BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (228): What was the most basic characteristic of Jesus’ prayer?

Rev. José Mario O. Mandía

Because Jesus was a true Man, His parents must have taught Him how to pray in the Jewish tradition (cf. CCCC 541).

But Jesus was true God at the same time, so “his prayer sprang from a more secret source because he is the eternal Son of God who in His Holy Humanity offers his perfect filial prayer to his Father” (CCCC 541).

Jesus’ prayer was the perfect filial prayer, the conversation of a Beloved Son with his wise, loving and almighty Father. That’s how Jesus prayed and that’s how he wants us to pray.

Everytime He raised His heart to heaven, He called on his Abba! Father! Dad! The Gospels have recorded some of Christ’s very own words.

 “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.” (Matthew 11:25-26; cf. Luke 10:21-22).

Before He raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41-42).

Before His Passion, Jesus says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” (John 12:27-28).

In His Last Supper prayer recorded in John 17, He mentions “Father” six times. “Father, the hour has come…” (verse 1). “And now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence” (v 5). “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me” (v 11)… “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (v 21). “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am” (v 24). “O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee” (v 25).

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, we find the same tender conversation with the Father (cf. Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46). “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).

His crucifixion did not change Jesus’ attitude, though He experienced the miserable state of a sinner who has separated itself freely from God: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1). He had to undergo this sense of separation because He was taking on the blame for the sins of all men so that all men may have the possibility of obtaining eternal happiness. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Nonetheless, He prayed for those who brought this punishment upon Him: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

All the way to the end, He prayed as the Beloved Son: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).

The Compendium remarks: “The prayer of Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemani and his last words on the cross reveal the depth of his filial prayer. Jesus brings to completion the loving plan of the Father and takes upon himself all the anguish of humanity and all the petitions and intercessions of the history of salvation. He presents them to the Father who accepts them and answers them beyond all hope by raising his Son from the dead” (CCCC 543).