishes known to Him, that kind of relationship depends on being a child of God. We have to be sure that God is our Father. The Scripture is very plain about that. Galatians, chapter 3, verse 26, says:

Galatians 3

26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians, chapter 4, verse 6, says:

Galatians 4

6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

So to pray like Jesus prayed is limited to those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and, through faith in Christ, have become sons of God.

Attitude of Obedient Submission Required

Verse 4 of John, chapter 17, brings out a second aspect of Jesus' prayer, and that is His attitude in prayer. We talked about the address of His prayers and the attitudes that are described in this chapter. First, there is a mental attitude that is always present in Jesus' prayers and that is an attitude of obedient submission. Look at verse 4:

John 17

4I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

The earliest picture of Jesus in the New Testament is in Luke, chapter 2, where He tells His mother, “I must be about My Father's business.” This is the earliest picture we have of Him actually conversing and responding. Of course, we have the record of Him as a baby, but here we have the situation when Jesus was left behind at the Passover celebration. The parents had started back home, and they got a short distance into the trip and realized that Jesus was not with them. They went back and found Him discussing theology with the Rabbis in the temple. When His mother found Him and told Him they were worried about Him, He said, “Do you not realize that I must be about My Father's business?”

Going to the other end of His life, again the most agonizing prayer that He prayed during His time here on earth, in this time frame that we are covering here in John, chapter 17, is recorded in Luke, chapter 22, where the night before He died, He prayed: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.”

His focus was always on the Father's will. We learn a very important lesson about praying according to God's will from Luke, chapter 22. Jesus has just told the disciples in John, chapter 16, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Most of us are familiar with the careful structure of that verse, the fact that if you will ask anything in His name, He will do it. Other places He said, “Anything that you pray according to My will, I will do it.”

Sometimes people have taken that to be a catch phrase, and they think, “Yeah, He'll do anything within this little, narrow scope of what we are praying about. But look how Jesus prays here. He specifically tells the Father what He wants and if it be possible, to let this cup pass from Him.”

There are some who believe that Jesus was referring to the cup of suffering that He was about to go through in being arrested, tried, and all of that. But, I believe, in the broader context of Scripture, He was actually talking about the Cross. From a human standpoint, He faced the agony of the Cross, and He prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me.”

We shouldn't be discouraged to hear that. In fact, we should be encouraged to hear that, because it tells us that the agony that lay before Him was something that was real to Jesus. Our salvation was free to us, but it cost Jesus Christ everything, and it cost God the Father the death of His Son. That agony in which He prayed in Luke, chapter 22, ought to be very precious to us: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.”

Think about that prayer for a minute. As a human being, He dreaded what lay ahead. As God, He knew what it was, and as God, He knew from eternity past the importance of that which He was about to do. He understood before the creation of the world that His death would be the thing that would reunite God and His creatures whom He created to have fellowship with Himself. Jesus, of all people, knew that it was not God's will for that cup to pass from Him. He knew that it was God's will for Him to go to the Cross, but at the same time, He expressed what He wanted. Don't ever be afraid to tell God what you want in prayer. Here is Jesus, of all people, saying, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,” all the while knowing that it was not possible. He indicated that in the last part of the verse when He said, “Nevertheless, not My will but Thine.”

There is great relief and great release, I believe, in being able to have such a close relationship with God the Father that we can tell Him exactly what we want. I think sometimes, as Christians, we spend far too much time trying to carefully and precisely word our prayers in such a way that we won't offend the Father by not praying according to His will. His promise is that He will answer those things that are prayed according to His will. One of the beautiful benefits of prayer is that we can tell Him exactly what we want, and realizing that, just as Jesus did, nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done. So there is nothing wrong with telling God exactly what we want and pray as Jesus did: “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” If our attitude is always the priority of God's will, then it doesn't matter if we are perhaps even knowingly asking something that is not God's will. It is a wonderful thing to be able to share the burdens of our heart with the Father.

I heard a professional counselor on the radio just the other day saying that one of the major aspects of his work was simply to sit there and listen, and that very often as a professional counselor with years of training and experience, he knew that the greatest benefit in many cases was for someone to just have somebody to talk to. I don't know what that man charged for his services, but let me tell you, you can get that free. You can talk to somebody much more important than even a Christian counselor. You can talk to the God of the universe.

I think many Christians just haven't taken the time to sit down and spill their hearts out to the Lord, because we are trying to be so careful that we pray correctly. Don't worry about that. Certainly I am not discounting Jesus' promise that He answers those things that are according to His will, but we have the freedom to just come and say, “Oh, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” as long as our attitude is “not my will, but Thine be done.”

Jesus wasn't demanding that the Father do it His way, but He was telling the Father what was really on His heart. Of course, if we pray that way also , it will bring us into a much closer relationship with the Lord, if we realize as we are reminded that He loves us enough to let us tell Him anything and that He takes the time to listen to anything that we bring to Him. There are many times in many situations in life when the only Person you may be able to talk to, the only person you may be able to get attention from, the only person who will take the time to sit and listen to you, is God Himself. But Who better to listen to us?

I think it is a wonderful thing to have a prayer list and to pray our way through the prayer list. The older I get and the weaker my memory gets, the more important that is, but there are those times when it is also a great blessing to sit down before the Lord and pray about whatever comes to mind, just spend time sharing our feelings and our thoughts with God. God knows what His will is and what He is going to do about those things, but He strengthens us and blesses us by giving us the opportunity to do that.

John, back in chapter 8, recorded Jesus' attitude by saying in verse 29, when he said that Jesus said, “I do always those things that please Him.” Jesus comes to the Father in an attitude of obedient submission.

I think that this day in which we live is probably the hardest time in history in which to have an attitude of submission the way Jesus did. Every age has its difficulties and its own problems, and we certainly have our share of blessings in this age in which we live; but we live in a day in which probably to a greater extent than ever before in human history possessions and accomplishments are the two standards by which everyone is judged. Have you ever stopped to think about that? At least in the world's viewpoint, the two things that are important, and in many cases the only two things that are important, are possessions and accomplishments. If the person has not accomplished enough or is not in the process of accomplishing a lot, if he doesn't have a lot of things in our twentieth century America, he or she counts for nothing.

Even as Christians, it is easy to fall into that trap and to focus on those two standards. Because of that, we tend to look at whatever possessions and accomplishments we do have as a mark of our success and as a result of our efforts. That idea is totally unbiblical. You have no control over the genetics that determine your abilities and your appearance and your health and all of those things that the world counts as so important. You have very little to do with choosing the people who molded your thinking and directed your philosophy of life. God put those people in place and God allowed you to be born in the time and place in history that you were born. He was in control of the school that you went to and the influence from your parents and all of those kinds of things. Whatever we are today is because of what God has allowed us to be.

If God hadn't overshadowed all of those things, there is no telling where any of us would be today. If God had chosen to have us born in some other era of history, think how different our lives might have been. Why can't we recognize our dependency on God for all that we have and all that we are like Jesus did? So a very important aspect of prayer, from the standpoint of Jesus as an example, is this attitude of complete and total dependence and submission to the Father.

Any Time and Place Appropriate for Prayer

There are some other mental attitudes that Jesus had that are lessons for us, too, in other places in Scripture. Have you ever said, “Well, I just don't feel like praying right now.”? For those who try to have a regular established time of prayer every day—and certainly all of us ought to do that—one of the biggest problems that people have sometimes is saying, “Well, I just don't feel like praying right now,” or “This isn't the place to pray.” Jesus' experiences in prayer teach us that any time and any place is appropriate for prayer. For example, if you look at verse 5, chapter 17, you see Jesus longing to be back with the Father as things were before the incarnation. Look at verse 5:

John 17

5And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

He was not in the place that He wanted to be. He wanted to be back in Heaven with the Father and yet, even though He was not in the place He wanted to be, it was still appropriate to pray. You don't have to have the right place to pray. We can pray from any place where we are. In verse 24, His love and His desire for His followers is expressed. If you will look at verse 24:

John 17

24Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me…

That was how He was feeling, so He expressed that feeling to the Father. In Luke, chapter 10, verse 21, we read: “He prayed when He was full of joy.” And, in Mark, chapter 14, verse 34: “He prayed when His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” to use Jesus' own words.

He prayed when He was joyful. He prayed when He was so sorrowful that He thought He might die. He prayed under all kinds of physical conditions, so Jesus' experiences in prayer teach us that we can go to the Father in any emotional or mental or physical condition. There is no need to pretend to be up when we are not. It doesn't matter if we tell the Father, “I don't feel much like praying right now, Father.” That is the wonderful thing about it. We can even share those kinds of things with Him. We don't have to wait until we are presentable before coming into His presence. The Father wants to share our joys as well as our sorrows and our concerns.

Prayer Can Be Public or Private

We have seen the way Jesus addressed His prayers and the various attitudes with which He prayed, but now, let's think about the characteristics of His prayers. It is interesting to notice that He prayed sometimes when He was alone with the Father. Many times it is reported that He sent the disciples away so He could pray or He sent the disciples away and He did pray. He prayed by Himself. Luke, chapter 15, verse 16, is one reference that indicates that He was completely alone with the Father when He prayed, but on other occasions He asked the disciples to pray with Him.

You will remember that in Matthew's account of this particular part of Jesus' life, which we are looking at in John's Gospel, He went out in these last hours of His life to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He asked Peter, James and John to come with Him. He said, “You wait here and watch with Me while I go yonder and pray,” and He came back and found them sleeping. He wanted them to be praying with Him even though He was a distance from them. He wanted them to pray with Him, and so one of the characteristics of Jesus' prayer is that it can be in public or in private.

There is nothing wrong with public prayer. There are those who take that statement that Jesus made in Matthew, chapter 6, about going into your closet and praying in secret, to mean that we should never pray in public. But the example of Jesus is that He did pray in public with other people.

We have recorded for us that He attended the synagogue on a regular basis. There are several references to His being in the synagogue, and being the kind of devout Jew that He was, He would have attended the synagogue, no doubt, every Sabbath day. A vital part of synagogue worship was public prayer. So He prayed in public. In fact, He probably followed the practice of most Jews to pray three times a day—morning, noon, and night.

Daniel is an example of that. Even when prayer had been outlawed, He went back to His room and, as His custom was, bowed with his window open to Jerusalem, as Solomon had said that they should if they were in captivity, and prayed three times a day. Jesus probably followed that same practice of praying three times a day as Daniel did.

It is also recorded several times that Jesus prayed before He ate. In the feeding of the five thousand, after He had served the crowd, before they ate, Jesus prayed. There are other references to His praying before He ate. In fact, it may be that Jesus had a special way of doing this to the point that it enabled people to recognize Him, because in Luke, chapter 24, in the story of the two on the road to Emmaus, Jesus fell into step with them and talked with them about all the things that had happened. He drew out of them their viewpoint of the crucifixion, and it says that He went into the house to eat with them. In Luke, chapter 24, verse 40, it says, “He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Possibly, that was because He prayed in a way that they had heard Him pray as He broke the bread. That probably tells us that it is all right to pray the same kind of thing over and over again.

For many years I have prayed basically the same prayer at every meal, and I will be interested to see if my kids wind up praying that same kind of prayer over their meals. As long as it is a sincere prayer, there is nothing wrong with that, because it is very possible that that is the meaning of this word, “that He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” The way that He prayed before He ate, the way that He prayed publicly was something that could very well have marked Him out to these disciples.

Of course, it was the Holy Spirit's opening their eyes to Who He was. Their hearts burned within them as He broke the Word to them, before they ever broke that physical bread, so we can't get too technical and too insistent on that, but at the same time, He probably had a distinctive way of praying.

Postures In Prayer

Something else that is recorded about the attributes of Jesus' prayers is His posture. This is a question that comes up sometimes. Should we be kneeling when we pray? Is it more spiritual to kneel down when we pray? There are some people who do not ask that question; they just assume that there is something more godly about kneeling down to pray. Is it all right to pray while we sit down, or even while we lie down? Is there anything wrong with praying after we get in bed? In the very first verse of this passage here in John, chapter 17, we get the first clue about that kind of thing. Notice the first verse again:

John 17

1These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

It may be that Jesus was standing up when He prayed this prayer, but at the very least, He didn't have His eyes closed. He lifted up His eyes to Heaven and said these words. Several other postures are mentioned about Jesus in other places. In Luke, chapter 22, verse 41, He prayed while kneeling down. That certainly gives us the approval for kneeling down when we pray. In Mark, chapter 14, verse 35, it says that He fell on the ground while He prayed. He prayed while He was lying down.

In our generation, and I guess it has been true in every generation, we are so leery of things that we are not used to. One of the things that a lot of the charismatic Christians do is to lie down while they pray. At a clergy conference in Atlanta, there were men every time there was a season of prayer, not just when there was an opening prayer for a session, but where they were given a time to pray about things, who would lie down in the aisle and pray.

I have to admit I was a little bothered by that. I thought that was pretty extreme. I didn't bring it up, but one of the other men reminded me that Jesus fell on His face on the ground on at least one occasion when He prayed. So we need to be careful that we are not too critical about people who feel led to take some particular posture while they pray. The Lord Jesus prayed standing up; He prayed kneeling down; He prayed on the ground; and in Mathew, chapter 26, verse 39, it says that He not only fell on the ground, but He actually fell on His face and prayed before God.

We need to be careful that we don't do those things for show, that we don't do those kinds of things because other people around us are doing them, or perhaps because we get caught up in the frenzy of some kind of meeting that we are in, but, if you feel led, in the passion of your prayer, in the closeness with the Father that you feel in praying, to lie down on your face before God, you have Jesus Himself as a warrant for doing that.

When to Pray

This passage in John, chapter 17, doesn't mention it, but another attribute of Jesus' prayers has to do with the time that He prayed. In Mark, chapter 1, verse 35, it says that He rose up a great while before day to pray. Down through the years, I think a great many Christians have taken that as a warrant for beginning the day in prayer. In fact, unfortunately, I think some Christians have taken that as a warrant to be critical of anybody who doesn't begin the day in that way. I know of at least one group of Christians who make that almost a commandment—that you must not start your day without rising up a great while before day and praying.

I have always liked that because I am a morning person, and I tend to wake up early anyway. It fits my schedule best to do that, and as I heard someone else say recently, and it certainly rang a bell with me when I heard it, “I have found if I don't do it first, I don't get it done.” So there is certainly some importance if you are able to to pray in the morning, maybe even before daylight. The fact that Jesus did that does not mean that's the only time to pray because in Luke, chapter 6, verse 12, it says that He prayed all night long. So not only did He pray at night, and there are other records of His praying at night, but in this particular case, He prayed all night long. I have never heard anybody say that you are not doing your prayers properly unless you pray all night long.

This tells us that Jesus prayed whenever the Spirit moved Him to pray—early in the morning, late at night, all night long, middle of the day. He felt free to come to the Father any time of the day or night that He wanted to. There is an important application to make at this point. Jesus was heard by the Father no matter what posture He used nor what time He prayed. The same thing is true for you and me. We can pray as we drive down the highway, and we should have our eyes open when we do that. We can pray sitting down, standing up, or lying down. The Scripture doesn't make any distinction about the time or posture that we should have when we pray. If it is a Spirit-led prayer, if it is a sincere prayer, if it isn't just being done for show or as a ritual, prayer will be heard by the Father and will be a blessing to us whenever it is made, wherever it is made, from whatever position it is made, and Jesus Himself is an example of that.

Be Careful Not to Offend

We need to be careful in this kind of thing that we don't offend the traditions or cultures of other people. Writing about the spiritual gifts, Paul says, in I Corinthians, chapter 14, that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. In other words, if God gave a person the gift of prophecy, that person, as a part of that gift, could decide whether to give that prophecy audibly or whether to give it at the moment he received it. It was a gift from God and included the ability to foretell the future and foretell the Scripture. In that period of time, it included the gift of being able to speak in tongues. But at the same time, the person who had the gift could control the use of that gift.

I am a little bothered by people who say, “Well, I can't worship the Lord unless I can lift my hands while I worship Him.” If you are in the midst of a group of people who never lift their hands when they pray, then the Spirit is subject to the person, and while you may want to lift your hands when you worship and while that may be your preference, there are some situations in which that is really not the proper thing to do.

It is perfectly all right with God for you not to raise your hands even though you may enjoy it. I think the thing to do in a situation like that is to perhaps try to share your feelings with other people in the group and maybe help them to see that it is perfectly all right for you to do that. There is more warrant in the Scripture for our lifting holy hands while we pray and while we praise than there is for keeping them in our pockets. A lot of that kind of thing is just tradition, but on the other hand, we need to be careful that we don't offend people.

Be Yourself Before the Lord

You can change people's mind; you can change people's opinion without doing it in an offensive way. When you are alone and in the presence of God Himself or with people that you are familiar with and you know that they either feel the way that you do or won't be offended by that, be yourself before the Lord. If you feel like He would be pleased and you would be blessed by raising your hands, that is perfectly all right. If you feel like you would be closer to the Lord by falling prostrate on the ground, that is perfectly all right. These things are between you and the Lord, with the exception of being careful not to offend the weaker brother, or someone who sincerely holds a different viewpoint than you do.

Remember God's holiness and focus on Him rather than on what they are wearing or what they are doing, or how you might look to someone else, or what time of day or night it is. Don't let superstition or tradition or anything like that force you to just pray only at a certain time and in a certain place. This is the tremendous privilege that we have of using any time, anywhere, and I am afraid that far too often we miss out on the blessing of prayer because of some of these things that are really not biblical that we have just sort of picked up along the way.

Types of Prayer Jesus Prayed

One last attribute of Jesus is that of the types of prayers that He offered. In John, chapter 17, He offers two types of prayers that are really two basic types of prayer. He offers petition in verses 1-5. That is prayer for one's self. We talk about these terms petition and supplication , and we kind of make them synonymous, and in a sense they are, but if we look at the way they are used in Scripture, petition is a place where one is praying for himself. When we have a reference to someone making a petition to the Lord and it gives the details, it is always a prayer for himself, and certainly that is all right. Jesus Himself prayed about things for Himself in the first five verses, and we will talk about those later. In verses 6-26, He prays for others, and that is intersession. So two basic kinds of prayer are here in chapter 17—prayers for ourselves and prayers for others.

The New Testament records His praying every other kind of prayer that is listed in the Scripture except confession, obviously. Jesus never had any sin to confess and so He never prayed a prayer of confession, but He prayed intercessions, petitions, supplications and all these references to kinds of prayers that we find in the Scripture.

It is interesting that in the prayer we have the most detail of here in John, chapter 17, which we said is the longest prayer recorded, from verses 6-26, the longest part of that prayer is devoted to prayer for others. It is interesting that God Himself, when He was in human form, prayed three times as long for others as He did for Himself—five verses about Himself and twenty-one for others. That should tell us that although every kind of prayer is legitimate for us to pray, the kinds that are most like Jesus are the intercession for others, petition for ourselves, but also thanksgiving to God for all of His blessings that He has given us. Of course, that fits right in with what Jesus said was the summary of the commandments: “Love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Prayer a Priority With Jesus

Of all the other things that we can learn from the prayers of Jesus, I think the most basic, underlying principle is this: Prayer was a priority with Jesus. Here He was, God in human form, and you would think that of all people, He would not need to pray. He was God. He knew the mind of the Father. He knew the plan of God. He knew what was going to happen next. He had the power of God. Why did He need to pray? Yet over and over and over again, we find Him missing sleep to pray. He put off opportunities to be with other people. He took time to pray about things that He already knew something about. For example, He cast out demons regularly at one period of time. He healed people regularly, but often we find Him praying before He did that. He knew that He had the power to cast out demons and to heal the person, but He would pray before He did it. He prayed about things that He already knew the outcome of. Why did He do that? Because of the fellowship with the Father. Because of an opportunity to simply be in the presence of the Father.

Sometimes we face an issue of praying for a length of time. I heard today of a person who had been asked to take three hours in a certain prayer vigil, and I don't mean this critically of this person at all, but that person said, “I don't know what I will pray about for three hours.” Well, I don't know either, but sometimes when we face a long period of time like that we think, “How will I pray for three hours?”

Let me ask you this: How do you talk to your husband or wife or family members when you are in the car with them for three hours? That is about the only place we can be for that period of time without being interrupted. We don't give any worry about how we are going to fill that time, do we? We look forward to it in many cases, and that is the same thing with the Father. We spend time in His presence and fill that time even if we don't have any specific request to pray about. I am convinced that is the reason Jesus prayed as often as He did, because He didn't have to pray for wisdom; He didn't have to pray for guidance; He didn't have to pray for understanding. He already had all those things in His Person as God. Yet, He took time regularly and frequently to pray to the Father.

Conclusion

Why don't we pray more than we do when we think about all of these things as Jesus' prayers? I think probably because it just isn't enough of a priority for us. We just don't stop to reflect, if we understand it, on the privilege we have of talking personally with the God of the universe. We find the time to do things that are important to us. Where does prayer rank in that list in your life?


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