Jesus Teaches us to Pray
April 14, 1996
Brother John Raymond
We have seen from the Catechism of the Catholic Church the Old
Testament has a lot of valuable things to teach us about prayer. In
the fulness of time Jesus was born into these traditions of prayer.
From Him we can come to understand prayer first in contemplating Him
in prayer and hearing what He has to teach us about prayer. This
will give us insight into how He Himself hears our prayers.
The Catechism tells us that Jesus "learned to pray in His human
heart." (#2599) In His great humbling of Himself, Jesus, Wisdom
personified, allowed Himself to be instructed (in His human nature)
by those He created. The first and primary instructor was His
mother. Mary who pondered all God's works in her heart certainly
would have instructed her Child in prayer. (Cf. #2599) We know that
Joseph and Mary were diligent in keeping the demands of the Jewish
Law. They would have brought Jesus to the synagogue at Nazareth
where He would learn the words and rhythms of prayer common to His
people. We know from Sacred Scripture that His parents brought Him
up to the Temple where He also witnessed people at prayer.
But Jesus was unique__very unique! At the age of twelve His
parents find Him in the Temple after He was lost three days and He
says to them, "I must be in My Father's house." (Lk. 2,49) Here
begins the revelation of a new type of prayer, filial prayer. This
type of prayer that the Father wishes from His children will lived
out by Jesus in His humanity, with and for us. Now as we talk about
Jesus praying it is important to remember that "When Jesus prays He
is already teaching us how to pray." (#2607)
St. Luke in his Gospel emphasizes the Holy Spirit's action and
the meaning of prayer in Jesus' ministry. We see Jesus praying
before decisive moments in His own mission and that of His Apostles.
(Cf. Lk 3,21; 9,28; 22:41-44; 6,12, 9:18-20; 22,32) Jesus' prayer
before His Passion "is a humble and trusting commitment of His human
will to the loving will of the Father." (#2600)
The idea of Jesus praying could come as a shock to some of us.
Why would Jesus pray? After all, wasn't He God? Turning to St.
Thomas Aquinas we have first a definition of prayer as the unfolding
of our will to God that He may fulfill it. Now in Jesus the Divine
and human wills are distinct. Jesus has two wills in His one Person.
With His Divine will whatever He wishes comes to pass. But His human
will of itself cannot bring about all that it wishes except by
relying on Divine power. So to pray belongs to Jesus as man and as
having a human will. (Cf. Summa Theologica Third Part Question 1,
Could we learn something from the preceeding thoughts for our own
life of prayer? I think there are a few important points for us.
First, we should ask ourselves, "Do I pray before decisive moments
in my life?" I am sure some people today chose careers, vocations,
places to live, etc. without even a thought of God's help. Second,
"Do I pray before decisive moments that effect other people's
lives?" Third, "When difficulties arise over doing what I know to be
right do I entrust my will to the loving will of my heavenly
Father?" This is an important question to keep in mind today. Some
people when faced with difficulty in carrying out God's commandments
look for the easy way out by defying God's will to cater to human
respect. Lastly, and I think most importantly, "Do I have a filial
prayer relationship with my Heavenly Father?" With these questions
to ponder let us continue in this Easter season ever deepening our
union with and through our Risen Lord.