When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, he gave them a simple formula (such as in Matthew 6). We often called this the Lord’s Prayer, but Model Prayer or even Disciples’ Prayer would be more descriptive. Here are three prayers Jesus himself prayed during Holy Week.
The High Priestly Prayer (John 17) This entire chapter is a prayer spoken by Jesus that we call the High Priestly Prayer. The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to detail the ways Jesus acts as our high priest, continuously going into God’s presence and making intercession on our behalf. His prayer in John 17 casts Jesus in the role of High Priest, bridging the gap between man and God, between the unholy and Most Holy. Jesus has only a few days left on earth at this point in the story, and is about to take his place at God’s right hand. Jesus prayed for his followers of that day and all that would ever believe and follow in the future. Jesus literally prayed to God for us.
The Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46) The night before his arrest Jesus prayed from the Garden of Gethsemane (or Mount of Olives, as in Luke). It is clear that Jesus understands what must happen but is not looking forward to it. “Let this cup pass from me” is his way of saying to God “Don’t do this.” He was asking if there couldn’t be another way, but just as in the Model Prayer he prays for God’s will to be done. Luke (referred to by Paul as the beloved physician) notes that Jesus prayed until his sweat became as great drops of blood. Possibly the capillaries under his skin were breaking due to the physical duress and blood was mixing with sweat as it came out through his pours. I like to point out that Jesus never did anything else – preached, taught, healed the sick, walked on water – until this happened, only when he spent the night in agonizing prayer before his trial and death. “Now I lay me down to sleep” or a simple recitation of the Model Prayer is not the kind of effectual, fervent prayer spoken of in Ephesians 6. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is fervent, to a level many of us may never know.
On the Cross Luke 23:33-34 Among his last words was a prayer for the very people that were killing him. Jesus preached loving one’s enemies and blessing those that curse, but they are not just empty words from a pulpit. Jesus put those teachings into practice when he said “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” That’s the Gospel. That sums up the earthly ministry of Jesus. He came to seek and to save the lost, knowing that his life would be required. For this cause he came into the world. They mocked him, slapped him, drove a crown of thorns onto his head, whipped him, then drove nails into his hands and feet and hung him on a cross. They continued to mock him while he was slowly dying, saying that he saved others but could not save himself. And Jesus response was to… ask God to forgive them.
We are told to think of others more highly than ourselves, to love God first and then our neighbor, to love our enemies and bless those that curse us. We are given not only instruction but also examples of how to pray. The bar is set pretty high. We are also told to have the same mind in us as Christ, and to love others as he loved us. To even come close we must begin and end each day in prayer, and be filled with his grace and led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.