Praying Like Jesus

In my squash-playing days, I liked to go and practice by myself. I would hit that ball around the squash court until I convinced myself that I was a good player. It didn’t take much work to convince me – it was self-evident that I was a gifted squash player. Bring them on!

And so I began to play real people. I remember playing an older gentleman. I was 18 at the time; he was in his fifties. Piece of cake! I just hoped I didn’t give him a heart attack. Well, as we began to play, he walloped me. I was massacred! I walked away feeling quite a but humbler about my squash-playing abilities.

I’ve since learned some basic guidelines about playing athletic sports. If you want to be proud, play a lesser player. If you want a good game, play someone with equal abilities. If you want to improve, play somebody a little better than you are. If you want to be utterly humiliated, play an expert.

You’d think it would be that way with prayer. Today we’re going to talk about praying like Jesus. In comparison to Jesus, the best prayer among us is nothing more than a praying amateur. You and I could expect to be decimated by the example of Jesus. Surely we could never have a prayer life like Jesus.

Well, yes, in many ways we’ll never measure up to Jesus. And yet the Spirit’s entire job is to make us more like Jesus. Romans 8:29 says that God has chosen us to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” So we’re supposed to pray like Jesus.

I was surprised what happened this week as I looked at Jesus’ prayer life. Instead of feeling unworthy and guilty, I became filled with a sense of hope. Jesus didn’t come to overwhelm us with guilt; he came to bring us life and hope. And that extends to our prayer life as well.

If you came expecting to hear words that would make you feel guilty about your prayer life, that’s not what you’re going to hear today. But if you came ready to receive some hope, this morning is for you. There are four essentials to praying like Jesus. Two have to do with God; two have to do with you.


I sometimes struggle with approaching God. He is holy and sovereign. He can seem so distant. It’s hard to believe that God is approachable by me.

Some of you know the Old Testament system of sacrifices. For hundreds of years, nobody had known direct access to God. Quite the contrary! In the Old Testament, with the sacrificial system, if a person marched into the presence of God in the Temple, they’d be killed. The average person was represented by a priest. The priest would help them pay confess their sins, pay penance, and make animal sacrifices. The average person had no direct access to God. They would need to go through a priest.

Not only that, but the priest couldn’t approach God directly either. If the priest tried to approach God, he would be killed. The priest had to approach God through the High Priest. Once a year, at just the right time, and after all the right ceremonies, the High Priest could enter a place in the Temple called the Holy of Holies. It had to be done in just the right way, and for only a brief period of time.

God had become so remote in Jesus’ day that the people addressed God as “Sovereign Lord,” “King of the Universe,” and so on. Their Scriptures had referred to God as Father, but over the centuries, they had lost the sense of God’s intimate fatherhood. They saw God only as a remote, distant, faded figure who had once guided their ancestors. Approaching God was complicated to them. You couldn’t just rush into God’s presence. They couldn’t dream of approaching God in intimate terms.

Jesus turned their worlds upside down. After hundreds of years of high priests and rituals, Jesus said in Matthew 7:

7“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. 8For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

No red tape. No high priests. No rituals. Just come anytime, anywhere, and God is there ready to hear you.

What’s more, Jesus said:

9Pray like this: Our Father in heaven… (Matthew 6:9)

Jesus called him Father. Unbelievable! To call God “Father” would have been near blasphemy for the people of that day.

The word that Jesus probably used was Abba. It was an Aramaic word used by children to address their fathers. It’s not quite as familiar as “Daddy,” but it is a little more familiar than “Father.” It’s a term of intimacy that a child would use to address their father. It was an intimate and personal term.

It’s one thing for Jesus to pray with such intimacy. Jesus was indeed the Son of God. God had told him, “You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you” (Luke 3:22). Jesus had an established, intimate relationship with God. He could have told us to keep our respectful distance.

What sort of an established relationship do we have with God? The Bible tells us that those who follow Jesus Christ are adopted children of God. Paul writes in Romans 8:

15So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.” 16For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children. 17And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too.

In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all their rights in the old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in the new family. The adopted child became a full heir to the new father’s estate. We are adopted children with all the rights of being a child of God. We are not slaves; we’re the Master’s children. That’s our position, and nothing can ever change that. We can be intimate with God.

If you haven’t begun to follow Jesus yet, one of the greatest things you’ll gain by following him is this intimacy with God. When God is your Father, it means that you no longer have to be scared by him. He’s not a fearful deity any longer; he’s your Father. It means the end of uncertainty in your life. If earthly fathers go out of their way to help their children, won’t God love, protect, and help you? It settles the issue of loneliness. No matter if friends, family members, or even the rest of the world abandon you, God will never leave you or forsake you. The minute you begin to follow Jesus, all these benefits are yours.

My father wasn’t around much when I grew up, except for Saturdays. And yet now that I’m a father, I can relate to this passage. I want my children to respect me. Yet I don’t want them to approach me as being aloof or unapproachable. Nothing thrills me more than when my children want to be held by me; to be with me. God is like that. He is eager to lend his ear, his power, and his eternal blessings to his children.

You and I have no idea how approachable God is once we’ve been adopted as one of his children. God is easier to talk to than your kid’s principal or your bank manager. Jesus is inviting us into a covenant relationship, in which we can have an audience with the C.E.O. of the universe, without having to bother with a priest, appointment secretary, or any red tape We can walk in directly and ask, seek, knock.

That’s the first essential to praying like Jesus. Understand God’s approachability.


Jesus said again:

7“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. 8For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

A lot of people think that God is a cosmic grouch. They picture God in heaven frowning every time he sees someone smile. He loves to reign on parades. He is most pleased when we are displeased. For these people, prayer is overcoming God’s reluctance.

Jesus says something different. He says that God loves to give people what they ask for; he loves to let people find what they’re seeking; he loves to open the door to those who stand outside knocking. That’s God’s inclination. He’s inclined to answer the prayers of his people.

Not only is God righteous and holy, he’s kind to the core. He loves to meet needs, provide resources, give love to love-starved people, surprise people with his goodness, stun them with his grace. He loves to heal, and renew, and restore, and guide and save people. He does this with great joy. That’s what he’s like, Jesus says. Get to know him.

Jesus even tells a story in to illustrate this point more:

9You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

You and I have heard of bad dads. A bad dad is a dad who plays cruel tricks on his kids. A bad dad would find a stone that looked like a loaf of bread and give it to his child in a breadbasket. A bad dad would find a poisonous snake in the field, put it on a plate and cover it, and then wait for his daughter to ask for a fish sandwich. We can’t even imagine a dad that bad. We all know that a parent’s heart is tenderly disposed towards a child.

Well, Jesus says, if you have that streak of evil in your heart and are still good to your children, imagine how good a dad would be if he were perfect. And then, Jesus says, that’s my Father. He’s perfect. He would never do anything to harm his children. Our heavenly Father only gives good gifts. James wrote later:

17Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights.

Some people choke at the notion that God is kind to the core. Some believe that the only way they can get a smile from the stern face of God is to knock themselves out, to deny any and all forms of pleasure, to beat themselves up for real or imagined infractions, and then when they lie in a pile of exhaustion and self reproach, they say, “How’s this, are you happy?”

Some of us believe we have to be at peak spiritual performance before God can smile on us. Any spiritual performance junkies here? Some of us have a notion that God is stern and judgmental, who hates when people have fun, who is never more pleased when people are rigid and joyless. Jesus says, “I wish you knew God, he’s approachable and he’s benevolent to the core.” As somebody has said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of his highest willingness.”

It’s essential that you understand God’s approachability and his benevolence. Those two essentials have to do with your understanding of God. The next two essentials have to do with you.


I’m amazed as I read the Gospels of how many times Jesus prayed. Mark 1:35 says:

35The next morning Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.

Jesus prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21), before he chose the twelve disciples (Luke 6:12), when the crowds increased (Luke 5:16), before he asked the twelve for their confession of faith (Luke 9:18), and at his Transfiguration (Luke 9:29). Jesus prayed so much that the disciples asked him in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They never asked him to teach them how to do miracles. They asked to be taught how to pray.

Jesus seemed to pray when life became the most hectic. When events circled Jesus, Jesus circled his wagons around the courts of God.

I’ve come to realize that if Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, had to depend on prayer while on this earth, how much more do I need to pray!

Jesus said two things that especially convict me about our need for prayer. In John 15, he said:

5“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Every week I attempt to do many things for God. I attempt to be a loving husband and a kind father. I attempt to be a good pastor. And yet Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Separated from Jesus, I can’t produce any fruit in my walk with God. That’s why I need prayer.

Jesus also said in Matthew 26:41:

41Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!”

Every day we are tempted. Even Jesus was tempted while he was on earth. He knew that there’s only one way to withstand temptation: through prayer. The only way to overcome temptation is through prayer. You can’t overcome temptation on your own strength. You can’t resist it alone! Through prayer, God’s strength can shore up our defenses and defeat Satan’s power.

I think that one of the keys to Jesus’ effectiveness was his prayer life. We’ll never be the Son of God, but that just means we need more prayer than he did. We need to comprehend how much we need him. That’s the third essential.


If you examine all of Jesus’ teaching about prayer, I believe that this is the issue that comes up the most. Jesus wants us to understand one thing about prayer. Jesus wanted us to be bold and persistent in prayer. Jesus told two similar stories to get his point across: the stories of the persistent widow and the story of the friend at midnight, which was read for us earlier. Let’s talk for a minute about the story of the friend at midnight.

When Jesus told this story, houses were nothing like what we’re used to. Houses were small, usually consisting of one room. It would be your living room, dining room, and bedroom all in one. A house had one door, which would be left open all day. But at night, the head of the family would close the door and slide a wooden bar through the rings of the door and the wall to keep out intruders. Then, mats were spread out and were used as beds on which the family slept all in a row. If you have children, you can imagine how little you’d like to disrupt your entire family in the middle of the night. That’s the backdrop for the story that Jesus tells.

A man ran out of bread. I can imagine that he just had the last bite at suppertime. You know the embarrassment of company coming when you’ve got nothing to serve them! Bread was not as readily available then. There were no 24-hour convenience stores. Bread was baked each day to meet their daily needs.

In that culture, hospitality was held in high regard. A visitor was welcomed and cared for, no matter when they came. To refuse to serve a guest would be an embarrassment not only to your own house, but to the whole village. So imagine the dilemma of having a friend arrive at midnight – traveling late to escape the heat of the day – and to have nothing to serve him?

So the man goes next door and asks the neighbor for help. The neighbor, not surprisingly, doesn’t want to wake up his whole house. He says, “Don’t bother me. The kids are asleep. The door is locked. I can’t help you!”

But the man doesn’t give up that easily. He knocks and knocks, until the neighbor decides that it’s better to risk waking up the kids by getting up, than to have the kids woken up by all the knocking.

What’s the moral of the story? It’s not that God is reluctant or sleeping. It’s not that you’re bothering God with your requests. It’s this: if you can get a sleepy neighbor to respond to your requests for help, even though he didn’t really want to, how much more will God answer your requests?

But the key is found in verse 8. Verse 8 says, “because of the man’s boldness [or importunity] he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” The word boldness or importunity means “a lack of feeling shame.” It means shameless and persistent. It’s the sort of prayer that Jesus teaches. He wants us to be bold and shameless in making our requests.

Hebrews 10 tells us:

19And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us.
21And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, 22let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

God expects boldness from his children when it comes to spiritual requests. God wants us to be bold – even shameless – in coming to God for all that we need. He desires prayer with nerve. He wants mountain-moving prayer. The response, of course, is up to him, but this is the sort of prayer that he is looking for.

Let’s come with intensity and knock on heaven’s door. We can be bold because he cares. We can be bold because God is approachable and benevolent, and because we need him so desperately. And when we pray this way, we’re praying just like Jesus.

Father, thank you for the privilege of approaching you with boldness. Thank you that you’re not a distant deity. You’re our Father. We’re your adopted children. You’ve given us all that we have.
Thank you for your benevolence. Thank you that your heart is tenderly inclined toward us.
Father, we need you. There’s nothing good that we can produce apart from your power. So give us boldness to come into your presence and ask for what we need.
I pray today that we would not feel guilty about prayer. Instead, make us hungry to pray. Give us the hunger to pray as Jesus did. In his name I pray, Amen.
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada