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The Jesus’ prayer and his relationship with the Father

Statue_of_Jesus_Christ_in_PrayerA second way in which Jesus’ special relationship with God is highlighted centers on the Lukan portrait of Jesus at prayer. In fact, as Stephen Barton observes “the portrayal of Jesus as a person of prayer, habitually in deep communion with the Father, especially at points of moment or decision or testing in his life, and giving his disciples an example to follow, is an indelible part of Luke’s gospel narrative.” Significant aspects of Luke’s interest in prayer center on its role in the life of the disciple and mission of the church; here we are more concerned with how prayer figures in the presentation of Jesus.

Luke employs scenes of Jesus at prayer, first, in order to show how it was in prayer that Jesus experienced and solidified his relationship with God. In a number of the recorded prayers of Jesus, he refers to God specifically as “Father” or “my Father” (10:21-22; 22:41-45; 23:34,46; cf. 11:2; 22:29), echoing his earlier declaration in the temple at the age of twelve: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father house?” (2:49). It is in prayer that Jesus hears and embraces the will of God. This is seen most profoundly in the Lukan scene on the Mount of Olives as Jesus anticipates his execution (22:39-46). Here he is about the business of discerning God’s purpose, while at the same time determining to submit to God’s will. The same motif is probably at work in 6:12-20. Jesus “spent the night in prayer to God,” this just prior to his choosing twelve of his followers to be apostles. In choosing the apostles, we are led to believe, Jesus acts on behalf of God, puts God’s purpose, discerned in prayer, into action. One may also refer to 3:21, where Jesus receives his divine commission while in prayer.

In prayer, Jesus is strengthened for divine service. Just as he is commissioned, so he receives the guiding and empowering Holy Spirit while in prayer at his baptism (3:21). The scene on the Mount of Olives may also be read in this way, for it was during his struggle in prayer that “an angel from heaven” came to him and strengthened him (22:43). Less obvious but of equal significance is the summary statement of 5:16, which may be translated so at to emphasize that Jesus’ act of withdrawing to pray was for him a regular habit: “But he would periodically withdraw to deserted places for the purpose of prayer.” Set as it is between reports of Jesus’ growing reputation and active ministry, Jesus’ habit of prayer is drawn into intimate connection with the ore public aspects of his ministry. Apparently we are to see that he prays fro strenght, and for his ministry to others. (From Joel B. Green, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, Cambridge University Press 1995, pp. 58/59)

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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