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December 5, 2010

Praying Like Christ

The first section of the fifth chapter of Hebrews explains the subject of the High Priest. Christians should rejoice in that we have a High Priest superior to the high priest of the law given through Moses. He is the Son of God (Hebrews 5:5). Yet, He came to this earth as a man (Hebrews 2:16-18). As a man He was qualified or made complete for the role of the High Priest in that He suffered and was tempted even as are we (Hebrews 4:15). In Hebrews 5:79, this idea of being made complete by coming as a man is stated in other words: “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” Verse seven tells about the suffering Christ, and how He overcame through prayer. Look at this prayer and the success.

We learn when Christ prayed

In the “days of His flesh” He offered up prayers — that is throughout His time on this earth. Jesus prayed often, and it ought not be surprising to find Him praying in the midst of suffering in Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion (Matthew 26:3646). This ought to be an object lesson for Christians. It is now, in the flesh, in our life, when we ought to feel the need of prayer. We must be devoted to prayer. Think of Paul’s exhortation to prayer: “Pray without ceasing” (1Thessalonians 5:17). If in tribulation or rejoicing, as long as we tread this earth in the service of God, wearing His armor, in His service as His soldier, we must “with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

We learn from this prayer the one to whom
our prayers should be addressed

These prayers were unto Him who was able to save him from death — unto God. Jesus had already taught his disciples this very same approach: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name’” and “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:1-4). After all, God is the one who gives to all life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25), including our daily bread.

We learn from this prayer what Jesus prayed prayed for

This is just referred to in our text, but from the recording of the actual prayer we have in the gospels we know that Jesus was praying this: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” He knew God was able to save him from death. Almost immediately following this prayer, he demonstrated that he knew God was able: “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:5154). Without any doubt, the “cup” has reference to his suffering and sorrow (See Isaiah 53:3-5). As to why Jesus prayed: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” we may only infer. Regardless of the why, let it be remembered that Jesus knew and prayed: “Not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:36-42). That ought to be enough for us — pray for God’s will and God’s plan.

We learn from this prayer something of the
intensity and sincerity of prayer

He offered up prayers and supplications. From Luke’s account of Gethsemane, we learn that Christ was in agony and that he prayed earnestly. His sweat was as it were drops of blood falling down to the ground: “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). This was all with strong crying and with tears as we remember from our text (Hebrews 5:7). He was exceeding sorrowful (Mark 14:34). The seriousness of the need demands great sincerity and intensity in our prayers, too. We must show zeal. We must show sincerity. We must be fervent. Remember the example of Christians praying when Peter was imprisoned? “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5). We can have this zeal, this confidence, because we have Christ: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession … Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:11-16); “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

We learn from this prayer that prayer is heard in heaven

He was heard! The reason was that he feared. He was one of piety. Much has been written about this statement, but all recognize the prayer of Jesus was heard because his heart was right. We are to be like our Lord and Master aren’t we? How is our heart?

We must have a heart that is right. There are conditions of acceptable prayer for us. Here a few conditions that ought to come to mind: We must not ask amiss; James 4:3. We must be doers of the word; 1John 3:22. We must ask in faith; James 1:5,6; Mark 11:24,25. We must abide in Christ; John 15:7. We must be fervent; James 5:16. We can know our prayer is heard in heaven. Remember what James said, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Are you a Christian? That is the place to begin in making preparations to pray so as to be heard. Why not obey the gospel? — S. Scott Richardson Sr.

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