Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, the gospels say. Early in Matthew’ gospel Jesus brings his disciples up onto a mountain–a traditional place to draw close to God– and taught them how to pray. High places, mountains are holy places in the Bible.
Jesus taught the prayer we call the “Our Father” or the “Lord’s Prayer” on a mountain. (Matthew 6, 9-13) The prayer has deep roots in the Jewish prayer tradition. Its concern is that God’s kingdom come.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches prayer to his disciples “in a certain place”, on the plain, in the course of his ministry. (Luke 11, 2-4) They see him praying regularly and ask him to teach them, as John the Baptist taught his disciples. In answer, he offers a shorter, probably more primitive version of the prayer found in Matthew. Again, its concern is that God’s kingdom come:
“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11,2-4)
Mark, Matthew, Luke present Jesus praying in the garden before his Passion, but this time the disciples, instead of asking for his instruction, are sleeping.
They’re sleeping because the flesh is weak, Mark says.
They’re sleeping because they can’t keep their eyes open, Matthew says.
They’re sleeping because of grief, Luke says.
Stay awake and pray, Jesus tells them, because it’s a time of testing.
They face the weakness of the flesh, and Jesus faces it as well. He faces death by crucifixion, a frightening trial, but he doesn’t wave it away in stoic resignation or depend on his own power. “Not my will, but your will be done,” he prays. He accepts the consequences of his mission, the limits of human power, the vulnerability of human nature, the “form of a slave.” He depends on God and the promises his kingdom will come.
From Jesus in the garden we learn how to pray when trials come. He kneels on the ground, Luke says, and humbly looks beyond himself to his Father, “Abba”, who hears him.
He falls to the ground, Mark says, trusting in his Father’s strength and not his own. His prayer is troubled and distressed; for an hour’s time he pleads for help. .
“He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke says. Then, an angel come to strengthen him as a result of his prayer. The cup of suffering isn’t taken away; he will drink from it, but he will not be destroyed by it. God will raise him up.
We ask him to teach us pray as he did. We ask him to pray with us in our trials. God’s kingdom will come.