When I read the gospel accounts of our Lord’s ministry, I am always impressed with this fact: PRAYER WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO JESUS THAN ANYTHING ELSE. It was more important to Him than the opportunity to preach to the great crowds that followed Him, for we read that He left the crowds and went into a solitary place where He could be alone with His Father in heaven, a place where He could pray without being interrupted. Yes, there were times when Jesus needed to be alone, just as there were times when He did not want to be alone, even when He was praying, as in the Garden of Gethsemane.
You don’t have to be alone to be lonely. You can be lonely in a crowd. You can feel lonely in church. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. All of us need to be alone at times, just as Jesus did, which shows us that He was indeed fully human. Those times when He was able to withdraw, to retreat, to find a quiet place where He could be open and honest with His Father in heaven about His feelings and frustrations, His struggles and sorrows, His conflicts and concerns. Yes, there were times when Jesus needed to pray for Himself, when He was wondering if there was a short cut, any possibility of detouring around the cross.
He was a young man, only thirty-three years of age, and He did not want to die. Does that surprise you? In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me.” (Luke 22:39-42) There were also times when He needed to pray for His disciples, that their faith might not fail, that they might not grow weary, that they might be kept from the evil one. However, what is most encouraging is to know that JESUS IS PRAYING FOR ME! JESUS IS PRAYING FOR YOU! JESUS IS PRAYING FOR ALL THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM. (John 17:20). In fact, that is the most important thing Jesus is doing for us right now, as our great High Priest in heaven, as our Mediator, as the One who is always interceding for us in the presence of God the Father. (Hebrews 9:12–14, 24)
As our High Priest, unlike the other priests in Old Testament times, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wants us to understand why the priesthood of Jesus is so much better (that is the word the writer uses over and over again in this epistle, “better” — a “better covenant,” a “better priesthood,“a “better sacrifice”), for there is no need for Jesus “to offer himself over and over again” (repeatedly, as the high priest did in the temple in Jerusalem), for Jesus has offered Himself once for all, and “has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26), and now having finished the work the Father had given Him to do on earth, as our glorified Mediator and Advocate in the kingdom of heaven, He intercedes for all believers continually, including you and me.
“Since then we have such a great high priest…Jesus, the Son of God, who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness…Therefore, let us hold fast our confession, for we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:14-16).
Yes, we can approach God with overwhelming confidence (not a bad definition of faith, the kind of faith that “pleases God,” 11:6), knowing we have direct access to God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. We need no other mediator to intercede for us. We may ask a minister or priest to pray for us, but he or she is not our mediator—there is only one Mediator, our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Yes, we are a “priesthood of believers” in the Body of Christ (I Peter 2:4-5, and 9) and we should be praying for one another, for as believers we are called to a priestly ministry, a ministry of intercession. But we are not our own priest, and we should never think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think when we are interceding for others. Rather, we should pray with the understanding that we are always praying in the name of Jesus, our only true Mediator, without any sin of His own, whose prayers are added to ours—and it is our faith in Him that gives our prayers power!
We are admonished to pray for one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to weep with those who weep, to confess our sins to one another, to forgive one another, to seek to restore the fallen, and also to rejoice with those who rejoice. We know we can now enter into the very sanctuary of God’s presence in heaven on behalf of one another, for we do so in the powerful name of Jesus, our High Priest, who is always praying with us and for us, and also interceding on behalf of those for whom we pray in faith. Our glorified Lord and merciful High Priest has opened the way for us (Luke 23:45): He has “split the veil” (Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28, 10:11-14. 19-25); and He is praying with us and for us, now and always. He is “the way” for us into the Father’s presence. (John 14:6)