Prayer was central to Jesus’ life and ministry. In the gospels, we see Jesus spending time in solitude with God, praying before major events or decisions, and teaching his disciples how to pray. If you want to deepen your relationship with God, learning to pray like Jesus can transform your prayer life.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: To pray like Jesus, follow his model in the Lord’s Prayer by praising God, asking for your needs, forgiving others, and seeking guidance.
Use Scripture to guide your prayers, find solitary places to pray, and focus on glorifying God rather than selfish desires.
Examine How Jesus Prayed in Scripture
The Lord’s Prayer
Perhaps the most famous prayer of Jesus is the Lord’s Prayer, recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. This prayer provides a model that Jesus taught his disciples to follow. It begins with praise and worship of God, then asks for His provision, forgiveness, and guidance.
The simple yet profound words have been recited by Christians for centuries as a pattern for prayer.
Times of Solitude
Jesus frequently withdrew to desolate places to pray alone. Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Getting away from the crowds gave Jesus an opportunity to connect intimately with His heavenly Father. We too need extended times of solitude with God away from distractions to hear His voice and be refreshed spiritually.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus drew on God’s Word to counter the enemy’s lies. We too can fill our prayers with God’s truth. The Psalms in particular model raw, honest prayers that we can make our own.
Prayers Before Major Events
Jesus prayed before major events in His ministry. Luke 6:12-13 tells us that before choosing His twelve disciples, “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them.”
Prayer guided Jesus’ important decisions.
Prayers of Thanksgiving
Jesus often gave thanks to the Father, even for everyday provision. At the feeding of the 5,000, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted” (John 6:11). His example reminds us to give thanks continually in prayer for God’s blessings.
Cultivate the Right Heart Attitude
When we come before God in prayer, our heart attitude is crucial. Jesus provided the perfect model of the right heart condition we should cultivate as we seek to connect with our Heavenly Father. Four key attitudes Jesus exemplified that we too must develop are humility, trust, submission, and reverence.
Humility is the opposite of pride. It is acknowledging our dependence on God and seeking Him rather than relying on our own wisdom or abilities. Jesus modeled humility in prayer when He subjected His will to the Father’s in Gethsemane, praying, “not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
We too must lay down our agendas when we pray and seek God’s will above our own.
Trust means resting assured that God hears and will respond to our prayers according to His perfect timing and will. Jesus demonstrated complete trust as He cried out on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
We too can release our cares to Abba Father, trusting Him fully no matter our circumstances.
Submission is aligning our thoughts, words, and actions with God’s truth and commands. Jesus stated that He only did what He saw the Father doing and only spoke the Father’s words (John 5:19-20). We too must submit in our prayer lives, seeking alignment with God’s heart and allowing Scripture to shape our petitions and perspectives.
Reverence is honoring the holiness, majesty, and authority of God. Jesus displayed reverence by addressing God with the intimate yet respectful “Abba Father” (Mark 14:36). We too must approach our loving Father as the Almighty King that He is—with awe, wonder, and deepest admiration for His greatness.
Cultivating humility, trust, submission, and reverence as Jesus did opens the door for deeper connection with God in our prayer life. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly.
Others give but an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might. “ Let us seek to pull mightily, with the right heart attitude.
Follow Jesus’ Model in the Lord’s Prayer
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he began by praising God. We can follow his example by starting our prayers with words of reverence, awe, and exaltation towards our Heavenly Father. Some ways we can praise God include:
- Thanking Him for who He is – His goodness, love, mercy, power, wisdom, etc.
- Thanking Him for what He has done in our lives and in the world
- Using descriptors like “Almighty,” “Holy,” “Mighty,” “Glorious” to describe Him
- Singing or speaking words of praise from the Psalms and elsewhere in Scripture
Beginning our prayers by praising God realigns our focus towards Him rather than ourselves. It reminds us of how great and awe-inspiring our God is before bringing our requests and needs before Him.
Ask God to Meet Your Needs
The second part of Jesus’ model prayer was bringing requests to God. He taught us to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). We can follow Christ’s example by:
- Asking God to provide for our basic needs – food, shelter, safety, health, family, livelihood, etc.
- Bringing specific issues we’re facing to Him – financial, relational, emotional, spiritual, etc.
- Asking on behalf of others – friends, loved ones, leaders, the poor and marginalized
- Approaching God with humility, trust and gratitude that He hears and will respond
As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7:7, God invites us to bring our needs and requests to Him. He promises to hear and act on our behalf when we call on Him.
A key aspect of Jesus’ prayer was the request, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4). He calls us to follow His example by:
- Asking God for forgiveness where we have fallen short
- Extending grace and pardon towards others in the same manner
- Releasing bitterness, resentment, and desire for revenge against those who have wronged us
- Praying blessing over our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44)
Forgiving others demonstrates we have truly received God’s forgiveness in our own lives. It is the fruit of recognizing our common brokenness and need for grace.
Seek Guidance and Discernment
The final part of Jesus’ prayer was seeking God’s direction, saying “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). We can apply this by:
- Asking God for wisdom in decisions before us
- Seeking discernment regarding temptation and harmful situations
- Praying for protection from spiritual attack, deception and the schemes of the enemy
- Surrendering our will to His higher plans and purposes
As we walk through this world, we need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to know and follow God’s path. Jesus shows us we can confidently ask our Heavenly Father to lead and direct our way.
Make Prayer a Consistent Habit
Set Aside Time Daily
Setting aside time each day specifically for prayer is key to developing a strong prayer life. Many spiritual teachers recommend starting your day with prayer as a way to center yourself and invite God into your day (source). Even just 5-10 minutes can make a difference.
Determine a consistent time that works for your schedule and try to stick to it. You may want to set a reminder on your phone or calendar so it becomes habit.
Find Solitary Places
Finding a quiet, solitary place to pray helps minimize distractions so you can focus. Jesus himself frequently went off alone to desolate places to pray more deeply (Luke 5:16). Some good places to consider are a quiet room in your home, a secluded corner of a park, your car, or a church sanctuary.
Going out into nature can also help you feel closer to God. The main thing is finding a spot where you can be alone with your thoughts.
Jesus encourages his followers not just to pray at set times but to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This means cultivating an ongoing attitude and atmosphere of prayer throughout your day.
You can pray short, spontaneous prayers as situations arise, during mundane tasks, or while going about your regular activities. The goal is continual connection and dependence on God amidst the busyness of everyday routines.
Some ways to pray continually include praying as you commute to work or do chores, listening to worship music that facilitates an attitude of prayer, and using mealtimes to give thanks to God. Pausing whenever you think of it to again invite God into a situation requires discipline but helps achieve that attitude of ceaseless prayer.
Focus on God’s Kingdom and Glory
Align with God’s Will
When praying, it is important to align our will with God’s will. We should pray for the strength and wisdom to accept God’s will, even if it is not what we would choose for ourselves. As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Praying in alignment with God’s will demonstrates our trust in His perfect plan. It also enables us to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves up to what God wants to do in and through us. As we focus on seeking God’s kingdom first, we can be confident He will meet our needs according to His timing and purposes (Matthew 6:33).
Glorify God, Not Yourself
True prayer focuses on bringing glory to God, not ourselves. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for praying long, eloquent prayers simply to impress others (Matthew 6:5-6). Instead, we should come before God with humility, acknowledging our dependence on Him.
Our prayers should be God-centered rather than me-centered. We can glorify God by praising His character, thanking Him for His blessings, asking for help to obey and honor Him. As Jesus taught in His model prayer, we begin by exalting our Father’s name and seeking His kingdom (Matthew 6:9-13).
Prayer is not about getting what we want from God but what He wants for us. As we glorify God, we will find joy in seeking His heart above our own.
Intercede for Others
An important aspect of prayer is interceding on behalf of others. Jesus frequently prayed for His disciples and future believers (John 17:20-23). As followers of Christ, we are called to pray for the needs of our family, friends, neighbors, leaders, nation, and enemies.
Lifting others up in prayer aligns our hearts with God’s heart of compassion for them. It also enables us to participate in His work in their lives. Here are some ways we can effectively intercede for others:
- Pray specifically according to their needs and struggles.
- Claim God’s promises on their behalf.
- Ask God to protect them spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
- Pray for their faith, wisdom, healing, relationships, breakthroughs.
As we intercede for others, we will grow in our love for them and dependence on God to move in their lives.
Learning to pray like Jesus takes time and commitment. But if you follow his example in Scripture, focus on glorifying God, and make prayer a consistent habit, you can experience the same intimate connection with God that Jesus had.
As you devote yourself to prayer, God will transform you and use you powerfully for his kingdom’s work in this world.