Why Jesus Prayed
For a long time I’ve drawn comfort from passages in the book of Hebrews, where we read that 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. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb. 5:8-9).
This is an answer to the question, “If Jesus was God, why did he pray?” Jesus is fully God but also fully human. He was also a humble person, not someone entitled to have servants, for he himself was a servant. Because he was that kind of everyday person, he had to learn things, including religious faith and obedience. He was also tempted, and he experienced heartbreaking rejection. He knew he could meet a violent end. Yet his life was led in conformity to God’s purposes. All in all, prayer helped Jesus keep growing in wisdom and steadiness in his life and mission.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit to Jesus
A book I enjoy is Housing Heaven’s Fire: The Challenge of Holiness by John C. Haughey, SJ (Loyola Press, 2002). We don’t often use the word true as a transitive verb meaning “to make something level and square, or to bring something to the desired accuracy.” But Fr. Haughty reclaims that form in discussing Jesus. He writes that the Holy Spirit trued Jesus, that is, crafted him and kept him “accurate” with God’s purposes.
“The Spirit gently crafted the identity of Jesus and accompanied him as he carried out all that God had intended. … [T]he Spirit trued him, deftly bending each aspect of his humanity to do and become that for which he was sent. When his will flagged or recoiled, the gifts of courage, the fear of the Lord, and piety stabilized him or trued him so that he could become the instrument God needed for the salvation of the world. What Jesus needed were great gifts of both intellect and will, which, according to the church, is what the gifts of the Spirit effect in the rest of us” (p. 85).
The Same Spirit Helps Us
Fr. Haughey goes on to talk about the power of the Scriptures to true Jesus’ heart and mind, and that is certainly the case with us, too. I always need the Spirit to “stabilize” me, to keep my faith alive, to keep me on track, and to help me be the person I should be. What a wonderful thought that the same Spirit that helped Jesus is alive and lovingly active in our lives today.
Father, help me stay open to the Spirit to keep me true to the person you want me to be.
Dr. Paul Stroble