When I consider the direction or attitude of Jesus’ prayers in the gospels, I notice an order in the very first occasion where Jesus is seen praying at His baptism. In praying like Jesus there is an order that is stunning in it’s simplicity:
Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Lk 3:21-22)
Here is the order I observed: Setting apart, submission, opening heaven, and the voice of God that speaks of our security in the love of God. This article will deal with Setting apart.
Setting apart. The baptism of Jesus was an act of setting apart for the priesthood. John Lightfoot suggested that this was the initiation of Christ’s priestly role. The Gospel of Luke reports that Jesus was about thirty years old when He began His ministry (Lk 3:23), which is the minimum age required to become a priest. (Num 4:3). The Scriptures required three elements for setting apart of priests in God’s presence: sacrifice, washing with water, and anointing oil. In this case, the waters of the Jordan were for the symbolic cleansing and Jesus was the sacrifice supplied for his own priestly consecration. The presence of the Holy Spirit who would soon declare the belovedness of the Son was the anointing with the oil. Also, in his baptism, Jesus was also identifying with sinful people who would be coming into the gospel.
The first move toward praying like Jesus is our understanding that prayer is an act of our priesthood in Christ. The apostle Peter speaks of our priesthood. “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ …But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet 2:5,9) The role of the priest is to represent man to God and God to man. Priests go into the presence of God to do His business, not their own. Given the examples of prayer mentioned in the previous blog article, there is little evidence that Jesus went into the presence of His Father with an agenda. He entered into the presence of His Father for the purpose of connection and binding Himself to the Father’s heart. (More about being bound to the heart of the Father in the next article.)
What does this speak to our own priestly ministry of prayer? We must enter into prayer as an act of our priestly ministry. We enter our priestly ministry of prayer as Jesus did requiring sacrifice, cleansing, and the anointing of the Spirit. Paul tells us to present ourselves as living sacrifices and that in doing so we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (See Rom 12:1-2) As we enter into our priestly ministry of prayer let’s put on the garments of the priest submitting ourselves to the cleansing from our own agenda, entering by the blood of the Lamb of God, and receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit who teaches us how and what to pray. (See Rom 8:26-27) As we prepare to pray like Jesus, let us set ourselves apart as the priesthood of His presence.
See John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament From the Talmud and Hebraica (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 79-80.