Prayer was a central part of Jesus’s life and ministry. As the Son of God, Jesus maintained a close relationship with God the Father through prayer. The Gospels provide some insights into when and how often Jesus prayed.
Jesus had a regular daily practice of prayer and communion with God. Mark 1:35 states, “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.” This verse reveals that Jesus woke up early each morning to spend time alone in prayer with the Father. Commencing each day with prayer prepared Him spiritually for the challenges ahead.
Luke 5:16 notes, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The word “often” indicates Jesus habitually retreated from people to pray alone. His practice was to routinely separate Himself from crowds and even His own disciples to pray in solitude. Isolation enabled Jesus to fully focus on communing with the Father without distraction.
Prayer Before Major Events
Jesus also prayed before major events during His ministry. Luke 3:21-22 describes how He prayed at His baptism right before beginning His public messianic work: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.”
Before choosing the twelve disciples, Luke 6:12-13 states, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” Jesus prepared for this important decision by spending the entire night in prayer.
In Luke 9:18, Jesus was praying alone just before He asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah directly followed this prayer time.
Right before His transfiguration, Luke 9:28-29 says, “Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” This incredible event occurred as Christ prayed.
Prayer in Times of Difficulty
The Gospels record multiple occasions when Jesus prayed during challenging circumstances. In Matthew 14:23, after learning of John the Baptist’s death, “Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” He processed this sad news through time alone with the Father.
Jesus famously prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. Matthew 26:36 says, “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.'” Jesus fervently prayed that God would spare Him from the suffering ahead, while still submitting to the Father’s will.
While agonizing on the cross, Jesus uttered simple prayers. Mark 15:34 says, “At three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).” Even during intense pain, Jesus continued praying.
Prayer Before Meals
Mealtimes presented another regular opportunity for prayer. In Matthew 14:19, Jesus prayed before miraculously feeding the five thousand: “And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” Giving thanks before eating was a practice Jesus modeled.
At the Last Supper, Matthew 26:26-27 states, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.'” Even on this solemn night before His death, Jesus gave thanks in prayer at the start of the meal.
Jesus also appears to have practiced prayer during nighttime hours. Several verses indirectly hint at Jesus spending entire nights in prayer:
- Luke 6:12 – Jesus “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
- Matthew 14:23-25 – Jesus went to a mountainside to pray in the evening, and was still there alone late at night.
- Mark 1:35 – Jesus went to a solitary place to pray “very early in the morning, while it was still dark.” Implying He had been praying all night.
Though the Gospels do not definitively state Jesus prayed at night, these verses suggest He did.
Gethsemane: A Night of Fervent Prayer
The clearest example of Jesus spending a whole night in prayer was His time in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. On the night of His arrest, Jesus brought His disciples to the garden to pray with Him. Matthew 26:36-46 describes how He prayed fervently multiple times throughout that night.
Jesus began praying earnestly, asking for God to spare Him from the approaching suffering if possible. After an initial time of prayer, He returned to His sleepy disciples and again prayed in deep agony. Matthew 26:44 says, “So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.” Jesus repeatedly poured out His heart to the Father as He wrestled with what lay ahead.
Jesus’s Pattern of Prayer
Though the Gospels do not provide an exhaustive record, they paint a portrait of Jesus’s prayer life marked by:
- Morning prayers
- Praying before major decisions and events
- Praying in times of difficulty
- Giving thanks at mealtimes
- Spending entire nights in prayer
Jesus prayed at set times like morning and night. He also prayed spontaneously whenever He faced an important decision or trial. Jesus turned to the Father frequently with gratitude, petition, and intercession. His intimate relationship with God flowed from a life of fervent prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer
In Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, when Jesus’s disciples asked Him how to pray, Jesus gave them a prayer outline known today as the Lord’s Prayer:
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.
This model prayer includes key elements like praising God, asking for provision, requesting forgiveness, and seeking protection from sin.
Though Jesus gave this example of structured prayer, His own prayer life was also spontaneous and conversational. He spoke openly and freely to the Father as one would to an intimate friend.
The Lord’s Prayer Outline
The Lord’s Prayer provides a helpful outline for our own prayer lives. It can be broken down into the following components:
“Our Father in heaven” expresses reverence, family relationship, and submission to God.
“Hallowed be your name” focuses on worshiping God’s holiness and greatness.
Praying God’s will
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” aligns our heart with God’s purposes.
Petitioning for needs
“Give us this day our daily bread” brings requests for basic provisions.
“Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” involves repenting from sins committed.
Seeking spiritual protection
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” asks God to guard our hearts from sin.
Following this basic pattern connects us intimately to God and aligns our prayers with His will.
Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer
One of Jesus’s most powerful prayers recorded in Scripture is His High Priestly Prayer in John 17. Praying just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus interceded for His disciples and all future believers. He also prayed for Himself to be glorified through the cross.
The prayer begins with Jesus praying for Himself: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (v1). He entrusts Himself completely to the Father’s plan.
Jesus then prays for His disciples, asking God to protect them (v11), sanctify them by the truth (v17), and unify them together (v21). He closes the prayer by interceding for all who will believe in Him through the disciples’ message (v20).
This intimate prayer reveals Jesus’s love for His followers and commitment to securing their salvation through His sacrifice on the cross. His last words before facing death were prayers for those He came to save.
Jesus Called Us to a Life of Prayer
Jesus did not just model a life of prayer for us to follow. He explicitly taught about the importance, power, and blessings of prayer:
- Prayer should be regular and persistent – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).
- Prayer requires faith – “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
- Prayer changes us – “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38).
- Prayer is powerful – “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).
Jesus assured His followers God desires to answer prayer that aligns with His will when we ask with faith (Matthew 7:7-11). Through prayer, we receive wisdom, strength, and breakthrough by accessing the power of God.
Jesus’s earthly life was characterized by consistent, fervent prayer and close communion with the Father. Though short, the Gospel accounts provide fascinating glimpses into His prayer habits and model for us. Jesus prayed at set times, yet was also given to spontaneous prayer as needs arose. He saw prayer as a vital lifeline enabling Him to carry out the Father’s will.
Most importantly, Jesus calls His followers to embrace a lifestyle of daily intimate prayer with God. As the Son of God Himself needed to pray, how much more do we! The privilege of approaching God’s throne of grace through Christ should compel us to seek the Lord in consistent prayer each day.