The following is an excerpt from Dr. Stanford's upcoming book, What the Prayers of Jesus Tell Us About the Heart of God- due for release in October 2015 from Abingdon Press.
For years, my grandfather used a phrase when describing parts of his spiritual journey. He would say, “I am how I pray.” I loved the phrase from the moment I first heard it, although I really didn’t appreciate its meaning until much later.
Over the course of my ministry I have seen many examples of people who “lived as they prayed”—both from the positive and negative side. And just as my grandfather insisted, the condition of their prayer lives dictated so much of what would become of their journey.
Of course, I am chief among the suspects in this conversation. As one who has faced so many struggles in my life—hemophilia, becoming HIV-positive from medical treatment for my hemophilia, contracting Hepatitis C from meds for treatment, open heart surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver damage, and so on, I have been conscious of pretty much my every thought, decision, and intention. And there is no better marker for the next steps of my life than how and what my prayer life points to in me.
Like everyone else, my journey looks like that of one who “is as he prays.” And in order to describe or measure the ups-and-downs of my life, one only has to look at my prayer journal for an accurate timeline or map of the outcomes.
That is why I am so thankful for what I have learned in the course of this book. To know that Jesus not only agreed with my grandfather’s statement but basically lived his own life as a model or example of the truth, is humbling. I have mentioned to several friends that there are countless books on prayer and the praying life but that there are very few on the prayer life of Jesus. I hope that will change now.
As I shared the moments of when Jesus slipped away to be alone with the Father, or when he prayed in the midst of difficult situations, or when he simply found prayer as his only solace or choice for approaching the earthly pain and sorrow his humanity encountered, I felt closer to him than ever before. Sure, I still call him Lord and Savior; I am in awe of his power and presence. But I have to admit, there are moments when I can see him sitting under the tree, on the side of the hill, or around the campfire, and I almost can hear him beckon me to sit with him. And so I limp my ailing body and soul over to where he is, and I feel well and whole, even if only for a moment.
The prayers of Jesus are more than words. They are about the quiet places that caused even the Son of God to pause and breathe in the presence of the Father. They are also loud, victorious places where Jesus says, ‘Yes, I knew they would get it!’ And, finally, the prayers of Jesus are about a Son who had given everything for this mission of grace and reconciliation for God’s people. It had to be lonely and so different for Jesus, who, as Phil. 2 reminds us, had known a different existence before this. But, there, along the dusty roads and next to the lapping waters of the Sea of Galilee, we find Jesus taking the steps that we just could not take for ourselves. With all the stories that give me glimpses of Jesus’ life and humanity, nothing is more powerful to me than to know that while he made the journey, he also took time away to ‘stay in touch’ with his Father. And, maybe even sweeter in the whole scene, is to know that they actually spent most of their time talking about you and me. How crazy cool and undeniably humbling is that.
Shane Stanford is a pastor, teacher and author committed to sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with the world.