The Prayer Principle
By Peter Amsterdam
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“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’”—Luke 11:11
Prayer was a major factor in Jesus’ life and ministry. There are numerous references throughout the Gospels of Jesus praying. He taught His disciples to pray, they saw Him pray, they heard Him pray for them, and He gave counsel about praying. Before many of the major events, miracles, and decisions in Jesus’ life, and right up until the time of His death, Jesus spent time in prayer. Prayer was an integral part of His ministry. The fact that Jesus made a point to pray and to teach His disciples about prayer indicates that it is an important part of discipleship.
Taking time alone in prayer was a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life. He took time away from the crowds, and sometimes from His closest followers, to pray.2 He also prayed in His disciples’ presence.
Seeing Jesus’ example of prayer had a definite impact on the disciples, as evidenced throughout the book of Acts, which often speaks of them praying. Jesus also gave His disciples instructions on how to pray. He said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”3
He also taught His disciples how not to pray: “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”4
Jesus taught about being persistent in prayer, as the Gospel of Luke recounts: “He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”5
He also taught the power of prayer, that prayer gets answered, and that prayers should be prayed in faith and confidence—knowing that God is all-powerful and that nothing is beyond His capability to answer and do. In the book of Matthew, He said, “If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”6
He exhorted His disciples to watch and to pray against falling into temptation and sin. In other versions of the Bible, watch yourselves is rendered as be on guard, take heed, be careful, be concerned. Jesus told His disciples to “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”7 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”8
Jesus also prayed for others, as Matthew recounts in his Gospel: “Then children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and went away.”9
As shown by the accounts of His praying before His arrest, Jesus prayed desperately. The Gospel of Luke tells us: “He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.’ And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”10
Prayer is important in our lives; it’s part of our communication with God. Prayer is a means of communicating with God, of abiding in Him. It’s a means of connecting to His power. It’s a means of loving and helping others as we pray for them. It’s a means of guarding our spiritual life and health. It makes a difference in the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching as we pray for laborers and then pray for those we are ministering to. It gives us the opportunity to humble ourselves before God, as we pray desperately and implore His help, and when we forgive others and ask Him for forgiveness.
As disciples, we are called to pray, and prayer is woven throughout the elements of discipleship. Loving God, living for Him, preaching Him, and teaching Him all require prayer. Disciples pray.
Originally published December 2011. Excerpted and republished November 2016.
Read by Simon Peterson.
2 Luke 5:15–16; Mark 1:35–37.
3 Matthew 6:9–13.
4 Matthew 6:5–8.
5 Luke 18:1.
6 Matthew 21:21–22.
7 Luke 21:34–36.
8 Mark 14:38.
9 Matthew 19:13–15.
10 Luke 22:41–44.