This post is part of a 40-day journey following Jesus in his prayer life. We’ll explore virtually every reference in the Gospels to Jesus and prayer. For a more in-depth treatment, see my book Prayers from the Pit.
For over a decade, my family has gathered at the same house on the same night (New Year’s Eve) with the same people. We eat finger-foods, play board games, and bring in the New Year with toasts and fireworks. It’s become a tradition—a meaningful way to mark a significant event.
We have additional traditions in our household. For example, at Christmas our kids open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. On the last Saturday of summer break, we splurge for some family fun at an amusement park. Each November and December we donate food and toys to those in need. When a good report card comes home, we go out to eat to celebrate.
You or your family may have traditions like these. Many cities, states, and nations do as well. Few places commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death like Memphis, Tennessee. Washington, D. C. observes the Fourth of July with enormous fireworks displays. Most nations have some form of New Year’s Eve celebration. We like to mark significant moments in time.
So did Jesus. At key events in his ministry, Jesus intentionally venerated the occasion. Time and time again, Jesus did it in the same way:
- After his baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying” (Lk. 3:21 ESV).
- Prior to the choosing of the Twelve: “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve” (Lk. 6:12-13 ESV).
- Prior to Peter’s confession: “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’” (Lk. 9:18 ESV).
- At the Transfiguration: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white” (Lk. 9:29 ESV).
- At the Lord’s Supper: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body’” (Matthew 26:26 ESV)
- In Gethsemane: “And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me’” (Lk. 22:41-42 ESV).
- On the cross:
1) “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (Lk. 23:34 ESV).
2) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34)
3) “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).
4) “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28 ESV).
5) “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30 ESV).
Jesus memorialized the most important moments of his life with prayer.
What are the key moments in your life? Your city’s life? Your state’s life? Your country’s life? Your world’s life? How might you observe those events with prayer?