I was present in the chapel of a pontifical seminary recently when a transitional deacon, who in a few months will be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood, gave a brief homily during the Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament in which he referred to the accepted fact that while on earth, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father.
The deacon’s reflection jarred loose a memory from my own seminary days. A saintly professor, a religious order priest who taught moral theology, presented our class with what he, based on the Holy Gospels, called the four “qualities” of Christ’s prayer. In identifying this significant foursome, our professor was nudging us to reflect on and imitate the edifying characteristics of Jesus’ intense communication with His beloved Father.
Each of us as a disciple of the Risen Lord, regardless of personal vocation, would do well to ponder the prayer of Jesus and ask for the grace to pray as He did.
Jesus’ prayer was lengthy: Our Lord “spent” Himself in prayer. Prayer and service were His priorities. He cherished passing time with His Father. For Jesus, prayer was a joy, not a burden. So, His time for prayer was substantial and prolonged. He gladly immersed Himself in prayer, which was a genuine expression of His unbounded love for His Father and Their Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ prayer was frequent: Christ embraced every opportunity for prayer; He sought out moments to communicate with His Father. Jesus was a master at snatching time for prayer. We can easily imagine that the Son of Mary prayed when He waited for someone or something. He was innovative in grabbing periods for prayer that the rest of us may dismiss as unimportant or overly brief.
Jesus’ prayer often occurred at night: The Messiah prayed while others slept. Although exhausted from His charitable outreach to the sick, the poor and sinners, He made night vigils during which He prayed for those He met the previous day, for those He would encounter later in the day and for their intentions. And whether during day or night, Jesus never forgot to love . . . to adore . . . to praise . . . to glorify . . . to petition . . . and to thank His Father for all.
Jesus’ prayer often occurred alone: The Master was unafraid to be by Himself. He often departed from the needy crowds so that He could communicate with His gracious Father. Christ always upheld the value of communal prayer, but He also recognized the absolute indispensability of private prayer. Jesus welcomed and seized each chance to pray alone.
Jesus was wholly committed to and generous in His prayer. He pined to pray and taught His friends to do likewise. From Jesus’ sincere encouragement to His hungry listeners sprung the immortal “Our Father,” which is a sure pattern for our own prayer.
The remarkable prayer of Jesus lengthy, frequent, nocturnal and solitary is the sterling model for our own communication with God. As children of our benevolent Father, we follow the inspiring example of Jesus at prayer as we seek to hear and heed the gentle voice of the Paraclete.
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Monsignor Charles M. Mangan was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls in 1989. He is presently assigned to the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.