I had an interesting thought today: How did Jesus pray?
For example, many people seem to assume Jesus prayed quietly.
Scholars have jumped to conclusions about Mark 14:32-38// (Jesus in the
Garden at Gethsemane), demanding to know how the disciples could have
heard what Jesus was praying, perhaps on the basis of the text claiming
that Jesus returned to find the disciples sleeping, and then they jump to
conclusions about how Mark "must have" composed the prayers himself.
Interestingly, however, Jesus talks to Peter as if he were already awake
(the text does not explicitly say that Jesus woke Peter up before talking
with him.) I wonder about the Greek here: does "sleeping" include that
semi-waking state where one is aware of sounds around but is half asleep?
The text says only about Jesus that he was distressed and agitated, and
that while praying he threw himself on the ground. This seems hardly to
be something the disciples would ignore, unless they were used to seeing
Jesus distressed and agitated, and throwing himself on the ground.
Perhaps those making the claim for Markan creativity here are also
thinking of Matt. 6:6,
But whenever you pray, go into your
room and shut the door and pray to your
Father who is in secret; and your Father
who sees in secret will reward you.
Of course, there is also the Lord's Prayer, which seems not to be a
prayer that would involve much in the way of histrionics. But when the
disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, I wonder if they were
asking only about what words to use?
Do the commentators also carry into their analysis their own pietistic
notions about proper modes of prayer, learned in their own church
Today I also read Hebrews 5:7,
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he
heard because of his reverent submission.
Now, I am not necessarily arguing that this verse is historical. It is
sufficient for it to be a reminder that Jesus' customary mode of prayer,
Matthew 6:6 notwithstanding, may have been louder and more histrionic
than Good Episcopalians and Presbyterians are wont to think of. Besides,
Hebrews 5:7 does seem like a particularly appropriate connection for the
Gethsemane prayers, because it fits so well with the text's claim that
Jesus was distressed and agitated, throwing himself on the ground. From
this perspective, it might not seem so remarkable that at least one of
the disciples, despite a sleepy state, might have heard Jesus' prayers
very well. There is an old saying about making noise loud enough to "wake
the dead," which brings Lazarus to mind.
So what do we know about how Jesus prayed-- that is, whether quietly, or
with "loud cries and tears," or what? Or did he pray differently in
Northern Arizona University