12 Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Jesus is about to finalize His choice of twelve Apostles. And before He does He spends the whole night in prayer. Why? Did He need to find out who to choose? Was it a matter of not knowing who to decide between Peter and some other man that came close to making the mark but Peter outscored him? Was it to find out God’s will? Was Jesus confused regarding what to do, who to choose? None of these things are possible. Jesus wasn’t confused about who to get to help Him and who the founders of the church would be and who His betrayer would be.
He is praying for them. He is, I think, praying that they will learn and grow and understand what He will teach them over the next couple of years. He is praying that they be filled with the Spirit, faithful, godly, holy men of God who will be saved by grace and preach that grace and start a work that will blossom into the fulfilment of all that Jesus cam to accomplish. He is praying for God to be glorified through them. He prays all night and what He prayed is not told to us and the little bit of speculation about what He did pray is not meant to go into places where God has forbidden entrance.
But hear Jesus on other occasions regarding prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer it is the name, the kingdom and the will of God that is prayed for; that his name be hallowed, His kingdom come and His will accomplished. In the garden the night He was betrayed He prayed that God’s will be done. He prayed that Peter’s faith not fail. He commanded that prayer be made for our needs to be met, that sin not gain the upper hand in our lives and that we be forgiving people.
In John 17 He prayed that God would glorify Him and grant eternal life to His chosen ones and that believers glorify Him and that we be united. I do not think that it is too much to conclude from the various examples we have of Jesus prayer life and teaching about prayer that He prayed similar things here before He chose the twelve.
But the most striking thing about this all night prayer vigil is that Jesus partook of it at all. Who less needed to pray all night than the Lord Jesus Christ? And yet, who prayed more? The point is a simple one and it has been made countless thousands of times but here it is anyway: if the sinless, eternal, equal with God, Son of God saw fit to spend great swaths of time in prayer how much more should we?
It is nothing less than shameful how little we see the need for prayer. And it is even more so when we see what it is that keeps us from praying. The schedule, the things that need to get done, forgetfulness, interruptions … .
This is particularly true of those who have committed themselves to serving Jesus Christ as church leaders, missionaries, para-church leaders etc. We are so busy doing a work for God that we find little time for spending time with God. This reflects a horrible misplacement of values. Going at a work for God without having prayed sufficiently is a message that we give, loud and clear, that the most important things about our work is us and the work we do. We do not need to pray more, we need to do something, is how we seem to think. Like the church secretary who comes into the pastor’s office to find him praying and says “O good, you’re not busy”.
God can make rocks do the work that He calls us to do. The crucial element in our service to God is not us. It is Him and what He will accomplish through the little nothings that we are. We are saved and kept by free, sovereign, predestinating love. That should send us to our knees to pray that God’s name be hallowed, His will be done and His kingdom come to earth. It should make us seek Him to keep the evil one from sifting us like wheat. It should make us to pray that God be glorified in all we do; that He increase and we decrease. It should make us to pray, from time to time, all night, when we are embarking on significant works where those qualities will be most tempted to leave us and we get full of ourselves. We couldn’t have a better example that this is what we should do.