As one reads through Luke, a person cannot help but be impressed by the constant reference to prayer in the life of Jesus and then in the lives of his disciples in Acts. I won’t take the time to list all the places where prayer functions in the Gospel of Luke–there are many resources for that (or just use a concordance). However, I do want to point out what I think are three levels of “prayer” or forms of prayer–whatever label we might give them.
1. Jesus prayed alone. There were moments when he spent all night in prayer. For example, his wilderness time was alone–forty days (Luke 4). During his ministry Luke says “he often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). And this might be particularly true on special occasions or moments of momentous decision as when he prayed all night before selecting the twelve (Luke 6:12). Solitude was something Jesus valued at time (Luke 4:42) but he also did not let the need for solitude hinder his ministry with people (Luke 4:42).
2. Jesus prayed with a few. I don’t mean here the twelve, though we could think of them as few. Rather, I mean he had an inner circle within the twelve with whom he regularly prayed it seems. For example, ascending the Mount of Transfiguration to pray, he took Peter, James and John with him (Luke 9:28). Though Luke does not point out in his account, Jesus took those same three with him deeper into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus had an inner circle with whom he prayed, and I think everyone does. We each need those two or three or four people with whom we pray, who hold us accountable, to whom we confess our sins, etc. We need the habit of regularly praying with the same few who know us and we know them–a circle of trust, intimacy and caring.
3. Jesus prayed with the many. We could say the tweleve are many, but also in the temple with the many. He prayed in public groups. He engaged in public prayer and rituals of prayer (as in the temple). He taught his disciples to pray at their request. We all need the experience of corporate prayer where the community offers a litany for the world, for the church, for marriages, for peace, for justice. We all need to participate in that public witness before the world.
Perhaps the Garden of Gethsemane illustrates these three levels/habits. He goes to the Garden to pray with the twelve (many), then takes three with him a bit deeper into the Garden (the few), but ultimately goes alone to a place to pray (solitude). I seek to imitate those three habits in my own life–praying with the many, the few, and alone. I encourage you to find a regular habit of prayer in your own life, and the model of Jesus is not a bad one to follow.
If we are disciples of Jesus, then we will follow him in his prayer life, his prayer habits. Those habits say something important about him and our habits will say something important about us. To follow Jesus–to be his disciple–is to be a praying person.