By Bob Hostetler
If anyone exemplifies the blessed life, it is Jesus. Though he never owned a home or car, and never held season tickets for his favorite baseball team (the Cincinnati Reds, in case you were wondering), he lived a singular life. An abundant life. A rich life. A healing life. A life filled with laughter and song. A life that exuded beauty and blessing.
If you read carefully the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you will see the portrait of a man who commanded the very elements of earth and sky, wind and wave, to do his bidding. He was supremely confident and at ease in the presence of a leper or a Roman governor. He was not intimidated by demons. He was unfazed by storms. He could endure intense temptation without giving in. He could withstand violent opposition without buckling. He could sleep through a storm. He could heal with a touch or a word. He could charm children, mesmerize crowds, and outwit his enemies. He knew how to work hard and he knew how to rest well. He owed nothing and owned little but never wanted. He constantly gave but never suffered the least diminution.
Who wouldn’t want that kind of life? Who wouldn’t love to know the secret of how did Jesus did it? How did he get those riches? Was he born to such blessing? Did he bring those things with him from Heaven? Were such blessings his because he was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah? Or did he access those blessings in the same way we can?
We don’t have to guess at the answer. The snapshots of Jesus we see in the Gospels show us exactly how he—who was thoroughly human in every respect, yet without sin—managed to live the kind of life he did. And they reveal that his blessed life was due in large part to his prayer life.
Prayer was critical to Jesus. It was essential to his connection with the Father. It was vital to the water-to-wine, walking-on-water, lunch-for-the-multitude, and victory-over-sin-and-death kind of life he lived. It was the source of his ability to speak like no one else, before or since. It was the conduit by which he healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Those writings also depict how we can live that kind of life too, if we learn from the top seven prayer secrets of Jesus.
He prioritized prayer.
The Gospel writers described, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16) and “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). In my book, rising before the sun indicates commitment! The Gospels make it clear that prayer, to Jesus, was like a letter from home to a soldier or prisoner—refreshing, reinvigorating, restorative, required.
He prayed relationally.
Not a single prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture begins, “O Thou Ineffable, Invisible, Intangible Ruler of All.” None of his prayers even employ the mode of address practiced daily by devout Jews, “Blessed art Thou, Lord God, King of the universe.” He said, simply, “Father.” In Aramaic, the language Jesus would have learned from his earthly parents, the word was, Abba, which in modern English is most accurately translated as “Papa” or “Daddy.” And he made Father the first word (in Greek) in the prayer he modeled for his followers. Jesus practiced and prescribed a way of praying that not only assumed a close relationship, but also relied on it.
He sought the Father’s agenda.
When Jesus taught his first followers to pray like him, he told them to pray, “May your Name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:9,10, Complete Jewish Bible). In other words, according to Jesus, prayer is first and foremost about the Father, not about us. It is not about getting things from God but entering into partnership with God and seeking his glory, his kingdom, his will. It is a cooperative venture, a partnership between you and God. It is a process in which, instead of “speaking your mind,” you align with his mind before you speak.
He kept it simple.
As a first-century Jew, Jesus was heir to some of the most beautiful and eloquent prayers ever spoken. But his prayers—at least the ones his biographers recorded—are about as simple and earthy as they come: “Make them one,” “Take this cup from me,” “Deliver us,” and “Forgive them.”
He kept it authentic.
Two of Jesus’ most famous prayers are strikingly and amazingly frank and vulnerable: when he prayed “Get me out of this” in Gethsemane and “Where are you?” on the cross. Those are paraphrases, of course; his actual words were, “Take this cup from me” and, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Still, those two moments provide a glimpse into the raw authenticity of Jesus’ prayer life. He didn’t pray platitudes; he prayed authentically, sincerely, even bluntly.
He was specific.
Jesus apparently never prayed general, all-purpose “bless them” kinds of prayers. He prayed specific prayers. For example, he prayed for Peter’s faith to withstand Satan’s attacks (Luke 22:31, 32). He prayed for his followers to be unified, to be protected from the evil one, to be sanctified by the truth (John 17:11, 15, 17). And he told his followers to pray such specific prayers too. He could have told us to pray, “Bless us” or “Provide our needs.” But he didn’t. He said to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
He kept at it.
Luke recorded, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12, italics added). The Gospel writers all make matter-of-fact mentions of Jesus’ habitual praying. On the night of his arrest, in fact, he prayed three separate times while his closest friends dozed nearby. Like the friend at midnight and the importunate widow in two of his parables, he prayed insistently, persistently, and tenaciously.
Clearly to Jesus prayer was “the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings,” as St. John Chrysostom would call it. Jesus’ connection to his Father was key to his enjoyment of life, command of the elements, authority over sickness and Satan, and more. It was prayer—not his special status or privilege—that strengthened him in dark times and blessed him in brighter days. And so it will do for us, if we simply and regularly apply these prayer secrets to our lives.
Bob Hostetler is a writer/speaker from southwest Ohio whose works include The Red-Letter Prayer Life, the app “31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids,” and a blog (OnePrayeraDay.com).