Call & Response: When God Prays With Us
The Place of Prayer
Prayer is a pervasive part of our lives. From the student who forgot to study for a test to the mourner beside a coffin, our pleas ever rise to God. While this situation is prevalent in every society, it was more axiomatic and systemized for Jewish society. This group honors Moses because he taught them how to live. They venerate the prophets for they reminded the Israeli community of their place before God. Jews revere King David, however, because he taught them how to pray.
A Praying People
For generations, the children of Israel repeated the prayers transcribed by their beloved monarch. When they made the long pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, they sang the Psalms of Ascent. “I lift my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” they chorused in unison, “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
Once the sacred journey was complete, the aspiring worshippers would place their offerings on the Lord’s altar. With David’s songs on their lips, they would cry out to God, “You, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:8-9). With their sin sacrifice laid bare and their hearts poured out, they knew the God of the heavens heard. At one particular moment in the first century AD, as the worshippers’ eyes were lifted up, Immanuel stood beside them, chanting the same songs. God in flesh prayed their prayers
Praying Like Us
In Jesus’ humanity, he lifted our prayers, for he had a heart like ours. Blood pumped through his veins, sometimes heated by anger while other times sadness chilled the flow. The same joy brought him to his feet, and similar grief brought him to his knees. In every motion of his humanity, Jesus prayed our Psalms. He knows how our hearts beat.
Praying Unlike Us
When we pray, our words echo Christ’s, yet one key difference remains: he prays them to their fullest meaning. When David prayed for God to strike down his unrighteous enemies, he couldn’t pray with full sincerity for he himself was a sinful man. When we pray Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, we may feel abandoned, but God never truly leaves us.
In Jesus’ expression of the Psalms, they reached their fullest meaning. Though he was a man like his royal forebear, Christ was categorically different. As the sinless God, he owned perfect assurance that his prayers fell effectively at the Father’s feet. He knew the power that was moved by his pleas. Each word nestled in his Christ’s prayers carried a world of meaning.
So when Jesus was nailed to the cross, his cries dripped the words of Psalm 22:1. Those words from our Savior echoed with the very hollowness of hell. The one who had danced through eternity with the Father was utterly abandoned by him in that moment when he carried the full weight of our evil. He was forsaken so we would never be.
Prayers before God
In Jesus, we can know that our prayers find God’s throne. Reflecting on this, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Since Jesus was a human just like us, he carries our imperfect prayers, filters them through his righteousness, and presents them as his very own to the Father. When the believer prays, Christ is praying right beside him. When the Christian offers her words to heaven, Jesus is saying them as if they were his. Because of him, we can be confident that our Father ever sees us and ever hears us.