Jesus’s Attitude, Practice and Instructions Regarding Prayer[1]


He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector…” Luke 18:9-10 ESV

For Jesus, prayer was natural (not a sham), intimate (not out of fear but trust), and brought the same sense of security as a child talking to a good father. Prayer was the means for Jesus to unite his will with the Father and submit himself to the divine plan, asking for strength and wisdom to carry it out.

The informal communion of Jesus with the Father suggests that prayer is to be simple and sincere. Jesus not only encouraged the right kind of prayer, but also sharply censured the wrong kind of prayer (Luke 18:9-14). Hypocrites can expect to be humbled rather than justified. The purpose of prayer is to connect or commune with God.


35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:35-38 ESV

Jesus devoted regular time to personal prayer. He sought solitude. He withdrew early in the morning and spent time in lonely places in the wilderness. The frequency of the references to the occasions when Jesus withdrew to be in solitude reveals intentionality on the part of the Gospel writers in stressing prayer as the cornerstone of his ministry. Prayer clarifies priorities and makes a difference (Mark 1:35-38). Work and prayer were not separate areas of life for Jesus but rather integrated together (John 11:41-42; Matt. 11:25-26).


“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11 ESV

The fundamental notion on which Jesus’ teaching on prayer was built, and in which our approach to prayer is to be rooted, is the goodness of God (Matthew 7:9-11). Five principles:

  1. Prayer takes courage (Matt. 7:7). Bonhoeffer noted in his Letters and Papers from Prison that, “It’s true that it takes trouble to shake us up and drive us to prayer,’ but he viewed this as “something to be ashamed of.”
  2. Prayer must be private as well as public (Matt. 6:6-7).
  3. Prayer is effective only if offered in faith (Mark 9:23), shifting our focus from the obstacles to God, who is able and willing to release his power into the lives of people who take prayer seriously.
  4. Persistence is needed in prayer (Luke 11:5-8; Luke 18:1-8). By persevering in our requests, we invite God to transform us through an encounter with him and to open up his channels of blessing.
  5. Prayer involves unconditional readiness to submit to God’s will.


  1. Why do you pray? What attitude do you bring when you pray? What do you need to repent of? Where do you need to ask God for help to change?
  2. Is prayer a priority in your life? Why or why not? How does Jesus’s model of practicing prayer encourage you?
  3. Do you believe that God is ready to give you good things? Do you believe that God is ready to release his power into your life? Are you ready to submit to His will?

Sample Prayer

O Lord, my good Father, open my eyes to Your purpose for me today. Let me reflect a tiny bit of Your glory back to You. I’m nothing without You. I come to you with empty hands, amazed that You are ready to fill them. Like the disciples in the garden, I so easily fall asleep, I don’t watch, I don’t pray, and I forget to ask you to help me resist the temptations that I will face today. Give me strength and wisdom. Help me to love others. You know I have trouble loving X, Y, and Z. You’ve put them in my life for a reason. Help me to count them as more significant than myself in the way Jesus did. Forgive me and help me to forgive them. You’re great, God. I love You. Thanks for loving me first.


[1] Much of this meditation is borrowed from The Seven Prayers of Jesus by Laszlo Gallusz, published by Inter-varsity Press. Used per IVP’s fair dealing policy.