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How did Jesus pray?

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  • Robert M Schacht
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2000
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      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
      experiences?

      Today I also read Hebrews 5:7,

      In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
      with loud
      cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he
      was
      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
      different circumstances?

      Bob
      Northern Arizona University
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