How did Jesus himself pray and how did he teach his disciples to pray? In this episode, Mike “Gomer” Gormley cuts through the confusion of Christian prayer and focuses on how Jesus prayed and how he taught others to pray so that each of us can form a strong prayer life that brings us into greater intimacy with God.
Snippet from the Show
Our relationship with God is only as strong as our prayer life.
Review from Previous Episode
Last week, we did an Examination of our Consciousness. We looked at the various crises in the world and the church that stand in opposition to faith in Jesus Christ and our discipleship because they make Christ less real. We reduce Jesus to his kindness, to seeing him in our neighbor, or to our theological diagrams, but we aren’t seeing the real Jesus. We can only do that if we, through faith, encounter him again and again in the Gospels. What did this man actually say and actually do? That’s what makes him real.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to Christian prayer. Some of us over-intellectualize prayer and some of us evaluate it solely on the emotions that it produces. Some of us focus on books and others on the spontaneous. If Christ is being “dimmed” in our modern world and church, then we need to turn up the brightness on our Savior and King.
Most Catholics do not have a strong prayer life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, in its introduction to part 4 on prayer, that “This mystery… requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.” (CCC 2558).
Let’s return to, Frank Sheed, as he is a good and trustworthy guide for understanding the Gospels. He says, “The first gift we seek from the Gospels is growth in intimacy with him: the rest depends on that.” (Frank Sheed, What Difference Does Jesus Make?, pg. 16). “If we are serious about him, we should surely study his character at least as closely as a reader might study the chapter of Hamlet.” (pg. 36)
If studying the Gospels gives us the person and personality of Jesus Christ, and molds our discipleship, then we need to ask ourselves- how did Jesus model prayer? How did he explicitly teach prayer?
Prayer of the Disciples
- Remember both Jesus and his apostles were raised in the context of the Old Covenant world of prayer- feast days, pilgrimages, rituals at home, the life of the synagogue and the worship of the Temple.
- First, man is a praying animal. All of us are searching for God as we are in His image. We may forget our Creator, hide from him, run after idols, even accuse God of abandoning us, but God pursues us.
- Creation covenants we see: offerings of Abel’s firstlings, Enoch’s invoking the divine name, Enoch walking with God, and Noah, too. We see sacrifices on high places, altars on mountain tops, and God calling out to the patriarchs of old.
- Faith: Abraham gave us the faithful prayer to God’s commands. Abraham obeyed God in faith, that is, he trusted God’s commands would be for his good. Abraham was attentive of heart, which is essential to prayer.
- Wrestling: Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, famously wrestles an angel of the Lord from sundown to sunrise in order to receive a blessing. This is symbolic of the Christian notion of the battle of prayer, but in the OT this contending with God is what the name Israel means.
- Interceding: Moses’s Prayer is that of mediator and intercessor. Exodus 33:11 says that Moses prayed “Face to face, as a man speaks to a friend.” Scripture also says that Moses was “very humble” the most in all the earth. He had to be humble running with Israel, who never missed an opportunity to grumble against God. This is where Moses had to “stand in the breach” as mediator after the Golden Calf to save the people.
- Prophets are the voice of God in holiness, righteousness, and judgment. They continuously call out to Israel to not rest with the externals of their Temple, but to internally love God and be faithful.
- Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, formed generations of Jews to pray. Jesus quotes the Psalms the most, with Deuteronomy and Isaiah being the top 3 books. The praying of Psalms daily, weekly, on feasts, on pilgrimages, etc. were a normal part of the average Jewish man’s life.
The drama of prayer is fully revealed to us in the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer.
How Jesus Prays
- Jesus prays with a human heart, in the rhythms of Judaism, and through his divine filiation
- Jesus prays with the Holy Spirit – baptism, transfiguration, passion; election of the 12, and before Peter’s confession of faith
- Jesus prays in SOLITUDE – usually on a mountain at night (Mk 1:34, 6:46; Luke 5:16)
- Jesus includes all men in his prayers, his “brethren”, and sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them. “His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in SECRET” (CCC 2602).
- “He was praying in a certain place and when he had ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray. In seeing the Master at prayer the disciple of Christ also wants to pray. By contemplating and hearing the Son, the master of prayer, the children learn to pray to the Father” (2601).
- Two Explicit Prayers of Jesus: each of them begins with thanksgiving. First one is the blessing of God for revealing the Kingdom to little ones; second is the Raising of Lazarus – “You always hear me” – which implies that He always prays in this way.
- John 17 we have the utterly unique Priestly Prayer of Jesus.
- 7 Last Words of Jesus Crucified
- God answers all of the prayers of Jesus Christ in His resurrection.
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray
- Gospels give explicit teaching on prayer. Jesus builds on the Old Covenant forms
- Sermon on the Mount: Jesus focuses on the conversion of heart, of the inner man – Reconcile with your brother before you offer the gift, love your enemies, pray for persecutors, pray to the Father in secret, do not heap up prayers filled with empty phrases, must have prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and must seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Once converted, the heart of a disciple moves to faith. Faith is FILIAL ADHERENCE.
- FILIAL BOLDNESS: Jesus teaches us to ask in His name. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive, and you will” (Mark 11:24).
- FAITHFUL PRAYER: Not everyone who says “Lord! Lord!” Calling on God in prayer will be answered, but only those whose hearts are disposed to doing the will of the Father who sent Him.
- Prayer of WATCHFULNESS: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Watchfulness means being attentive to Him Who Is and Who Comes. Keeping watch is also battle language, as prayer is a battle.
- 3 EXPLICIT PARABLES ON PRAYER: the Importunate Widow, the Importunate Friend, and the Tax Collector and the Pharisee.
St. Augustine Quotation
“He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us.”
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Meet Your Hosts
Michael “Gomer” Gormley
Michael spent 17 years in full-time parish ministry and is now the Mission Evangelist for That Man Is You!, a men’s apostolate for Paradisus Dei. Michael is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and parish missions all over the US and Canada.
He is the founder and creative director of LayEvangelist.com, and hosts two popular Catholic podcasts: Catching Foxes and Every Knee Shall Bow.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, and has four beautiful and hilarious children: Kateri, Cecilia, Noah, and Thomas.
Dave VanVickle fell in love with the Lord at the age of fourteen and has since dedicated his life to bringing others into a radical relationship with Christ.
He is a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. Additionally, Dave has over ten years of experience assisting Priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance.
Dave married his late wife Amber in 2010. He now resides in Pittsburgh with his five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa.