Revival and Reformation

The secret prayer life of Jesus

Passmore Hachalinga, ThD, DMin, is the director of the Ellen G. White Research and Heritage Centre, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

Do you pray in secret? To properly appreciate the importance of prayer, especially praying in secret, we have to look to Jesus, our great Example. Although public prayer has its rightful place and purpose, Jesus denounced public, hypocritical prayers. Rather, He encouraged praying in secret, saying: “ ‘But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly’ ” (Matt. 6:6, NKJV).

As a demonstration of the importance of praying in secret, we see that before commencing His public ministry, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights fasting and praying alone in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1–11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1–13). Later, before He appointed His 12 disciples, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer (Luke 6:12). Throughout the years of His earthly ministry, He carried on the practice of rising early in the morning and going up into the mountain to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42; 5:16).

One morning when His disciples found Him praying, they said to Him, “ ‘Everyone is looking for You!’ ”

Jesus replied, “ ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth’ ” (Mark 1:37, 38, NKJV). Thus, Jesus did not divorce His prayer life from His preaching work. Regarding this, author Ellen White cautions: “The life must be like Christ’s life—between the mountain and the multitude. He who does nothing but pray will soon cease to pray, or his prayers will become a formal routine.”1

Evidently, Jesus’ secret prayer life was the backbone of His healing ministry. Consequently, one day when He was teaching in a synagogue, “the power of the Lord was present to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17, MEV). Then, on another occasion, “the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all” (Luke 6:19, NIV).

Jesus’ secret prayer life did not degenerate into a daily routine, but it served as a vital protective armor as well as an offensive weapon. After feeding the five thousand, Jesus noted that they intended to take Him and make Him king by force. Immediately He sent off His disciples and dismissed the crowd, after which He withdrew to the mountain to pray (Mark 6:46; John 6:15). Prayer gave Him strength to resist temptations. When Jesus observed Satan’s plea to sift the disciples, He prayed for them, especially for Peter (Luke 22:31, 32). Thereafter, Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples, and for those who would later believe through their ministry of the Word (John 17:1–5, 6–19, 20).

Also, during His ministry, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray (Matt. 6:5–15). Jesus urged them to be bold in prayer in order to receive (Luke 11:1–13). To give them a practical example, Jesus often took Peter, James, and John with Him when He went to pray. During such crucial moments, He encouraged them to watch and pray, but they often fell asleep (Matt. 26:37–46; Mark 9:28; 14:32–41). In the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus emphasized that they “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1–8). I believe we, too, should implore Jesus to teach us how to pray, as He Himself prayed.

  1. Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1892), 101.

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