LIVING LIKE JESUS: The Gospel of Luke—Week 9
This week we are moving into our study of the last of the spiritual practices of Jesus: prayer. The Gospel of Luke spends more time on Jesus’ prayer life and teachings on prayer than any of the other gospels. In fact, Luke continues this emphasis on prayer into his history of the early Church in the Book of Acts. For Luke, prayer is the underpinning for both the earthly ministry of Jesus and the world-changing ministry of his disciples. Yet, if you’re like me, prayer doesn’t necessarily feel this way. At times my prayers can feel stale and shallow. Sometimes I pray out of a sense of duty or for the sake of obedience. Sometimes I pray because I want to be closer to God. While neither of these motivations is wrong, they also don’t always make me excited to pray, and they don’t often leave me feeling empowered. So, what’s the difference between the motivation for Jesus’ prayer life and what motivates our prayer lives?
When Jesus prays in the gospels, it is not just out of a sense of obedience, though he is the perfect example of obedience. His prayers aren’t just about intimacy with the Father, though I think we all desire to have the same intimacy with God that Jesus displays. When Jesus prays, especially in the Gospel of Luke, he prays with the expectation that his prayer makes a concrete difference. It is a mystery, but it is truth—though God is sovereign and immutable (unchanging), he nevertheless chooses to act in response to our prayers. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that God is like some genie in a bottle who must do as we ask if we pray the right way, but nor is he some cosmic puppet master directing our every move, including our prayers. Our God is so much bigger than either of those notions. He is a God who can both ordain his plan for the redemption of mankind before the foundation of the world and also relent from the destruction of the Israelites in response to the fervent prayer of Moses. What both an awesome privilege and sobering responsibility to know that our prayers are inextricably intertwined with the work of God in this world!
In this story we see a key moment in the life of Jesus. In his baptism Jesus is moving from being a quiet carpenter from Nazareth into the public phase of his ministry. At this pivotal moment, what does Jesus do? He prays, and in response to Jesus’ prayer, God moves. The Holy Spirit descends, anointing and empowering Jesus’ earthly ministry. In this moment, the pattern for the rest of Jesus’ ministry is established. The foundation for all that Jesus will accomplish while here on this earth will be prayer. As Katherine J. Wright explains, this prayer, which initiates the coming of the Holy Spirit, “paves the way for Jesus’ ministry, enables him to understand his calling, and empowers him to do his task.”
What will be your foundation?
- What would you say motivates your prayer life?
- How often do you pray before acting? What can we learn from the pattern established by Jesus in this passage?
- Has it been your experience that prayer changes things? If so, how? If not, why might that be?
- Consider the 3 things in Jesus’ ministry that Katherine J. Wright says were initiated by prayer. Do you struggle with any of those areas in your own life? How might prayer assist your growth in those areas?