“But Jesus himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray”
Jesus provides a pattern to follow on how a believer should live while on this earth (cf. Rom 8:29). In addition to studying how he prayed, it is perhaps even more basic to learn why he prayed.
As the eternal Son of God he had unbroken communion with the Father. What need did he have for prayer, then? You would think that because he always communed with the Father, as he had throughout eternity past, there was no need for him to pray as we do.
While he was one Person possessing two natures—human and divine—these natures did not commingle so that his humanity became something different from the rest of humanity. Were that to happen, Jesus would have been unlike us and thus unable to offer himself as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin (Heb 2:17).
As a man, then, Jesus had to pray for many of the same reasons we need to pray, save for repentance and confession of sin, for he had none of his own. In identifying definite reasons why Jesus had to pray, we must be careful to limit ourselves by what the Bible definitely says and to make sure any reasons (whether explicit or implicit) are consistent with what the Bible teaches about the Person of Christ.
Consider these occasions and motivations that prompted Jesus, the eternal and incarnate Son of God, to pray–
- Jesus was tempted by Satan, Matt 4:1ff
- Jesus had to minister to and with believers who possessed sin natures, Luke 6:12-13
- Jesus preached the gospel to fallen, unregenerate sinners, Mark 1:35-39
- Jesus was a human being, which inherently involves finite limitations (even now he prays, Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25)
- Jesus prayed for the needs of others, Matt 19:13; Luke 22:32; John 17:11, 15, 24; Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25
- Jesus experienced grief, distress, and trouble, Matt 24:36-38; Mark 14:32-34
- Jesus worshipped and expressed thanks for God’s provision, Luke 11:2; 22:17, 19; John 17:3, 11, 25
- Jesus needed to be “saved from death,” Heb 5:17
- Jesus prayed for God’s blessing on his ministry, Luke 3:21 (conjecture, based on the fact that his baptism was the commencement of his public ministry)
- Jesus asked God to forgive men for their actions against him, Luke 22:34
- Jesus entrusted himself to his Father’s care, Luke 23:46
- Jesus desired to receive exclusive glory God and himself, John 17:1, 5
- Jesus experienced opposition from unregenerate sinners and religious leaders
So, why did Jesus pray? Jesus prayed because that is what righteous human beings do! They communicate with their Heavenly Father! Righteous men humbly address God because:
- Prayer is part and parcel of a relationship with God
- Prayer is essential to following God
- Prayer is the natural action of one who is godly
Jesus prayed because he was a righteous man/human being. Jesus was a human being—a righteous one—and so he prayed. He prayed for the exact same reasons we as believers—justified (righteous) individuals—must pray, with the exception of confession and repentance of sin.
Jesus, as a righteous man, prayed to God because he lived in a world that is disposed and organized against God.
The fact that we are “like” Jesus because of our humanity and righteous standing demands that we pray, for he did.
The fact that we are “unlike” Jesus because we still possess a sin nature adds an additional demand that we pray.
What does our prayerlessness testify about our pride and self-sufficiency?