Charles Spurgeon once said that all the Christian virtues are locked up in the word prayer. The topic is a wellspring that invites sustained study and reflection from many angles. This month we will explore prayer in the New Testament, studying descriptions and examples of prayer that fall into four categories—intercession, thanksgiving, worship, and petition.
We start with intercession and the longest of Jesus’ recorded prayers. It’s sometimes called the “real” Lord’s prayer because it records Jesus’ prayer, instead of His teaching about prayer. John 17:1–26 provides us a unique glimpse into the prayer life of the Messiah just before He was betrayed by Judas.
Given that His earthly ministry was about to come to an end, it’s understandable that Jesus’ mind was focused on what was to come. He made strong statements about the reciprocal nature of the glory He and the Father share, asserting His own vital role in conferring eternal life. And in these moments before His disciples scattered (Mark 14:51), Jesus prayed six times for unity among His followers. Perhaps it was because He knew the forces of strife and division would be so strong that His parting words to His followers—both present and future—kept emphasizing the need for solidarity.
We also see His desire for security and joy, as well as holiness, among His followers, and His concern for those in the world who did not yet know Him. But perhaps just as important as what He prayed for is the fact that He prayed for us and is interceding on our behalf even now. In Tell It Slant, theologian Eugene Peterson writes, “Jesus is our master in prayer; he is also our companion in prayer. He says to us, ‘I’ll pray for you . . .’ and does it.”