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Jesus Prayed

by Victor Hoagland, C.P.
based on the New Catholic Catechism 2598-2616

We Christians learn to pray through Jesus Christ, who not only teaches us to pray, but prayed himself. The Gospels are filled with examples of his prayer.

Did Jesus himself have to learn to pray?

Yes, he did. True, he was the Son of God who knew all things. But as one like us, he had to learn to pray while growing up. In the village of Nazareth Mary and Joseph guided his first steps in prayer. At home, in the synagogue at Nazareth, in the temple of Jerusalem he learned the rhythms and words of Jewish prayer.

Yet even in his earliest years, Jesus prayed to God with a distinct intimacy. God was his Father and he was God's son. There was a childlike, filial quality to his prayer.

CrucifixJesus prayed regularly, his first disciples recalled. He prayed before decisive moments, beginning with his baptism and as he faced his passion and death. He prayed in times of human weakness and death, as he did at the grave of Lazarus. He frequently prayed to give thanks. His prayer was steady, thankful, and confident that God's will was for his good.

His prayer was heartfelt. Nowhere is that more evident than when he prayed on the cross.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

"I thirst."

"Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother."

"My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"

"It is finished"

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

They were prayers that came from the heart. They reveal him tender towards those he loved and forgiving to those who wronged him; he is human in weakness and strong in faith. Never did a human heart reach out to God more eloquently than when Jesus prayed on the cross.

He ended his life with a loud cry. Even that last rending cry was a heartfelt prayer to God, issuing from the depths of his being and summing up what could not said.

And his prayer was heard. God raised him up. We Christians believe the prayer of Jesus teaches that prayer is always heard. In his prayer is our hope.

What can we learn from the prayer of Jesus?

First, that true prayer should come from the heart. He prayed from within, not with just words or gestures. His prayer was not based only on feelings or passing emotions. Prayer comes from within, beyond level of feelings, from ourselves. " Go into the inner room, " Jesus says, " and there pray to your Father, who hears you." Sometimes prayer from the heart, from the "inner room" takes the form of words, at other times it may be like his own wordless cry.

Secondly, prayer is fed by faith. Jesus prayed with an unwavering faith in his heavenly Father, a faith that lasted till his death. He taught us to pray also with childlike faith in God, believing that our prayers are heard by One who loves us.

Thirdly, prayer should be steady and persevering as his prayer was, even when no answer comes or when no relief is in sight. "Watch and Pray," he says, "Seek and knock," till the door that reveals God's holy will be opened.

His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. He did, and he teaches us too. Yet Jesus is more than a teacher. As Christians we believe that Jesus prays for us; he is our intercessor before God. As Savior he gathers our prayers, our needs, the cries of our hearts to make them his own and offers them to God who hears our prayers in the prayer of his Son.

That is why we complete our prayers so often with the beautiful phrase: "Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen." Jesus is our teacher and he is our Savior, who takes our prayers and makes them his own.

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14.11.02