It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: (Luke 6:12,13 NASB)
It seems that Jesus had quite a crowd of devoted followers around Him by this time in His ministry. There was a great crowd of them when He descends to the plain. But in Acts we are told that there were enough followers who were with Jesus from His baptism that they needed a selection process. Paul says there were over 100 in the upper room where Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection. I think it’s an error to think there were only twelve guys on the road with Jesus.
Considering that there are so many choose from, it then makes a lot more sense that Jesus would want to ensure He made the right choices. My wife asked a good question though. If Jesus is God, then why did He need to pray? Why doesn’t He already know? When she asked I launched into some sort of explanation of the Trinity. On a side note, when some one does that, it’s probably a smoke screen. The essential answer will still boil down to, “I don’t know”.
The most comfortable teaching I’ve heard about this is that, if Jesus needed to pray before a big decision, then we should too. They sort of leave out that it would be for different reasons. It would be, right? I would need to pray to be aware of the option my Master wants, where Jesus would already know that. So the reasons have to be different, right?
What if I need to pray before a big decision for the same reasons as Jesus? What would that tell me about Jesus’ reasons for praying, and reveal about what my reasons should be? Can we even explore this? I believe Luke thought it was important. Jesus is praying a lot in Luke. I believe Luke is providing a pattern to be followed, not just Jesus-Trivia.
Why did Jesus need to pray?
I’m tackling this one first because, in general, it’s probably better to start with Jesus. The key is to find that reason Jesus would be praying that forms a pattern for me to follow. What is the purpose that Jesus and and His followers share in seeking the Father all night before a big decision?
The intersection of need for both Jesus and His followers are easily physical in nature: eating, drinking, sleep, and so on. But in another sense, there are also relational needs.
The Intersection of Jesus’ Experience and Ours
One of the things Jesus emptied Himself of was His omnipresence. So, without effort, He was not aware of both the Father and His surroundings at the same time. He wasn’t everywhere at once. There are indications that He was aware of other places at once, and His power was not limited by distance, but He wasn’t also there while somewhere else. So what? So, He had to intentionally go away and enter into the presence of the Father. And, so should His followers.
Jesus also emptied Himself of His omniscience. He says there were things He did not know. He knew a lot, a lot more than people around Him, like the thoughts of others. He also knew when there was a need at a distance, but the examples are when someone from the distant location is present (I don’t know if that matters, I just noticed it). So, perhaps Jesus needed to get away and pray to extend His awareness of the Father.
This is difficult for me because of my limited understanding of the Trinity. All I really think I know is the “boundaries”, that the Three are One, and that the Three are also Three at the same time. This avoids the heretical view of modality (God enters different modes and isn’t all Three at once), and the equally heretical view of tri-theism (God is actually three gods). But what exists within these boundaries is a mystery (as it should be – He’s God for Pete’s sake – I’m not supposed to understand Him!).
But the view that something of our humanity limits our connection to our Creator is necessary as we view Jesus, as He is presented in the Gospels. We are “other” than God, separate in important ways, and not just our sin. It’s probably very accurate to claim that even Adam and Eve were separate from their Maker, even though they had an awesome relationship with Him. So, too it shouldn’t surprise us that when Jesus accepted human form He lost something of that connection He had as part of the Trinity.
Why Do We Need To Pray?
But what element of His connection did He gain again in prayer? What is that element of this connection that we need to gain through prayer? Where’s the intersection of our experience with our Creator and Jesus’ experience with His Father?
What if it’s as simple as a walk with our Creator in the garden in the cool of the day? What if what we should seek to capture, or recapture, is that limited but awesome relationship which Adam and Eve had before the fall? We could then ask anything, and get some sort of indication of the will and desire of our Creator. And more than anything, that is what we need when we make a decision. Then we truly understand the options to choose from. Of course, such information doesn’t guarantee we’ll make the right decision, but at least we’ll understand the choices better.
In essence, if we walk with our Creator and Savior, we have a much better context in which to choose in obedience to Him. Okay, so you already knew that. Not surprising. I knew it too, at some level. So knowing isn’t the key, doing is. Here’s your key. What will you unlock with it?
What’s your view through the knothole?