Luke records Jesus at prayer eleven times in his Gospel., and if taken together, we would find the Gospel preached to us. Luke’s choice of Jesus’ prayers (and there are other prayers in the other Gospel narratives) lets us see a progression of belief, even a progression to belief, in the Gospel of Jesus. I was quite surprised with what I found here, not that anything is new, but to find these things collected into one place (labeled prayer) was, indeed, surprising. What Jesus puts in prayer is a picture of God reaching out to mankind in such a manner that causes mankind to reach out to him. In other words, Luke has Jesus praying out salvation (the Gospel).
The first time occurs immediately after his baptism (Luke 3:21), when, suddenly, the heavens opened. By the Holy Spirit descending and remaining upon Jesus, Luke is giving us a picture of Jesus being anointed as our Messiah (Luke 3:22; cf. John 1:32-34). Moreover, we have the testimony of a voice from heaven (God) saying: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased,” or rendered another way: “You are my beloved Son; I have chosen you.” Since Jesus’ temptations concerned whether or not he was the Son of God (cf. Luke 4:3, 9), I think it is a prerequisite on our part that, if we are to come to know God, we must accept God’s testimony that Jesus is the Messiah. Heaven is open to us, but the blessings of God, to a great degree, depend upon our believing Scripture, God’s testimony.
Not only must we believe the testimony of God (Luke 4:22), but Jesus’ second time at prayer (Luke 5:16-26) shows he is ready to forgive our sins and heal us. Nevertheless, we must admit that we keep missing the mark (definition of sin) or missing the point of God’s will. We must allow Jesus to reign over our lives (cf. Luke 19:14), even though what he tells us may be strange or unexpected (Luke 5:26; Mark 2:12). We need to face the paradox of Jesus’ reign by testing what Jesus says, rather than clinging to what we’ve always believed. In other words, we cannot be excused for not trying the new, because Jesus’ ways seem so strange (cf. Luke 5:37-39). If we do try to make excuses, we will end up fighting Jesus, trying to expunge his influence in our lives (Luke 6:1-11).
Jesus is again at prayer in Luke 6:12, and here is where he chose his Apostles. He chose them, not from among the people or the Jewish authorities, but from those who had been already following him (Luke 6:13). In other words, I believe, if we expect God to use us or choose us for a certain matter, we must make ourselves available to him. We need to exercise what trust we have in Jesus, and allow him to teach us or use us as it pleases him (Luke 6:20-49; 9:1-10).
Luke mentions Jesus at prayer a fourth time in Luke 9:20, and it was at this time that Peter made his public confession that Jesus was the Messiah. It is one thing to believe Jesus is the Messiah or to agree with the testimony of God (cf. Luke 3:22; John 1:32-34), but quite another to openly confess Jesus is the Messiah. This comes only as we put God’s word (Luke 3:22) to the test (Luke 5:39). Once confession is made, one opens himself up to public criticism from those who hate Jesus. At that time he announces his willingness to accept the same sort of treatment that Jesus receives from men. Yet, as important as this is, it is equally important to understand that we have come to this decision, not on our own, but through the influence of God in our thoughts (cf. Matthew 16:17). We have been listening to the voice of God (cf. Luke 3:22) unawares.
Jesus prayed a fifth time in Luke’s Gospel in Luke 9:28-36. It is here that we find Jesus Transfigured before three of his disciples. It is here also that we find Jesus’ glory tied in with his crucifixion. In other words, what looks like an apparent defeat in Jesus’ life is really a glorious victory. We need to remember that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, nor his ways ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We’ll never see Jesus in glory, without meeting him at the cross.
The sixth time Jesus is at prayer exposes a great spiritual battle going on in our world (Luke 10:21). Jesus had sent out seventy disciples to preach the Gospel and they found that the demons were subject to their authority through Jesus (Luke 10:1, 17). During this time Jesus witnessed the defeat of Satan (Luke 10:18), and in his prayer he praises God that he had hidden these things from the movers and shakers of this world (Luke 10:21), but revealed them to his disciples—those who preach the Gospel. The world takes little note of the success of the Gospel, nor does it remember what the Gospel has done for humanity. Nevertheless, the reign of God is spread throughout the kingdoms of men with each heart that submits to Christ.
The seventh time Jesus is found at prayer in Luke is at Luke 11:1, and it is here we find that men really don’t know how to pray (cf. Romans 8:26). We don’t understand, really, how much God really wants to answer our prayers (cf. Luke 11:13). We tend to place God far off and approach him as someone we need to convince to come to our aid. However, Jesus unveils him as our Daddy, someone who already has our best interest at heart and is always willing to listen to what is troubling us.
In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus, but Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail. Peter couldn’t believe it, but it did occur, and Jesus told him to admit to it to his brethren so that their faith would be strengthened. In other words what we believe we will never do, we shall do. We may not realize it at the time, but we shall deny Jesus in what we say and do. Certainly Peter didn’t intend on denying Jesus, and when he realized what he had done he wept bitterly and repented (Luke 22:60-62). We need to do the same, when we do this. We may not at first understand that what we say or do denies Christ, but when we realize it, we need to own up to our sin and repent of it, and let Jesus restore us to the faith (cf. John 21:15-19).
Luke tells us of a ninth time Jesus was at prayer while he was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:40-44). At this time Jesus understood that his hearing of the Father’s voice was interrupted, so he sought his Father’s voice through the disciples (Matthew 26:38-43), but though they were willing, they gave in to the flesh and slept. Jesus, however, kept praying until his encouragement came through an angel from heaven. God always answers prayer. We need to continue in prayer even when heaven seems closed (cf. Luke 3:21) and as hard as stone.
The tenth and eleventh times Luke records Jesus at prayer occurs while Jesus hung on the cross. The tenth prayer was offered as Jesus was raised up on the cross, being the hour of prayer, Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him—all of us (Luke 23:34). While his final prayer occurred just as he died, placing his Spirit in the care of his Father (Luke 23:46). In the tenth prayer Jesus asked God to accept himself (Jesus’ death) as the ransom for Adam’s race. He asked God to forgive the rebellion, because he (Jesus) has taken all the abuse men could give and has forgiven them. Furthermore, he offered his own body (life) as proof that he didn’t intend to replace Adam’s race with a race of his own (cf. Numbers 14:12). Therefore, all God has is us; Jesus bought us with his own life. Jesus’ prayer at Luke 23:34 redeemed us. All that is necessary now is for us to believe God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice (cf. Romans 10:9).
Finally, as Jesus expired, leaving his Spirit in the care of his Father (Luke 23:46-47), the veil in the Temple was torn from the top to the bottom as a great earthquake caused the lintel above the curtain to break, ripping it in two as it fell to the floor of the Temple compound (cf. Matthew 27:50-52, 54). Thus, Jesus’ death implied public fellowship whereby all mankind would be permitted into the Holy Place (in the Temple of God) and partake of the Shewbread (Christ – see John 6:33) and make their requests known to God at the Altar of Incense (Hebrews 4:16).
 The hours of prayer in the Temple were once in the morning (the third hour) and once in the evening (the ninth hour), and both times the Gospel narratives record Jesus at prayer, while he hung on the cross (Mark 15:25, 34, 37; cf. Luke 23:44). The hours of the day were reckoned from sunrise or about 6 AM as we reckon time today. The third hour in the Bible is actually about 9 AM as we reckon time. This was the time of the morning sacrifice (and Jesus was crucified at the third hour). The ninth hour in the Bible is about 3 PM as we reckon time today. It was the time of the evening sacrifice (and this is the time the Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ death, Luke 23:44-46, thus completing his sacrifice.