Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 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!(ESV)
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Thursday after Ash Wednesday
19 February 2015
Why pray? Jesus prays and there's an end to it. There is nothing more to be said.
Jesus prays. He is God of God, Light of Light. In his Gospel, Mark emphasized that Jesus is the Son of God. People ask me why Jesus bothers to pray. "I mean, if He is God, if He knows His Father will and always does it perfectly, why would He need to pray to His Father? And if the Father knows the heart and mind of His Son because He is eternally begotten of His Father, would God the Father really need to be addressed directly by His Son?" Why does Jesus pray?
When preaching about His care of the sheep, His most intimate care for you and me, Jesus says: 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one' (Jn 10:27-30). His intimate care of us is surpassed only by the intimacy of the unity between Jesus and His Father. The sheep know Him, because they know His voice. He knows His sheep and they follow Him. The sheep and the shepherd know each other so well, but the Father and the Son know the mind and heart of each other far better.
Some non-Christian sects understand Jesus' willingness to pray to His Father as evidence that Jesus could not be God. If Jesus has such a perfect, united relationship with His Father why does He pray? But the objections offered by the unity and intimacy of the Father and the Son are the very reason why the Son prays and why we should pray. They are related to each other no less by words, the very words that the Son shares with us that we might know His Father. The Father and the Son love to speak with each other. Why shouldn't they also love to speak to us? Why shouldn't they love to hear our speaking back to them? This is a sign of our unity with our God. We Christians have become partakers of the divine nature through His great and precious promises (2Pt 1:4). Why pray? Because we are united to God by faith.
Jesus is God's Son. He is united in essence with the Father by reason of His nature as Godhead. And yet He still prays. If anyone had an excuse not to pray, if anyone had a reason to say that His Father was always with Him, Jesus did. If anyone could have claimed they prayed all the time, Jesus could have. Yet He never made that claim. The infallible and continual witness of God's Word is that Jesus prayed. He prayed often. He prayed regularly. He prayed at great length. He prayed intentionally.
We who have a less intimate and united relationship with our Father have more reason to pray to our Father, not less. We should pray because Jesus, God's Son, prayed.
"The Lord, who foresees human necessities, after delivering His rule of prayer in the Lord's Prayer, said separately, 'Ask, and you shall receive' (Mt 7:7) and since there are petitions which are made according to the circumstances of each individual; our additional wants have the right-after beginning with the legitimate and customary prayers as a foundation, as it were-of rearing an outer superstructure of petitions, yet with remembrance of the Master's precepts."
Tertulian, On Prayer, 10
Lord Jesus, help us to pray our way through Lent with You. You yourself prayed and have invited us to do the same. You have promised to hear us. Keep us from the impotence and unbelief that doubts your willingness to hear our petitions. Amen.
For those who are slothful in prayer, that they might be encouraged by the incredible willingness of God to hear their petitions
For Gloria Speckhard, who has undergone foot surgery, that she might become fully ambulatory again
For Jack Ogden, who is at the US Naval Academy, that the holy angels would watch over him in all his ways
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015