Piety in the Gospels

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on June 3, 2010

The Gospels give evidence of individual as well as public piety. One may refer again to saintly figures such as Anna and Simeon, whose lives were devoted to prayer and praise and expectation. John the Baptist continues an earlier stream; he is the dedicated prophet of the desert, pursuing a life of asceticism. The Lord himself, for all the contrast he draws between himself and John (Matthew 11:16–19), both commands and also practices an assiduous life of prayer. He wants no outward show (Matthew 6:1–5), but his disciples are told to engage in secret almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. He warns them that prayer and fasting are needed to perform certain works (Matthew 17:21). He insists that the disciples must live in an attitude of watchfulness (Matthew 24:42). He asks Peter, James, and John to watch with him in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38). He tells them to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41). He himself engages in a forty-day fast in the desert (Matthew 4:1–11). Time and again the Gospels record that he spent the early morning (Mark 1:35) or the evening (Mark 6:47) in solitary mediation and prayer. Before the final crisis he retired to the garden to find strength for obedience to the Father’s will, which now meant such cruel pain and loss for himself. The prayers on the cross, from the cry of dereliction to the petition for his tormentors and the final committal, are a culminating testimony to the Savior’s relationship with God. This is reflected also in his longer prayers, the cry of jubilation and thanksgiving (Luke 10:21), the beautiful high-priestly prayer (John 17), and the prayer he taught his disciples (Matthew 6:9–13). He refers, perhaps incidentally, to the Shema‘ in basing the first and great commandment on the familiar passage from the Law (Mark 12:28–31).

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