The prayer life of Jesus

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At the close of his hymn, Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire (StF 529), James Montgomery turns directly to the example of Jesus, who himself trod “the path of prayer”, and pleads: “Lord, teach us how to pray!”

When Jesus’ first disciples put the same request to him (Luke 11: 1-4), he taught them what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. Singing the Faith includes two settings of The Lord’s Prayer (StF 762 and 763). However, some hymns also speak of those other occasions on when Jesus prayed to which Montgomery alludes.

  • During a period of temptation in the desert: Forty days and forty nights (StF 236, vv.3&5)
  • While making space for himself in the midst of a hectic ministry: I heard the voice of Jesus say: / ‘Come unto me and rest’… I found him in a resting-place, / and he has made me glad. (StF 248 v.1) (Though Horatius Bonar may be speaking of having found his own resting place, following the example of Jesus: the line is ambiguous.)
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus prepared himself for imminent trial, torture and execution: To see the King of heaven fall (StF 269 v.1) and When my love for Christ grows weak (StF 289), in which we “see that suffering, friendless One, / weeping, praying there alone” (v.2).
  • Christopher Idle also refers to Jesus in Gethsemane when he begins his insistent, passionate catalogue of all Jesus did for us with the words: When you prayed beneath the trees, it was for me, O Lord (StF 339).

Other hymn writers speak of the way in which Jesus continues to pray for us and for others. In her hymn for use at an infant baptism, Born in a stable (StF 532), Marjorie Dobson offers this assurance to the child about to be baptised: “You cannot know, / but Jesus is praying / that in your life / God’s love will break through.” Similarly, Charles Wesley builds on a phrase from the Book of Job 19:25 to write: I know that my Redeemer lives, / and ever prays for me. (StF 502)

Categories: Hymns as prayer.

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