The Prayer Life of Jesus: A Path
to Divine Friendship
By Frank A. DeCenso Jr.
While defending the Sabbath healing of a sick man at the
pool of Bethesda, Jesus said, “The Father loves the Son”
(John 5:20). Jesus explained that since the Father loved the Son,
He revealed to Jesus what to do, and in response, Jesus did what
was revealed. In this case, it involved healing a man on the Sabbath.
Jesus’ statement that “the Father loves the Son”
may sound a bit obvious. Since Jesus is the Only-Begotten of the
Father, existing for all eternity with the Father, wouldn’t
there naturally be reciprocal love between the two?
Probing into the relationship between the kenotic1 Christ and
His Father, we find that there existed a relationship beyond mere
familial or trinitarian strata. The Greek word used for “loves”
here is phileo, and it means “to be friends with, to be
fond of.” The Father and the Son were fond friends. This
intimate friendship with the Father enabled Jesus to see and hear
what the Father was doing and revealing – including healings,
miracles, and insights about people.
Was Jesus’ eternal relationship with His Father the catalyst
for this friendship, or was there something else that augmented
their bond as intimate friends? There may be several reasons for
their intimate friendship (including Jesus’ unwavering obedience
to the Father). However, in this article, my conjecture is that
Jesus’ prayer life included two aspects that may have ‘advanced’
His relationship with the Father into the realm of an intimate,
Let’s briefly examine the two aspects of Jesus’ prayer
life that I believe contributed to this divine friendship: continual
communion and isolated intimacy.
And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone,
but I am with the Father who sent Me [emphasis
Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will
be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And
yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me
Jesus knew the Father was always with Him. He had a connection
with the Father that was unbreakable. Ministering to the sick
and demonized did not impede their communion. Debating with the
religious establishment did not hinder their intimacy. He and
the Father were always together, despite the circumstances Jesus
found Himself in.
During Jesus’ daily life, this intimate communion was continuous
and incessant. The things Jesus did were in response to what the
Father wanted Him to do; He did the things the Father showed Him
to do during their constant communion:
Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself;
but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29And He who
sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone,
for I always do those things that please Him”
This obedience on Jesus’ part would not have been possible
had He not lived in continual communion with the Father, receiving
the Father’s direction for varying circumstances.
Like Jesus, we can also traverse this earth in knowledge and
confidence that God Almighty walks with us continually, without
pause. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Maintaining this
mindset may prove difficult depending on the events thrust into
our lives. Nevertheless, the fact remains – the God of the
universe is always with us and wants to continually fellowship
with us. We simply have to respond to His overtures to commune
intimately with Him.
What are some of the ways we can do this? We can begin to make
a practice of acknowledging that His presence is with us wherever
we are. Throughout the day, we can chat with Him, praise Him,
and rest in His sweet embrace. This does not require us to be
verbal in the midst of crowds. It can entail an inner dialogue
with our living Lord, and a listening spirit to our loving God.
Somehow, someway, we can begin to cultivate a continuous communion
with God. We will soon find ourselves friends of His, and as such,
those in whom He confides in and partners with.
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go
before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
23And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went
up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came,
He was alone there [emphasis added].
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight,
He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there
He prayed [emphasis added].
Why did Jesus desire isolated intimacy with the Father when He
was already experiencing continual communion with Him? I believe
it was because there were times He just wanted to be alone with
the Father to engage in prayer and conversation.
Moreover, in the midst of a life that could have ministered to
people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Jesus realized the importance
of isolating Himself from the demands of that ministry.
However, the report went around concerning Him all the more;
and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed
by Him of their infirmities. 16So He Himself often withdrew
into the wilderness and prayed [emphasis added].
Even though there were many who needed ministry, Jesus split
off from the crowds to engage with the Father in intimate communion.
Realizing Jesus lived on earth as a man, He may have needed the
refreshing presence of His Father to gain strength for life and
ministry. Perhaps it was in those times that He received instruction
from the Father on how to minister to the crowds that followed
Him. Whatever the case, Jesus set boundaries that gave Him isolated
time with the Father.
Likewise, we need to set boundaries that will give us times of
solitude with the Father. We cannot live a Christian life in this
world without the strength that comes from being in the presence
of our God. Nor can we minister effectively without time spent
at His feet, garnering His instruction and ministerial insight.
Spending time alone with God does not mean we are avoiding ministry.
Rather, it is a solid response to the realization that without
His strength and leading, we will soon become empty vessels of
no benefit to those who need His touch.
Jesus’ time in isolation with the Father also involved
times of earnest prayer:
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain
to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God
In this passage, Jesus proceeded from a night of prayer to the
choosing of 12 disciples that He wanted to be with Him (Luke 6:13;
Mark 3:13-14). The text does not explicitly tell us that Jesus
spent the night in prayer for the purpose of deciding on which
disciples to choose, but we cannot dismiss the possibility.
Is there a big decision you or I have to make? Is there a problem
for which we need an answer or direction? Perhaps an extended
period of solitude with the Father will provide the needed resolution.
We should make time to inquire of God and spend time with Him
alone. He may just communicate with us!
In closing, the Father desires intense intimacy with His children.
In all likelihood, He desires it more than we do or ever will.
Therefore, let us adopt the practices of communing with the Father
throughout the day, and making time to be alone with Him. By doing
so, we will become friends with the God of eternity, and our lives
will never be the same.
1 Relating to the laying aside of Jesus’ deity
in becoming man and suffering death. See Philippians 2:5-11.
Copyright © 2005 by Frank A. DeCenso Jr. All Scripture
references are NKJV unless otherwise noted.
Frank has been teaching the Bible in churches
and other venues for more than 20 years. He is currently the Ministry
Resources Director at Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Virginia
Beach, Va. He is an employee at Regent University in the Information
Technology Department. Frank is married and lives in Virginia
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