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What We Can Learn from How Jesus Prayed

E.M. Bounds, the middle Tennessee preacher from the Civil War era captured in his book, The Necessity of Prayer, how we need to pray. He wrote:

Prayer, without fervour, stakes nothing on the issue, because it has nothing to stake. It comes with empty hands. Hands, too, which are listless, as well as empty, which have never learned the lesson of clinging to the Cross.

Fervourless prayer has no heart in it; it is an empty thing, an unfit vessel. Heart, soul, and life, must find place in all real praying. Heaven must be made to feel the force of this crying unto God.[1]

Jesus prayed this way. He prayed clinging to the cross. He prayed with His whole heart and He prayed with such fervency that heaven felt the force of His crying out to God.thumb-1

We can learn a lot about prayer from Jesus.

Heaven was open at His baptism. Luke 3:21 tell us about it, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.” Heaven felt the force of His prayers on that day as He began His public ministry with heaven-opening prayer. Father, Son and Holy Spirit come together (Luke 3:22) at that moment and it all began as Jesus was praying.

Jesus often took time alone with talk with His Father. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Matthew records another such moment in His life, “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.” Jesus had a habit of going off alone to pray. His heart, soul and life were wrapped in frequent time alone, in prayer, with His Father.

Jesus prayed during His transfiguration. That was when His appearance changed into the form He would have after His resurrection. Luke 9:28–31 records this moment of deep prayer and change for us. Moses and Elijah appear and speak of His fulfilling God’s plan of the cross in Jerusalem. Then, God, in Luke 9:35 speaks from heaven. When Jesus prayed things happened. He didn’t come with a listless heart and empty hands. He prayed earnestly with desire and eagerness—and, so should we!

Lastly, we can read Matthew 26:36. “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’” Jesus relied on fervent prayer with His Father throughout the ordeal of the cross. He prayed for His followers in the garden. He also poured out His agony to His Father. He fell on His face in deep, heart-wrenching, sincere prayer.

To quote E. M. Bounds again, “Prayer must be clothed with fervency, strength and power. It is the force which, centered on God, determines the outlay of Himself for earthly good. Men who are fervent in spirit are bent on attaining to righteousness, truth, grace, and all other sublime and powerful graces which adorn the character of the authentic, unquestioned child of God.”[2]

Praying earnestly, pursuing your desire in a steady, sincere, eager way 
is a FOUNDATIONAL way of praying in the New Testament. It’s the beginning. It is how Jesus prayed and it’s how we must pray—with our hands open and our hearts, souls and lives earnestly pursuing God. May heaven feel the force of our prayers.


[1] Bounds, E. M. (1999). The necessity of prayer. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Bounds, E. M. (1999). The necessity of prayer. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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