Religion of Jesus
Walter E. Bundy
The Religious Consciousness of Jesus
THE religious consciousness is peculiar to human experience. It springs from a genuine sense of native and natural limitation. Without a startling sense of serious limitation the religious consciousness would be an impossibility. It appears in both primitive and cultured religion. This sense of limitation is strongest in primitive man and it manifests itself in practically every item of his life. The whole of his existence is a puzzling problem far beyond his capacity and comprehension. Often he feels himself hopelessly helpless in the presence of the mysterious powers about him. In deep depression and desperation he turns to his gods. Cultured man is more reserved in expressing his sense of limitation because in his experience it takes on a finer form. He feels himself more at home in the world, for he has a richer experience and a fuller understanding of the order of existence that surrounds him. He masters it and makes it serve him and his ends, and he prides himself in his mastery. He feels that he knows things, that he can accomplish things, and that he himself possesses worth. But, sooner or later, cultured man finds himself confronted by his own limitations. He comes to the end of his knowledge; he meets powers stronger than his own, things that are beyond him; and finally he reaches a place where he ceases to trust in his own merit and where he begins to hope for mercy.
Thus human experience always ends in a strong sense of limitation which in turn has its issue in the religious
consciousness. Man feels himself in need of supplementation, of a help that is higher and more than human. Fortune and fate, life and death are in hands more powerful than his, a feeling that has its classic expression in the ninetieth Psalm. The religious consciousness of man with its sense of limitation has expressed itself in a series of antitheses: profane and Sacred, natural and Supernatural, human and Divine, finite and Infinite, man and Maker, creature and Creator. "Man has religion because he is not wholly identical with God."'
In the preceding chapters we have seen that the genius of Jesus is really and essentially religious, that his experience of God is religious in the finest sense, resulting in his personal faith in God and His kingdom. In the present chapter we come to the very heart of our study of Jesus as a religious subject. Did Jesus manifest a truly religious consciousness ? Did he feel those native and natural human limitations universally characteristic of the religious consciousness?
Christian thought has always made a great deal of the humanity of Jesus. With pride it has pointed to those sporadic details in the Gospels that supposedly establish his genuine kinship with us, his fellowship in our finite experience: the fact that he wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19,41), that he was hungry (Mark 11,12), and that he was tired and thirsty (John 4,6-7). But none of these scattered notices really demonstrates the humanity of Jesus. Christian interest in these minor items has overlooked that solid substratum that supports all that we know about him and upon which he stands as an historical and human figure-his clear and profound sense of seri-
ous limitation. The humanity of Jesus goes deeper than superficial detail; it rests upon the fundamental religiousness of the whole of his personality. The whole of his experience is to be described as religious-there fore, genuinely human.
The sense of native and natural human limitation runs through the whole of the Gospel story. It is an inextricable golden strand that belongs to the very warp and woof of the Gospel picture. And it is one of the chief glories of the Gospel writers that they have preserved this for us.
In the first three Gospels Jesus very frankly confesses that there are things that he does not know; he is limited in knowledge, a genuine human limitation. In his famous address on the last things, Mark 13, he announces with great certainty (Mark 13,30),
"This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished," and at the height of prophetic conviction he declares that heaven and earth may pass away, but his own words shall not pass away. (Mark 13,3 1.) But at exactly this high point Jesus' thought and feeling reverse into a consciousness of self-limitation that is deeply religious, "But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not
even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." (Mark 13,32.)
This word is cast in a Christian form; the language and style are of Christian origin, but the thought expressed is a genuine thought of Jesus. As Johannes Weiss writes,
"This word belongs to the most genuine matter that we possess from him," although "the language is that of early Christian theology." This limitation of knowledge preserved itself even in the early Christian picture of Jesus, a feature that stood in open conflict with the rapidly developing Christian claims. We find it ascribed even to the Risen Lord, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority." (Acts 1,7.)
The only possible motive for the rise of such a thought in the early Christian faith would be the fact that such was the actual attitude of the historical Jesus. It was only later that faith submerged such prosaic and plain fact from his life.
Jesus was also conscious of limitations of power. There were things that he could not do. On the fatal journey to Jerusalem when the faith of the disciples had reached a high point of enthusiasm, two of the twelve came to him with the request, "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory." ( Mark 10,37.)
But in his reply Jesus tempered this enthusiastic outburst with a word from the depths of his own religious con. sciousness, an expression of his own sense of profound limitation,
"The cup that I drink ye shall drink; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand or on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared." (Mark 10,39b-40.)
Jesus preached the imminent kingdom with prophetic conviction and certainty, but it involved things that were not in his power to give, even to his most faithful followers.
Jesus was also conscious of limitations of personal worth. When the rich young ruler came to him with the question, "Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10, 17) his reply is as quick as a flash, an instinctive revolt: "Why callest thou me good? none is good save one, even God." (Mark 10, 18.)
This is one of the most splendid of all of Jesus' words. The really religious person is always driven to the confession, "None is good save one, even God." And the purer the piety, the more necessary and deeper is this confession.
In the three passages quoted above, it is perfectly clear that Jesus took a religious view of his own person. He is clearly conscious of the natural human limitations of knowledge, power and personal worth. All three words spring from the very depths of his religious consciousness and afford us one of our finest insights into his re-
ligious life. Such are clear confessions of dependence upon God, and in them Jesus places himself on the side of humanity for ever. Such are genuine human features that reach to the very core of his being. In the experience of Jesus we see that same sense of distance that separates man from his Maker, creature from Creator, that same sense of limitation that characterizes religion in all of its historical forms and appearances and that gives it its primitive power and strength.
Universally the religious consciousness expresses itself in corresponding attitudes, aspirations and acts. These expressions, both in form and in content, are conditioned by the stage of man's general development. In the lower stages they are often crude, primitive and naive. But in the higher stages they are of a superior order and represent our human experience in its best form and in its richest content. If the consciousness of Jesus is genuinely religious, we shall find these expressions, and they will appear not only as characteristic of him but as absolutely essential to the understanding of his personality. Therefore, we shall take up in order the religious attitudes, aspirations and acts of Jesus.
THE RELIGIOUS ATTITUDES OF JESUS
The religious consciousness in its attitudes toward its deity includes two elements that are fundamental to personal piety in its higher forms: a feeling of dependence and a feeling of confidence. Both of these we see in Jesus, and both are the issue of his experience of God as holy and as loving Father. With all of his certainty concerning the close relationship that actually exists between
God and man, in the light of which he himself lived and loved, Jesus never forgot his own condition or that of God. His attitude toward God is regularly and without exception that of deep reverence. Any other attitude on the part of the historical Jesus is inconceivable. The long-standing ethical monotheism, the great religious heritage from the prophets for whom any other faith than that in the one and only true God of Israel was apostasy and idolatry, was too deeply ingrained in his soul to permit of any other attitude. His reserve about going into detail concerning the Divine, his failure to describe the divine predicates, are really a witness to the actual awe which he felt toward his own God and that of his people. Jesus never presumed on God, never exalted himself; but had in God a living, loving Father whose will he, as the rest of men, must learn to know and to do.
Jesus was conscious of close personal relationship with the Father; he was on the most intimate terms with the Infinite, but this relationship is always religious. In his experience God remains a religious object because he himself is an experient of God, a religious subject. Christian theology and Christology have gone into all sorts of intricate and involved speculations concerning the relation of the Son to the Father, but none of these things claimed the thought of Jesus. He assumed no other relationship toward God than a religious relationship. His attitude toward God, free and frank as it was, was always the attitude of purest personal piety. Between himself and God Jesus draws that line which the truly religious consciousness always draws between itself and its deity.
All of the deepest emotions known in the experience
of religion that has reached a moral and ethical level, some of them reaching back to the unstudied piety of primitive man, are found in the picture of Jesus in the first three Gospels. These feefings of pure piety, when confronted with the Divine and the Holy, belong to the innermost precincts of his religious life, and they spring forth spontaneously, with an unmistakable genuineness. Jesus taught men that they should worship God, fear God, love and serve Him. But all of these things are more than just teachings. They express his own personal religious attitudes. In God Jesus believed; God he worshiped; God he feared; God he loved and servedall attitudes that emerge from the very soul of the really religious subject.
The religious attitudes of Jesus, as is characteristic of profound personal piety, are full of paradox. On the one hand are feelings of awe, fear, dread, wonder, amazement and reverence. On the other hand are feelings of implicit trust, fervent faith, complete confidence, deep love and longing. As we saw in the preceding chapter, these emotions are the issue of his experience of God as holy and as living, loving Father. This ebb and flow of religious emotion is inherent in the very genius of the personality that is completely consecrated to the Divine and its cause. Of the religious emotions of Jesus we may say with certainty that he was never their victim. His soul was raised to the highest heights of exultation and expectancy. His feeling often ran high, but never to the clouding of his clear religious consciousness nor to the impairment of his self-control. He had his times of depression; he must search and struggle for clearness and certainty concerning the Divine. But whether exalted or depressed in soul, the issue is always the same-unremit-
ting loyalty to his experience of God. Always he ranges himself within the divine dictates; the sense of finite subordination never leaves him. Moments of elation do not destroy the compass and scope of his reflection, nor do they deflect him from the rigid r6gime to which he has submitted himself. Depression does not develop into despondency and despair. In his darkest hour he does not desert God, but asks why God has deserted him.' The religious emotions of Jesus are only the shifting states of his experience of God, which fact is clear in every word and work in the first three Gospels. Professor Wernle describes this paradox in Jesus' religious attitudes as those of the "child that feels itself at a distance from the Father and yet always bridges over this distance with confidence and trust."
The whole underpinning of the known life of Jesus is a sense of complete dependence upon the Divine. He did possess a clear consciousness of high call and holy commission; he spoke and acted with the confidence and certainty of the chosen spokesman of God. But beneath this assurance that marks his every act and attitude there is that foundation stone of a sublime and reverent humility-a deep dependence upon God whom he worships, loves and serves. This devout feeling reaches into every item of his existence. Food and clothing, life and body are the gifts of an all-pervading Providence in which both he and his followers must have unfailing trust. When he tells his disciples that they can not make one hair white or black (Matt. S,36), that they can not by taking thought add or subtract a single cubit from the measure of life (Matt. 6,27), he is simply stating his own sense
of dependence such as belongs at the very center of even the primitive religious consciousness. The Lord's Prayer is the supreme expression of Jesus' own sense of personal dependence upon the Father. The items of this prayer touch upon the entire cycle of life-things spiritual and things material. Daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance from temptation and the evil one, the kingdom itselfall come from the Divine. It is the Father who sustains the whole of man's life, his own as well as that of his disciples. As we shall see when we come to his prayerlife, the need of the divine help and support is a constant element in the religious experience of Jesus. It is this feeling of dependence that leads him to the highest goal of religious aspiration-unreservcd self-surrender.
Jesus' attitude toward the kingdom of God is religious. It calls forth his awe, wonder, marvel and reverence. There is for him about the kingdom that holy, that numinous, unintelligible, non-rational element that we discovered in his experience of God. He speaks of "the mystery of the kingdom of God." ( Mark 4,11.) It is the mysterium tremendum.' The kingdom is not the work of man, nor is it Jesus' own work. It is the work of God; in its coming and in its culmination God himself is the aggressor. Like the man in the parables of the tares (Matt. 13,24-30) and of the seed growing of itself (Mark 4,26-29), Jesus can not interfere, he can not intervene and hasten its accomplishment. All men can do is to prepare and show themselves worthy. They can
only work, watch and wait. But the kingdom in all its details, development and d6nouement is the work of the Divine alone.
The very thought of the kingdom calls forth a consciousness of limitation within Jesus. In a parable like that of Mark 4,26-29 we have a clear reflection of his own sense of insufficiency over against the divine cause and its realization. Like the man in the parable he sows the seeds and sleeps and rises night and day. Jesus feels himself limited both in knowledge and in power; consciously he here sets limits for his own task and ability. He sows the seeds; they "spring up and grow, he knoweth not how"; for "the earth beareth fruit of herself." All he himself can do is to work, watch and wait in the quiet confidence that the kingdom will come, for it is God's. Thus Jesus feels purely religious restrictions set for his own life and work.
As we saw in the preceding chapter, Jesus' view as to when the kingdom will come has been one of the muchdebated problems in the life-of-jesus research. Some have attempted to establish a progressive postponement of the kingdom in his thought and teaching. He appears in public announcing that the kingdom is at hand. (Mark 1,1S.) Later he sends out his disciples, never expecting to see them again in this world; the arrival of the kingdom is only a matter of days or weeks; they shall not compass the cities of Israel till the Son of man shall come. (Matt. 10,23.) Still later, however, the kingdom seems to be a matter of years; his contemporaries are to be witnesses; they shall not taste of death until the kingdom come with power. (Mark 9,1.) But during the last week of his life he tells his disciples that no man knows when the
kingdom will come, "not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." (Mark 13,32.)
Further, a number of his words teach that the kingdom tarrieth; it delayeth its coming. Some students find that the delay of the kingdom constituted a great personal disappointment for Jesus. They find that he was driven from one expectation to another with each succeeding disappointment. It may be that the failure of the kingdom to come as he had announced it brought him face to
to face with a serious problem, as it did the early Christians. But if Jesus did experience disappointment in the delay of the kingdom, such was only superficial and did not disturb the foundations of his faith in it. As we saw in the preceding chapter, Jesus was not committed to the fulfillment of his forecasts, nor was his faith defeated by their failure. Jesus was a prophet with a faith, not an apocalyptist with a forecast. He did not attempt any disclosures of the secret scenes of the future; he set no signs and times; he manipulated no magical names and numbers such as we find in the book of Revelation.
The many ingenious attempts to harmonize Jesus' diverse statements as to the when of the kingdom and its coming are quite aside from the centers of his faith, and they neglect entirely his unbroken religious attitude. Back of these apparent conflicts concerning the time of the kingdom is his fervent faith that God has a kingdom
and that it will come. And this fine faith has cast about it a wondrously religious atmosphere-the kingdom will come according as God wills that it should come. Any conflicts disappear when we see that all the forecasts of Jesus are outbursts of a faith that remains fine and firm even when the forecasts fail of fulfillment. What the kingdom is to be and to bring, just when and where and how it is to perfect itself, are all, for the thought of Jesus, matters of the divine way and will. His expectation of the kingdom is unfailing and unf altering, yet with regard to the time of its coming we see in his faith that tentative element that is fundamental to the genuinely religious consciousness-the future is God's; soon or late, it will be according as He wills.
Albert Schweitzer is probably correct when he represents Jesus' view of the coming of the kingdom as undergoing alterations and revisions. There was very probably a progressive postponement in the fulfillment of his faith; the kingdom did not come as he had hoped. But fact did not defeat the faith of Jesus. His religious attitude is constant-the kingdom is wholly a matter of the divine will. To any delays he adjusts his thought and conduct; his duty is patience and persistence; in any event, it is the divine will into which Jesus seeks to fit himself. The kingdom, all that it implies and involves, lies hidden in the divine plan and purpose. Whether soon or late, Jesus feels his faith as a task that demands that he work, watch and wait. He and his contemporaries may perish, but the kingdom will come as God himself may will-an attitude that is not only essentially but exclusively religious.
Jesus took a religious attitude toward his cures. They
are not his own work; they are the work of God through him. It is "by the Spirit of God" that he casts out demons. He did not entertain a low view of his power to heal and cure, nor did the Gospel writers. In his cures both Jesus and the Gospel writers see the dawn of the kingdom of God; here and now God through him is breaking down the power of Satan. That he brought his ministry of healing into organic connection with the coming of the kingdom is clear in Matthew 12,28- "If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you." His woes on the Galilean cities are based upon their failure to repent in the presence of the mighty works they have witnessed. (Matt. 11,21-24.)
Jesus did not ascribe his cures to himself and his own personal powers, but to God. In Mark 9,23 he rests the hope of cure upon the power of faith in God. The cure of the Gerasene demoniac he ascribes to God; in his parting word to the cured man he says,
"Go to thy house unto thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and how he had mercy on thee."
This same view of his power to heal and cure has sur. vived in the book of Acts (2,22), "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know. "
This attitude of Jesus appears in other great religious personalities who have effected cures. We see it to-day in our Christian contemporary, Sadhu Sundar Singh, who is credited with cures quite like those ' of Jesus. The Sadhu confesses, as pure piety dictates, "There is no power in these hands."
Jesus' approach to the whole of his life and work is religious. It is in the name of God and in behalf of His cause among men that he appears in public, that he preaches, that he cures, that he works. The whole of his mission he approaches in a religious attitude; all of life's responsibilities he accepts religiously.
THE RELIGIOUS ASPIRATIONS OF JESUS
The quest for the divine will, to learn to know it and to perform it, is the loftiest aspiration of the religious consciousness. Human experience may not be described as really religious unless it includes this quest. That such an aspiration is fundamental in religious experience is clear from the fact that it is characteristic of the religious consciousness wherever and however it appears. The really religious man, primitive or highly cultured, holds the knowledge and performance of the will of God as his highest aim and ambition; it is his chief task in life. The religious group, as in the case of the Hebrew people, feels that it must know the divine will for itself; its performance is the law of land and people.
The quest of the divine will has often been very crude on the part of the primitive man. He had his seers who read the stars, the movements of the entrails of freshly slaughtered animals, the flight of birds, and all sorts of
signs and oracles. But in such cases religious experience has not yet reached the level of intelligence and is still on the plane of superstition.
On a higher level the quest turns from without in, and the divine will is discovered in the supposed disclosures of mental states. Such a quest of the divine will is prominent in the Old Testament, but in the later prophets we see a growing lack of faith in dreams and trances and more of an inclination to trust visions and ecstatic states for the revelation of the divine will and way. Visions and ecstatic states are regarded as disclosures of the Divine down to this very day.' Throughout the history of Christianity there have always been those sects that have insisted that the genuineness of religious experience is to be tested by the ability to participate in a certain type of striking visionary experience.
What the divine will has required has varied as much as the means of quest and discovery. For primitive man the divine will requires certain acts which must be carefully and punctiliously executed. The usual issue is a system of religious cult and ceremony that contains a prominent element of taboo and that is quite far below the level of morality. On a higher level, the divine will is conceived in terms of ethical character and moral conduct. The Divine comes to lay hold on the deeper sources of individual and group life. Cult and ceremony are subordinated, even rejected, in favor of righteous living. (Mic. 6,6-8.) Such was the great contribution of the eighth and sixth century prophets to the history of re-
ligion, and this conception of the divine will persists in the experience of Jesus and it is the hea-rt of all that he has to say on this important subject.
In its highest form the performance of the divine will becomes intensely individual and personal. The religious subject comes face to face with his God, and he feels the deep inner pressure of pursuing and performing the divine will for himself. The general requirements for religious living hold for him as for all, but over and above this he must live his life personally in the sight of God and face all of its issues in the light of the divine plan and purpose for himself in particular. The meeting of the divine will for himself may require the greatest personal sacrifices; it may lead him into conflict with his contemporaries; it may bring about his own destruction. Yet quite independent of the issue of his own personal fates and fortunes his supreme aspiration is to meet the divine requirements which he feels placed heavily upon him.
To fail in meeting the divine will in this purely personal sense becomes, for the religious subject who feels it, pure apostasy-a denial of his personal faith in God. The divine will, when felt as a personal pressure and conceived as highly individual, results in a complete self-surrender on the part of the religious subject. As Professor Heiler writes, "The greatest of all offerings that the religious man brings to his God is the surrender of his own will in complete obedience." [Der Katholizismus, p. 450.]
In turning to Jesus we find that he interpreted religious living wholly in terms of the divine will. It is the sum and substance of his understanding of the religious life both for himself and for his disciples. The discovery
and performance of the will of the Father is the highest goal of human endeavor. It is the very essence of discipleship. (Matt. 7,21-23.) It is the bond that binds him to his disciples and them to him. (Mark 3,35.) Jesus' understanding of the divine will is prophetic, and it brought him into conflict with the religious leaders of his day. In this respect Jesus was a dissenter. He rejected cult 'With its tithes, alms, fasting, periodic prayers, offerings and holy days; in short, he rejected organized religion in favor of a personal pursuit and performance of the will of God.
But the divine will was something more for Jesus than the essence of religion for others. It was something intensely personal for himself. In Jesus we see the definite and deliberate orientation of the whole of life about the will of the Father. The quest of the divine will, its discovery and performance, was the supreme passion of his life. It is the one goal that he sought to attain from first to last. He seeks above all else to bring himself into accord with this will even at the greatest personal cost. In his fates and fortunes he hears the voice of God and he accepts both as the divine will for himself. Among the sons of men who have sought the will of God, none has sought it so sincerely, so seriously, and yet so sanely as Jesus sought.
Jesus' quest of the divine will ends in the complete surrender of self, as is clear in his prayer of submission in Gethsemane. Jeremiah and the Psalmist submit to the divine will as something to be borne, a cross. But Jesus in his quest of the Father's will completely forgets himself and presses toward it as something that represents the highest religious goal that is to be attained. What the attainment costs he gladly gives that he may attain.
Self-surrender in. the personal piety of Jesus, however, is not mystical, but moral. It would be difficult to find a sharper contrast in religious faith than that which exists between the submission prayers of the great mystics and that of Jesus in Gethsemane.
The divine will was not always perfectly clear for Jesus. As close as was his contact with the Father, His will was not always self-evident in his experience. He must struggle long and hard for clearness and certainty, and once he has attained this he must struggle for the personal power to perform this will for himself. In chapter one we spoke of Jesus' natural genius, of his native endowment in the field of religious experience. But his personal piety is not just pure genius, not just something given. It is primarily the actual attainment and accomplishment of Jesus himself. The firmness of his faith, the completeness of his consecration, the depth of his devotion, the certainty of his convictions are all accomplishments that cost him the most intense struggles of soul, as is perfectly clear in the Gospel picture. In Jesus we do not witness those dramatic flashes and outbursts that are unassociated with painful and persistent quest. In his religious experience we see none of those intense, instantaneous illuminations which the religious subject often regards as completely isolated from the general content of his experience. Such Jesus does not exhibit or claim for himself. His native religious genius stands as an integral, inextricable element in the Gospel picture, but it did not give him unsought-for clearness and cer. tainty. It did not dispense with pressing personal problems. His unique genius for religion did not supersede the need of his own personal effort, enterprise and endeavor in learning to know and to perform. His native
religious genius included an almost infinite capacity for strain and stress of soul, a tremendous expenditure of personal energy in attainment and accomplishment. When Jesus said, "Agonize to enter in by the narrow door," (Luke 13,24) he was, as always, speaking straight from his own personal experience of what it means to be engaged in the quest of the divine will.
Historical Christianity has with right made a great deal of the sinlessness of Jesus, but historical Christianity has never done Jesus full personal justice in this respect. The sinlessness of Jesus is much more than the theologica I theories have been able to make of it. First of all, it is neither theological nor theoretical as Christian thought has always treated it. It is an actual religious attainment of Jesus accomplished by traversing that painful path that leads through the depths of personal religious struggle to triumph. The most impressive enhancement of Jesus' personality does not come from his native religious genius but from his genius in action.
Jesus was one of those rare souls who work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2,12.) His personal piety was prosaic and moral rather than poetic and mystical. We never find it expressing itself in poetical form such as appears in Psalms 34 or in the mystical language of the Apostle Paul. Those who have seen in Jesus only a sage uttering words of religious wisdom have done him and the Gospel picture great injustice. Jesus was a religious subject struggling with his God. As Professor Wernle writes, "The greatest of all of
Jesus' struggles was not the struggle with his opponents but a struggle with himself and his God."
In this element of intense personal struggle Jesus is true to the type, true to the psychology of religious genius. Like the great religious genius Jesus had his great relig. ious certainties, crystal-clear convictions that were so strong and warm that they never came into that colder atmosphere of doubt or skepticism. These certainties and convictions are so powerful that they carry their subject along and they are never seriously called in question. Such was Jesus' conviction concerning the kingdom of God and his certainty concerning its coming. Doubt upon this central element of his faith seems never to have crossed his mind. But the great religious genius has his personal uncertainties as well as his certainties, and the psychological law seems to be: the greater the genius, the greater the strain and stress of soul; the stronger the central convictions, the severer the personal struggle through which he must find his way to triumph.
These struggles are usually of an intense, almost distracting nature. They rage within, often wholly concealed from the general public to whom the prophet of God preaches his message with unmistakable certainty and conviction. Just such appears in Jesus. In the very midst of his strongest convictions and certainties we find harassing uncertainties, pressing personal problems that submit him to the most severe tests as he moves toward triumph. Jesus lived and worked under an intense inner pressure. He faced the most puzzling and perplexing problems of personal piety. From beginning to end of his public life he struggles with his God in quest of His
holy will for himself. The events and experiences of his first day in public (Mark 1,21-38) bring him under a psychic tension from which he is never again free. Henceforth to his latest breath struggle of soul is his portion in life. He dies, wrestling with his God. (Mark 15,34.)
Jesus' quest and accomplishment of the divine will seems to have been a twofold struggle that runs through the whole of his public life. In the first phase, he must strive to learn to know the divine will for himself, a struggle for clearness and certainty. However, these personal problems that force themselves upon Jesus as he comes into the full swinging stride of his public work remain more in the background of his mind. In the foreground of his thought and work is his message and mission as the called and commissioned prophet of God and His kingdom. His thought is almost entirely objective and he goes through the major part of his Galilean work in the presence of a large public announcing his message in the greatest variety of forms. But all the while we know that personal problems are pressing persistently upon him, and toward the end the problems that earlier were in the background of his thought come to the front. The Galilean period, before it closes, sees important changes in Jesus himself. His thought becomes increasingly introspective, although there is no abating in the conviction with which he announces God's kingdom. But Jesus seems to have found at least relative clearness and certainty concerning the divine will for himself. At least he is clear enough to act with precisiop Then the second phase of the struggle begins-to accomplish the divine will concerning which he is clear enough for action. His personal problems now become intense conflicts of soul; they are clearer than ever. This second phase reaches
its climax in Gethsemane, in his prayer of complete submission to the divine will that points to the cross.
Thus we see that Jesus' personal problems, his struggles of soul, are the deepest and most characteristic problems of personal piety, problems that appear without exception in one form or another whenever and wherever religion becomes intensely personal and is taken seriously--the quest of the divine will and the endeavor to perform it."
THE RELIGIOUS ACTS OF JESUS
The religious consciousness manifests certain attitudes and aspirations that correspond to its content, but it also expresses itself in certain acts. These acts are the natural issue of the religious experience from which they come, and they are absolutely indispensable to its life, continued health and vigor.
The religious acts of mankind exhibit the widest possible range: from the simple act of extending a cup of cold water to an elaborate festival requiring days, even weeks, for its celebration; from the crude, half-crazed conduct of the savage to the dignified and majestic religious service of cultured man who makes his act of worship the supreme expression of his artistic genius; from the grossest acts that outrage the ethical conscience to the noblest deeds of which man at his best is capable. In their best form religious acts are the organic issue of the individual's experience of religion. These acts are purely personal, wholly spontaneous, springing from an intense state of soul that demands outlet in appropriate expression. All religious acts in their purity have their source
in personal piety seeking issue in conduct that corresponds to its content of experience.
But when a particular religion becomes the common property of the community, when it becomes organized and official, then religious acts take on the form of a system of cult and ceremony. Participation in these religious acts becomes for the individual a matter of convention. The religious celebration passes by him as something formal and impersonal; it is quite foreign to himself; it proceeds independent of his own state of faith and feeling; he may or may not possess a corresponding content of experience. In their organized and official forms religious acts can and usually do result in the partial, or even total, depersonalization of religion. Their execution calls forth no corresponding state of emotion within the participant. Thus there comes a complete divorcement between religious experience and its expres. sion. The result is a ritual without religion, a state of religious degeneration against which the prophets from Amos down protested,
"Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression." (Amos 4,4.)
The natural tendency of religious acts that are regularly repeated is a wide departure and finally a complete severance from their original personal source. It is only by conscious and sustained effort that an organized religion maintains its connection with the personal religious experience of which its acts originally were the spontaneous expression. The great problem that confronts the participant in what has become a conventional religious act is that of sensing and sharing something of the relig-
ious experience in which the act had its birth and apart from which it has no spiritual significance.
Upon turning to our sources for religious acts of Jesus, we find that they are numerous and varied enough. However, the religious acts of Jesus are never conventional; they are always personal. The conventional religious acts of his day he neglected for himself and for his followers, or he even combated them openly as practised. He preached and practised only personal religious acts. The conventional religious observances of his day did not appeal to him, and by some of them he felt restricted and hindered; some of them he openly violated. Against the Pharisaic practises of piety he exercised the most cutting criticism. The almsgiving, praying and fasting of his day had become conventional religious acts of the religious-by-vocation, unattended for the most part by a corresponding content of experience.
Jesus regularly insisted on religion as a matter of inner content and showed little interest in outward religious actsassuch. We never see him engaged in a formal and impersonal act of worship. As a pious Galilean he goes directly to the temple upon his arrival in Jerusalem, but he participates in no cult and we have no record of his bringing an offering. About the only allusion which Jesus makes to the temple cult12 is his word in Matthew 5,23-24: "If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught
against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
But even here the principal point is the emphasis on the inner content of consciousness.
Every act of Jesus may be described as religious, for there is a conscious religious control that reaches down to the last detail of his conduct. Upon his first personal appearance in the Gospel of Mark ( 1,9-11 ) we see Jesus taking a religious step, his coming to John for baptism.-' The Gospel account of the baptism of Jesus is presented from the point of view of what it meant for the early Christian faith rather than from the point of view of what it meant for Jesus personally. The thing that must have been most significant for Jesus himself, his baptism at the hands of John, is passed over with a mere mention and without detail by the Gospel writers whose interest centers on the voice and its declaration. The experience of being baptized must have been the central thing for Jesus, otherwise he would not have come to John at all. The Gospel writers tell us nothing of the motives and impulses that brought him to John's baptism. But we may say with certainty, since the act is essentially religious, that he must have been moved by the deepest religious motives and impulses. Jesus came to the Baptist with no theological questions in his mind, with no personal scruples about the propriety of his participating in this distinctive religious rite. His act on this occasion is fundamentally religious, the response of his own pure personal piety to the prophetic religion represented by the Baptist. For Jesus, the Baptist was a great prophet
and preacher who championed the cause of God in Israel; to such.a man with such a message Jesus responds, and such a cause he joins.
There is no reason to suppose that Jesus reflected over the fact as to whether he needed the baptism of John. A man of such centrally religious consciousness as Jesus betrays in Mark 10,18 would feel no reluctance in responding to the call of the Baptist. Matthew's representation (3,14-1S) that Jesus participated in a religious rite for which he felt no need but to which he submitted for the sake of appearance c3ntradicts the genuineness of the religious motives which everywhere characterize him. Matthew's representation of this act as an accommodation is harder to accept than the plain fact that Jesus, without reservation of any kind, was baptized by John. In Matthew this act loses its distinctly religious character; Matthew robs Jesus of the deep religious impulses that must have moved him on this occasion and that must have brought him to this step. For Jesus his participation in this religious rite can not have been perfunctory and superficial, for these are the very things in religion that he condemns most severely. His baptism can not have been a mere compromise, for it is just in the field of personal piety, where the genuineness of motives and the sincerity of acts are at stake, that Jesus knows and makes no compromises.
For Jesus personally, judging from his high estimate of the Baptist and his mission, John's baptism was a sacred religious rite. When Jesus threw his Jerusalem enemies into that fatal dilemma (Mark 11,30), "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men?"
he revealed very clearly his own conviction concerning John's baptism as a heaven-sent and God-given religious rite. For Jesus, his baptism must have been an act of religious consecration to all that the Baptist represented and he participated in it, actuated by deep inner impulses that sprang from his own personal piety. The religious character of his act is clearest in Luke 3,21, which represents Jesus as praying as he participates in this rite.
Thus one might go through the whole of the Gospel accounts, singling out the distinctive religious acts of Jesus. His cures are religious acts performed in response to human need, in the presence of unreserved faith, toward which he took a religious attitude. His journey to the north (Mark 7,24-30) is a religious act, a more remote retreat, a more extended stay in solitude.
The feeding of the five thousand is an incident that has caused theologians untold embarrassment in their effort to retain it as a wonder-work, but it is simply a religious act of Jesus, one of the most impressive that has come down to us. Even in the account of Mark (6,35-44), a writer who has a special relish for the wonder-works of Jesus, the miraculous element falls entirely into the background. The incident is not followed by astonishment on the part of the witnesses, by a command for silence, by a further spread of fame-the usual aftermath to Jesus' wonder-works. The miraculous element seems later and acquired; in the account itself all emphasis falls upon the blessing, breaking and giving of the food. It seems to have the force of a sacrament for all concerned. The very quiet with which the scene closes shows that it is a devotional occasion. Johannes Weiss calls it "the first
Lord's Supper."" In such an account we have to do, not with a case of miraculous multiplication but of devotional division.
Whether we regard the journey to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage to the Passover, as a journey to death, or as a shift in the scene of Jesus' work, it stands as a religious act in obedience to deep and genuine religious impulses. The cleansing of the temple is a religious act, the outstanding feature of which is its religious character. As Professor Weinel writes, "Jesus' zeal for the temple is not in behalf of a center of cult but a place of prayer ...... On the last night of his life Jesus celebrated the most sacred feast of his people, but it was not a formal and impersonal religious act; into it he poured the whole substance of his own personal faith: "With great desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I shall not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I shall not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." (Luke 22,15-18.)
But the supreme of all religious acts of Jesus, the highest and finest of all the expressions of religious experience, is to be found in his prayers and practise of prayer. To this we turn, for nowhere is the genuineness of his religious consciousness more clear.
Prayer is the most distinctive feature of that human attitude which we call religion. It is the practise and principle of prayer, the quest of God involved in it, that distinguishes religion from other systems of thought and observed codes of conduct that sometimes, quite erroneously, are looked upon as religion. Without prayer, in one form or another, the great religions would not have arisen nor could they have survived. We shall never be able to estimate the contribution which prayer in all its forms has made to the religious life of mankind.
[The finest of all studies on the history, psychology and essence of prayer is that of Professor Heiler, of the University of Marburg: Das Gebet. Eine religionsgeschichtliche und religionspsychologische Untersuchung. See also Professor Heiler's little book, Die Buddhistische Versenkung, which closes with a brief comparison: Buddha, der Meister der Versenkung~Jesus, der Meister des Gebets (pp. 61-67). An especially fine picture of Jesus' prayer-life is given by Professor Deissmann in his The Religion of Jesus and the Faith of Paul. This enlarged English edition had its earlier form in German: Evangelium und Urchristentum: Beitraege zur Weiterentwicklung der christlichen Religion. Both had their origin in an article which appeared in the Christliche Welt (XIII, 1899, cols. 701 ff.), "Der Beter Jesus. Ein vergessenes Kapitel der neutestamentlichen Theologie." On prayer in the Old Testament, see Greiff, Das Gebet im Alen Testament; on prayer in primitive Christianity, see von der Goltz, Das Gebet in der Aeltesten Christenheit.]
Feuerbach, one of the most radical critics of Christianity, who saw in all religion only a dreary delusion of the human spirit, wrote: "The deepest essence of religion is revealed in its simplest act-prayer. Professor Deissmann writes: "Religion, wherever it is vital in human life, is primarily prayer."
From Professor Heiler: "Prayer is the heart and soul of religion. Not in dogmas and institutions, not in rites and ethical ideals, but in prayer we
come face to face with the religious life. In its utterance in prayer we apprehend the deepest and most intimate impulses of the pious soul."
The practise, principles and place of prayer may in all justice be made touchstones for determining upon the essence of any particular religious faith. "The distinctions and differences between particular religions and religious personalities reveal themselves with special sharpness in prayer."
Prayer is the life-breath and pulse of personal piety. No one can state fully what prayer has meant for those who have really practised and experienced it. The great men of prayer speak of it as an irrepressible inner necessity. Luther wrote: "He who does not pray, neither calls upon God in time of need, certainly does not regard Him as God and does not accord Him His divine honor."" Prayer is the source-spring of authority and power in the personal religious life. Professor Streeter quotes Sadhu Sundar Singh: "The man of prayer is the only one whose opinion is worth having in regard to religion."" Again from Professor Heiler: "Prayer is certainly the freest and most personal expression of piety; the original creative power of the outstanding religious genius reveals itself with great clearness exactly in prayer.""
A history of prayer would amount to a history of religion, for in the prayers of mankind we have the most reliable reflection of religious experience in all of its stages of development, the lowest as well as the highest. The prayers of men reflect their hopes and fears, their ambitions and aspirations, their moods and tempers, their
cherished longings and deepest desires. It is generally true of the psychology of prayer that the prayer14 brings into his prayers the things that matter most in his life. Thus prayer in all its forms exhibits the scale of values in the life from which it comes.
The values sought in the history of prayer range from the highest to the lowest. Primitive man prayed more frequently, more passionately and more persistently than does cultured man. This seems to be due to the fact that the prayer-process is one of the non-rational elements in religion; it is essentially naive, and neither in principle nor in practise did it create a problem for the prirbitive man who practised it. The cultured mind is rationalistic and reflective, and both things tend to compromise the purity and to weaken the power of prayer. The greatest prayers of history, however, have not come from primitive man but from cultured man. In these great prayers the prayer does not reason; he does not stop to reflect, but as primitive man he pours forth the deepest distress and desires of his heart in the presence of his Maker.
Primitive man poured out in his prayers every concern, major and minor, of his life. Nothing was too trivial or matter-of-fact to bring into the presence of his god or gods. If a thing concerned him in any way, it also concerned his deity, and he did not hesitate to confront his deity with his desire or need. In a most unhindered and unhampered fashion his praying released his emotions of fear and anxiety, his feeling of awe and wonder, expressed his faith and confidence, his sense of need as well as his momentary wish or whim, and often gave vent to
his vexation and displeasure with his god or gods. In prayer, at times, he did not even hesitate to threaten and intimidate his gods. Primitive man prayed to his gods for sunshine and rain, clothing and food and shelter, for increase in family and field and flock, for his own personal safety and prosperity. Such were the central concerns of his life, and their abundance or shortage he linked up with his gods and their doings. Consequently his prayers poured forth with all of his native primitive passion.
The prayers of cultured man often manifest a decrease in passion. He excludes the more unworthy emotions that caused primitive man to find fault with his gods. The chief progress in prayer from its lower to its higher f orms is to be found in its scale of values. Cultured man disdains to burden his prayers and his God with his every personal whim and notion. His conception of the prayer-process is much higher, and he excludes from it all that is unworthy and trivial. Like primitive man, his passion bursts forth in prayer when he is faced with the major issues of life and death, but the minor matters he seeks to face more on his own account because he realizes that they are minor and because he lives consciously on a higher religious plane. Even the material necessities of life fall into the background of his prayers. He must have food, clothing and shelter, but he does not storm high heaven for their possession. He looks upon them as the provisions of a gracious Providence, but still they remain values of a secondary order. Prayer in its highest forms includes these things, but the prayer seeks of the Divine rather the light and strength necessary to the securing of the highest values. The cultured man prays for spiritual values: moral content and solidity of
character, ethical control of conduct, religious restraint of natural impulses, social good will and brotherhood, the forgiveness of sins, triumph over evil in every form, and finally for the society of the Divine itself.
Prayer represents both a personal and a social religious value. It is practised both by the individual and by the group. But prayer at its best is personal, intensely personal. The group may have its prayers and pray them with genuine passion. But the group can but rarely pour forth its emotions in a single expression; its sense of need is seldom so intense, its concentration is never so spontaneous and involuntary as that of the individual. The religious emotions of the individual find an immediate focus and even before he has time to reflect they have burst forth into their natural expression. This immediacy, so fundamental in the prayer-experience, is never quite accessible to the group. No matter how vital the bond that brings the group together, a focus of feeling must be sought and reflection is required to find its appropriate expression, and this delays the prayer-process. The great prayers of the collect are never really its own, for they were first prayed by some great soul in its quest of God. About the most that the group can attain in prayer-experience is the discovery of the prayer of some great prayer for which the group finds verification in its own religious experience. Common prayers and praying face the danger that confronts all religious acts that have come to be observed by repetition-that they will become formal and impersonal, leaving the individual participant without a corresponding content of experience.
Prayer may never become an institution and remain true to itself, for at its best prayer is instinctive. It is private and personal to a degree that the common cult
can never attain. And the student who would learn to know the heart of prayer will not turn to a prayer-book, but to the prayed prayers of some struggling soul. The twenty-third Psalm will never mean for us what it meant for the one from whose inner experience it sprang, for it comes to us as a composition. At its birth-hour and birthplace it was a communion with the Divine, a bursting-forth of faith and confidence in the God of Israel. The twenty-third Psalm becomes our very own only when we find ourselves in the identical situation of the original prayer and can pour into it the whole substance of our religious faith and feeling. "In its original form prayer is a spontaneous discharge of emotion, a free and full outpouring of the heart.
Prayer may be made in public, it may be whispered in solitude with God alone as witness, it may be an unintelligible cry devoid of coherent expression, or it may be an unutterable longing of the innermost soul, but it is always, if it retains any measure of its native genius, a communion with the Divine. In its form it is spontaneous and extemporaneous, the free and involuntary improvisation of the moment.
The Prayer-Heritage of Jesus
Jesus came from a praying people. The practise of passionate prayer runs through the religion of the Old Testament like an unbroken golden strand. It survived all the fates and fortunes of Israel's colorful history, and exactly in times of crisis, even in the midst of catastrophe, we witness an intensification of Israel's prayer-life. In
its prayer-experience Israel stands unique in the history of religion. No nation perhaps passed through a more tragic career, and, except for the solid substance of its religious life, this people would certainly have lost all confidence and f aith in its God. Yet the pious souls of Israel, whether in time of defeat and death or in time of peace and prosperity, turned to their God in reverent petition, protest and praise. The God of Israel was a God who always heard and answered prayer, a religious confidence that was built into the very nerve and fiber of its personal and social life and without which such an array of prayer-literature as the Old Testament presents would have been impossible (Psalms It 6,1-2) : "I love Jehovah, because he heareth my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."
The great heroes of Israel were all men of prayerpatriarchs, princes, prophets and priests. Prayer reaches back into the earliest traditions of this people. The Old Testament story opens with the first man walking and talking with his Maker. The story itself is naive and of relatively late origin, but it reflects an ancient conviction of Israel to the effect that man in his ideal state was in constant communion, in immediate and intimate intercourse with God. (Gen. 3.) The first great prayer. scene is Jacob's night of wrestling with the angel. (Gen. 32,22-32.) This is really a picture from Israel's prayerlife, a reflection of its persistent pursuit of its God, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," and in it is deposited Israel's sense of triumph in prayer,
"I have seen God face to face."
Moses appears as the great intercessor between God and His people, and his figure towers to its loftiest heights when he seeks out the solitude of the holy mount and prays for his people. (Deut. 9.) In I Samuel 2,1-10 we meet Hannah's prayer of praise. Samuel prayed all night for Saul. (I Sam. 15,11.) David is Israel's prince of prayer, and with his name most of its prayer-literaturc was linked up. Solomon's prayer-has come down to us as a great classic. (I Kings 3,6-9.) Even down to the last literary echoes of Israel's history we have great prayers: Manasses, Esther, Daniel, Judith, Tobit and so forth. Throughout its history the great and small of Israel-prince and peasant, man and woman, rich and poor, young and old-turn with equal confidence to God in prayer.
But the high point in Israel's prayer-life-in its practise, principles and values prayed for-comes with the great prophets of the sixth and eighth centuries. Almost without exception they are men who are in constant contact with the Divine, and their prayers appear and reappear in their writings. The prayer-life of some of the prophets is more prominent than that of others, a difference due to individual temperament, but the common picture of the great prophet is that of a man praising, petitioning or protesting to his God in behalf of himself or his people. From the first to the last they are men of vital prayer-experience. Of Amos, Hoelscher writes: "It was in the experience of prayer that Amos became a prophet."" Of Jeremiah, the most sensitive of the
prophets, Wellhausen says: "Jeremiah is the father of prayer." The prayers of the prophets are too numerous to be cited here," and their importance is not due to their frequency but to the fineness of their spirit and the richness of their content. The prayer-life of Israel swung upward with the rising tide of the prophetic religion which brought to Israel's religious experience a moral and ethical content unattained by any other ancient people. Personal and private prayer of a high order is the product of prophetic piety, especially of a religious experience like that of Jeremiah. The prophets enriched the content of Israel's prayer-life, ennobled its principle and practise, and directed it toward the highest religious values. Such a development was necessary in view of the very nature of the prophetic type of religious experience; in it there was deeply imbedded a keen sense of social and personal need, a sense which must find an outlet in prayer, in prayer under inner pressure.
But the prayer-life of Israel did not remain on this high level. With the national downfall, all that Israel had left was its religious faith. And this was saved only because it became encased in a system of cult and ceremony. The priest supplanted the prophet as the religious authority, and the effect on Israel's prayer-life was only natural. "Law-loving Judaism preferred the formulated prayer of daily duty to the formless prayer of spontaneous expression."" Prayer became a prescribed practise of the faithful. There seems to have been, even at an
early date, a system of daily prayer." Praying became a religious good-work. Not only was praying prescribed, but the prayer was provided with prayers. Instead of pouring out his own heartfelt need in his own free fashion, there were prayers prepared for him for almost every occasion and emergency. Prayer became a cult and a ceremony, and the prayers were impersonal, formal, liturgical and ritualistic rather than free spontaneous releases of elemental religious emotions. The prayer became a participant in a religious celebration. Every religious festival had its appropriate prayers and psalms, and the pious soul was provided with the famous eighteen-petition prayer for rehearsal three times daily and sufficient to cover all the ordinary religious needs."
But no religious system is sufficient to supply the prayerneeds of the individual and, even when the priest and his cult were supreme, the religion of the individual did not die out and become extinct. This we see in the collection of the Psalms where the conventional hymns of the congregation, the prayer-compositions of the temple and its festival cult, stand side by side with the passionate personal prayers of the individual who utters his own special petition, praise or protest. More than half of the Psalms are the individual and personal prayers of the layman.
No finer collection of prayer-literature is to be found than in the Psalms of the Old Testament, and they bear abundant testimony to the richness of Israel's prayer-
life. [For an especially fine study of the Psalms as prayer-life and literature, see Professor Staerk's commentary in Die Schriften des Alten Testaments, 3te Abteilung, Band 1. In his preface to this second edition Professor Staerk says that his revision was occasioned chiefly by Professor Heiler's masterpiece, Das Gebet.]
In them we see Israel praying in public as a people, and we hear the Israelite praying in private for himself and his people. As Greiff writes of the people of Israel, "The whole of their life is a prayer; everything they do is always with an upward look to God, and they undertake nothing without Him."" Every occasion, major or minor, personal or national, began and ended with prayer.
The prayers of the Psalter include everything that the Israelite regarded as desirous and worth while for himself and his people. He prays for personal and social values: prosperity and posterity in family and nation, for immunity in time of epidemic, for food in time of famine, for help against personal and national oppressors, for personal and national power and victory, for signs and wonders to demonstrate the majesty of God to unbelievers, for rain and harvest, for recovery from illness, for protection from evil, for clean hands and pure heart, for forgiveness of personal and national sin, for divine council and comfort and guidance, for spiritual and physical welfare of self and others, for deliverance from sins of tongue, pride, passion and inner lust, for the wisdom and fear and knowledge of God, and finally for the real presence of God with himself and people.
It was a feeling of deep reverence and gratitude that caused the Israelite to lift his face to heaven. In the midst of all the vicissitudes of life, when failure felled
him or fortune favored him, the pious soul of Israel poured forth his petitions, praises and protests with all the intensity and passion of elemental emotion. The Israelite f elt that his God was with him as he f aced all the issues of life. The Psalter is a "wondrous expression of an unbreakable confidence in God."
It was his sense of need that brought the Israelite to his knees: an augmented feeling of dependence, fear, awe, wonder, a deep consciousness of sin, increased need of forgiveness, deplorable inability and weakness in coping with the forces of evil. Psalm 51,9-15 is the great Miserere of the Psalter. In his prayers the Israelite expressed his highest hopes and aspirations. He mani. fested the greatest confidence in the prayer-process. He felt that it was a source of personal and social power, a positive reinforcement. It resulted for him in inner mobilization, refreshment and peace of soul, a clarification of puzzling situations and perplexing circumstances; in short, the prayer-act brought him all that he understood as religious light and strength. It gave him clearness and certainty concerning the divine will and, above all, the sense of the divine presence.
The failure of the prayer-act did not diminish his praying; on the contrary, he prayed with increased fervor and passion. His reaction to his praying was always a subordination of self, subjection and surrender. He began his prayer with assurance, and it ended with his reassurance. Often a passionate petition is followed by a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. In the religious experience of Israel prayer had the most definite kind of disciplinary and pedagogical function. It had its concrete issues in
moral character, ethical conduct, and in the fear and love of God. The greatest prayers of the Psalter are those private intimate prayers of Israel's great religious personalities. They mark mile-stones in the path of personal piety's progress to its goal. They exhibit a remarkable maturity of religious experience, a power, a purity and a rich religiousness that spring from a courage that grapples with all the problems that confront the religious consciousness and that forces them out into that awful arena where man stands alone with his Maker.
It is against this background that the praying and prayers of Jesus are to be understood. Behind him for centuries there reaches a rich heritage of prayer-life and literature. Prayer came to him by social inheritance, but for Jesus it was much more than a practise that came to him from a praying people. It was not social imitation that caused him to pray. Jesus was steeped in the prayerliterature of his people, but he kept up the spirit rather than the letter of Israel's prayer traditions. The conventional, ritualistic and liturgical prayers of the past and present did not satisfy his religious instincts. In that incomparable collection of prayers, the Hebrew Psalter, Jesus remained true to himself: He turned to those intimate personal prayers of the pious layman. In his prayerlife and prayer-experience Jesus was not the priest, but the prophet. Like Jeremiah before him, he poured forth his innermost soul to God.
In coming to the prayer-life of Jesus we strike upon the very pulse of his personal piety. In no feature of the Gospel picture is the real religiousness of Jesus clearer
than in his teaching on prayer, in his practise of prayer, and in his prayers themselves. We shall approach his prayer-experience from these three angles, all of which are very clear in our best sources, the first three Gospels. We do not aim at an exhaustive study of his prayer-life, but we desire to know its full significance for our approach to Jesus as a religious subject. We are interested in it here only so far as it reveals his religious consciousness as unmistakably real and as thoroughly genuine.
Extracts from Jesus' Prayer-Experience
The first important step in the study of the prayer experience of Jesus is the full realization of the fact that he felt no problem in prayer and praying. There is not the faintest shadow of doubt in his mind concerning the prayer-process. He offers no prayer apologetics, no defense or justification for its practise. The theoretical difficulties and the practical doubts of the modern mind connected with the practise and value of prayer never occurred to Jesus. Like all the great religious geniuses, the very passion of his personal piety threw him out beyond these. That prayer may be only an autosuggestive process by which the individual prods himself along the prosaic path of piety, a release of pent-up feeling resulting in the relief of inner tension, a devotional delusion with an imaginary rather than a real influence-such pos. sibilities which harass the reflective type of mind seem never to have disturbed him. Jesus approaches prayer with a childlike unaffectedness and simplicity. He has no psychology, no philosophy, no theology of prayer such as
the modern mind seems to require. In his experience prayer is an instinctive process, the one great recourse of the religious consciousness. He is driven to prayer out of a deep sense of native and natural need, and all his teaching on prayer and his praying are expressions of just such need.
In his teaching Jesus attempts no definition of prayer. His approach to prayer is just as untheoretical as is his approach to all the elements that go to make up religious experience. His approach is. naive and unreflective, and for this reason prayer appears in the religious life of Jesus in its primitive purity and power. The modern mind with all its reflections and reservations concerning prayer is seldom, if ever, able really to pray. Reflection chills and inhibits the prayer-process. Only as its sense of need completely overwhelms all its rational reflection can the modern mind really pray again.
Jesus presented prayer as a principal religious value. His words on prayer are simple and plain enough, and need no special exposition. All prayer is to be directed to God. Into the prayer-act men may pour the whole of their feeling and faith; in it they may express their deepest desires and most vital needs. He gave his disciples no prayer-precepts, no fixed prayer-text, no prayer-cult or prayer-rites, no stipulations as to time and posture, in short, no prayer-system. It stands as a high mark in the religious genius of Jesus that he left man alone with his Maker. He gave no formal instruction with regard to prayer; rather he sought to impart inspiration to true
[For characteristic academic approaches to prayer, see: Coe, The Psychology of Religion, chapter XVIII; Pratt, The Religious Consciousness, chapter XV; Selbie, The Psychology of Religion, chapter XI; Hocking, The Meaning of God in Human Experience, chapter XXIX; Streeter, Concerning Prayer--Its Nature, Its Difficulties, and Its Values.]
prayer. From his many words on prayer we single out those which are most characteristic and distinctive of his own prayer-experience.
Jesus teaches that prayer is private and purely personal, an inner precinct in which man stands alone with his Maker where no curious eye may look on. Prayer as a religious good-work, prayer on public parade, he rejects as a distorted devotion to a true religious value:
"And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee." (Matt. 6,5-6.)
Jesus teaches that true prayer is brief and to the point. There is no reason for a recital of needs, no reason for a rehearsal of all the details of the situation in which the prayer finds himself: "And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matt. 6,7-8.)
Over against this calm assurance of answer to prayer are two perturbing parables of Jesus teaching prayer as a persistent pursuit, introducing that permanent paradox which is puzzling but real because it springs fresh and strong from actual prayer-experience:
"Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are, with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee? I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will arise and give him as many as he needeth." (Luke 11,5-8.) [These two parables, now widely separated, may have been spoken together originally by Jesus as a parable pair.]
"There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but. afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming." (Luke 18,2-5.)"
Concerning the attitude of the prayer Jesus gives us two priceless prayer-pictures in what for me personally is the greatest of all his parables. Prayer must be devoid of all personal pride; it defeats itself if it becomes a recital of virtues. In the presence of God man can be conscious of only one thing, his sinfulness; he can pray first only for mercy and forgiveness for himself : "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust,
adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner. I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other." (Luke 18,10-14a.)
Such are the characteristic and most distinctive words of Jesus on prayer. But all of them are more than mere teaching. All are autobiographical and confessional, springing fresh and strong from his own prayer-life. In all of these words Jesus is introducing us to the secrets of his own prayer-experience. "In the prayer-ideal which the great prayers have projected they have given to us a picture of their own praying . . . In his brief and scattered words on true and false praying Jesus has characterized himself." When he hurls his sharp criticisms at the hypocrites who pray in public and at the Gentiles who think they will be heard for their much speaking, he gives us an insight into his own manner of praying: apart with God as the only witness, compact and to the point. His recommendation for retreat to the inner chamber is direct to us from his own personal practise. It reflects the reticence that surrounds the whole of his own prayer-life; it is a word that was born at his own soul-shrine. It is the privacy which Jesus preserved for himself. To expose the prayer-act to a curious public is to destroy its purity and power. Secrecy and seclusion afford a compact concentration of the whole personality in the prayeract.
When Jesus says, "Your Father knoweth," he speaks
straight from his own inner conviction and confidence won on his knees. When he says that the asker receiveth, that the seeker findeth, that to the one who knocks it shall be opened, he is simply expressing his own personal faith in the prayer-process. When he says that the father will not give his son a stone for bread, a serpent for a fish, he is openly confessing his deep personal faith in the Father who can not but answer the prayers of His children. When he gives us the picture of the friend who storms his neighbor's door at midnight, or of the widow who presses her case before the unjust judge, he dis. closes to us that relentless quest and pursuit in which he himself was engaged on his way to clearness and certainty.
This puzzling paradox in Jesus' words on prayeron the one hand, quiet converse; on the other, stormy supplication-is the reflection of the paradox that existed in his own prayer-experience. Sometimes the pulse of Jesus' prayer-life exhibits a boisterous beat; again its action is slow, undisturbed, composed and confident. There is an attitude of complete confidence running through the whole of his teaching on prayer, also through his prayers. But when he is confronted with a pressing personal problem, we see him storming the heart of the Father for His mind, for his own personal assurance. Jesus' words on prayer, then, are the fine and full fruit of his own prayer-experience. What he has to say about prayer reveals what its practise has meant for him-an asking and a receiving, a seeking and a finding, a knocking at and an opening of closed doors.
Jesus' teaching on prayer is not impersonal, but intensely personal. It is not formal, yet it does contain a reflective element. His teaching on prayer is not the finest flower of his prayer-life. This we shall find in his
own prayed prayers. His estimate of the place and value of prayer in the religious life is to be sought beyond his teaching on this subject-in his retreats to solitude, in his own personal petitions, praises and protests. It is only as we press back beyond teaching to practise and beyond his practise of prayer to his actual prayers that we realize fully what prayer meant for Jesus. Here we shall meet an intensification of feeling that, because of the very nature of the case, could not find its way into his teaching on prayer.
Jesus' Retreats for Prayer
The Gospel notices to the effect that Jesus prayed or that he retreated for prayer are relatively numerous. They are sporadic and appear with an irregularity which shows that they are not a planned part of the Gospel writers' program. In some sections of the Gospel story these notices are few and far apart; in other sections they become frequent and pile up. This very fact gives the historical student a large measure of confidence in the Gospel picture of Jesus' practise of prayer: His retreats for prayer increase when portentous events and experiences are heaviest upon him. The first three Gospels report nine notices of Jesus' Retreats for Prayer: At the baptism, apart from Simon's house, after the cleansing of the leper, before the choosing of the twelve, after feeding the five thousand, at Caesarea Philippi, at the transfiguration, at the giving of the Lord's Prayer, and in Gethsemane. [ There are other notices of Jesus' retreating to solitude in which prayer is not mentioned: Mark 1,45; 6,30-31; Luke 4,42-43.]
Besides these retreats for prayer, there are other notices that Jesus prayed as he blessed the bread and the fish at the feeding of the five thousand" and the four thousand," also at the last supper'o in connection with the off ering of the bread and the wine. - Luke 24,30 and 35 would lead us to suppose that Jesus had a peculiar way of blessing bread which made him known to the Emmaus disciples. These notices have to do with prayers of thanksgiving and with the consecration of food. In Matthew 19,13 Jesus appears almost as a popular holy man whose benediction and blessing is sought by all. Mark's notice in 7,34-"And looking up to heaven, he sighed" may be a prayer.
In the nine retreats for prayer listed above it is interesting to note that the first seven are Galilean retreats. Matthew has only one Galilean retreat, and Mark has two. The notices that Jesus prayed, or retreated for prayer, are most numerous in Luke who gives special attention to the devotional life of Jesus and has him engaging in prayer at critical junctures throughout his public career. (3,21;6,12;9,18 28-29.) All three report that greatest of all his retreats, in Gethsemane.
Such are the Gospel materials on Jesus' retreats for prayer. In the concrete they do not tell us a great deal. In only one of the nine is a prayer reported, in Gethsemane. Usually we have simply the uncommunicative notice that Jesus prayed. The immediate experiences and the impending events that drove him apart for prayer
are seldom given. However, it seems that crises in char. acter and conduct, important junctures and turning points in his fates and fortunes, brought Jesus to his knees. In the second retreat (Mark 1,3S-38) it is clear enough that the experiences of this Sabbath (1,21-34) bring him apart for prayer early the following morning. The Gethsemane retreat is occasioned by the pressure of impending events. Otherwise, his retreats for prayer come at important junctures in his public life-at the baptism, the choosing of the twelve, at Cxsarea Philippi and at the transfiguration. "For Luke the decisions and choices of Jesus at great moments and junctures in his public career are the result of prayer and petition."" Sometimes these retreats precede, again they follow, and still again fall upon critical moments in his experience. The decisions and choices to which these retreats for prayer bring him, the results in his subsequent conduct are not always clear. But in spite of this unclearness in detail, the general fact remains that Jesus retreated for prayer and did pray.
As we noted earlier, there is no regularity in these retreats. They are in no sense a part of a prayer-system. For Jesus prayer was not a traditional religious institution to be engaged in and observed at certain set hours, but the spontaneous impromptu practise of an intense personal piety. Prayer in the practise of Jesus seems to have been the exception rather than the rule, dictated by consciousness of need rather than by imitation of a traditional custom of his people. Some of his retreats seem to have been occasioned by a pressing popularity and the thronging of the multitudes, as well as by the inner need
he felt for communion with God. His word to the twelve upon their return from their mission (Mark 6,31a), "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile," is probably a reflection of the need for retirement and rest which he himself felt at times. His word in Gethsemane (Mark 14,38b), "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," is probably the expression of his own need of prayer.
Retreat, retirement and rest are necessary for any man who is always at his best and who is working under high pressure in the realm of the spirit. Jesus felt a deep native need of prayer. Than this there is not a finer expression of the real religiousness of his personality. With all of his natural and native resourcefulness in the realm of religion, Jesus nowhere manifests a sense of self-sufficiency that enabled him to dispense with that primary religious practise-prayer to God. In hours of direst distress he takes his flight to solitude and there seeks a refuge in prayer. All that passed through the soul of Jesus on these occasions we shall never know. But that he did pray and continue to pray, that he died in prayer, is all that we are in need of knowing.
The religious experience of our great Christian contemporary, Sadhu Sundar Singh, throws an important light on these retreats of Jesus. Mrs. Parker writes of the Sadhu: "In South India in 1918 nobody seemed to realize
that he was ever exhausted or needed rest, and the long unbroken toil in an atmosphere as foreign as the languages of the people, wore down his spirit. He longed not only for the rest of body but for those periods of quiet meditation and prayer which are the very breath of his existence and source of his power. . . . He loves the open air by night and the open spaces by day, where without any eye to watch he can be alone with his Lord. In such an atmosphere he lives and gathers to himself those reserves of strength and peace which characterize him."
Apart from such a personal parallel, it is sufficiently clear in the Gospel picture that Jesus' retreats for prayer were creative moments in his religious experience, and we may add, in the religious experience of all humankind.
Jesus' retreats for prayer seem for the most part to have been at night. In Mark 1,35 he riscs "a great while before day"; according to Luke 6,12 he spent the whole night in prayer to God before choosing the twelve; according to Luke 9,28 and 37 Jesus is all night on the mountain with the three disciples; Gethsemane is a nocturnal retreat. This habit of retreat accords with his instruction on the proper place for prayer as apart and in private. (Matt. 6,6.) "For him praying was a holy thing, so holy that the world might not witness, so serious that too-much-speaking is of the evil one."" "Out of a sense of shyness genuine personal praying conceals itself from profane eyes and ears. . . . The personal prayer-life of the great religious geniuses has its scene in solitude and seclusion." In Jesus' retreats to solitude
we witness a survival of the spirit of Elijah who sought Jehovah in the desolation of the desert, in the loneliness of Mount Horeb. For the really great religious personality, silence has always been a sacrament; Jesus seems to have loved it as such. He knew the value of solitude and seclusion.
In these periods of prayer engaged in by Jesus there is nothing to suggest the typical temper of the mystic. There are no indications of mystical mannerisms and methods, no seeking for a severing of self, no attempt at the dissolution of the ego, no effort to effect a mystical merging with the object of prayer. In fact, Jesus' retreats seem to have been the very opposite-an intensification of self-consciousness that sought a moral harmony with the divine will. No ecstatic elements, no visionary visitations seem to have invaded these retreats. Luke alone (22,43) has an angel appear to strengthen him in Gethsemane, but this is a later legendary addition not found in Matthew and Mark, or in the best manuscripts of Luke.
These retreats seem to have resulted for Jesus in a rallying of personal resources and to have been a source of strong self-possession. They seem to have been times of complete detachment, of compact concentration upon certain central issues, resulting in a state of mind and soul that was undivided and undistracted. Few men in history have attained unto this pinnacle of prayer-experience. Still fewer are the instances in which others have beheld them at this high point, but in these rare instances the experience for the witness has left an indelible impression. Of George Fox, William Penn wrote: "The
most awful, living, reverent frame I ever beheld or felt, I must say was his in prayer."
The great men with great calls and commissions who have made permanent contributions to our human progress upward have passed through times-hours, days, months, even years-when their deepest convictions were submitted to the most terrible and trying tests. Often even the validity of their cause and the genuineness of their personal consecration to it were at stake. These tremendous conflicts they have been forced to face and fight out alone, and in many cases, before God. At such times such men know themselves to be immediately in the presence of their Maker, and they pour out the naked substance of their souls. It is in the solitude of such prayer that the world's great religions have been born.
It was in the desolation of the Galilean deserts, in the heavy solitude and seclusion of its nights that Jesus struck deep into the richest source-springs of personal religious experience that our human history knows. Solitude, seclusion and silence filled with his supplications were the things that made Jesus the One he was and always will be. "To go up into the mountain and to come back as an ambassador to the world, has ever been the method of humanity's best friends."
The Prayers of Jesus
We now turn to the prayers of Jesus, for in them we feel that we come closest to his very soul. Only a few of his prayers have come down to us, a total of seven in the first three Gospels. That we have so few of his prayers
is, of course, due to the very nature of his practise of prayer. In protected privacy, in solitude and seclusion, he prayed to his God. In the language of Plotinus, Jesus' retreats are a 4)uy~ po'Voi rrp6c p6vov-(the flight of the the lonely one to the Only One). We may be grateful that even seven have come down to us. In the first three Gospels we have the following
Reported Prayers of Jesus:
(1) "Our Father, who art" (Matt 6, 9-13; Luke 11, 1-4)
(2) "I thank thee, O Father" (Matt 11, 25-26; Luke 10, 21)
(3) "Simon, Simon . . . I made" (Luke 22, 31-32)
(4) "Abba, Father, all things" (Matt 26, 39-42; Mark 14, 36; Luke 22, 42)
(5) "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23, 34)
(6) "My God, my God, why" (Matthew 27, 46; Mark 15,34)
(7) "Father, into thy bands" (Luke 23,46)
Mark reports only two prayers of Jesus, in Gethsemane and on the cross, both in the last hours of his life when stress and strain were heaviest upon his soul. Matthew reports both of Mark's prayers and adds two, the prayer of praise ( 11,25-26) and the Lord's Prayer (6,9-13), both of which were without doubt Galilean prayers. Luke again shows the greatest interest in the devotional life of Jesus by reporting six prayers, all of those reported by Matthew and Mark except the cry on the cross, and by adding an allusion to a prayer for Simon (22,3132) and two prayers on the cross (23,34 46). Five of the seven prayers fall within the last twenty-four hours of Jesus' life, and three of them were uttered from the cross.
In a survey of Jesus' prayers the first thing that impresses the student is their utter, unadorned simplicity. In this respect they stand in sharp contrast with the typical prayers of mankind. "The most profound disposi-
tion of vital religion is to clothe its objects of faith with the highest predicates of honor." It is to God alone that Jesus prays, in no name, and for no sake. All of those admonitions to pray "in his name" or "for his sake" are of later Christian origin. They do not go back to Jesus' own prayer-life, for such would contradict his constant religious attitude and would result in a complete collapse of his religious consciousness. In his prayers Jesus follows no pious program, no mechanical method, no tedious technique, no fixed formulas, no heaping-high of the deity's titles and predicates. Five of the seven prayers begin with the simple and intimate address, Father. We have only the substance of his prayer for Simon (Luke 22,31-32), and we do not know the address of the prayer itself. However, such an intimate supplication could hardly have had any other address.
His cry on the cross is verbatim from Psalms 22,1; it begins with the address, My God, my God! In such a cry Jesus' experience of God as high and holy, as inscrutable and unfathomable, predominates over his experience of God as Father. In it we see a distressed human being laying bare the substance of his soul-mere man in the terrible presence of his mighty Maker. In his prayer of commitment (Luke 23,46) he supplies to the Old Testament text (Psalms 31,5a) the affectionate appellation, Father. There is a specially intimate feature preserved in Mark's text of the Gethsemane prayer (14,36) ; its address is in Jesus' native provincial dialect, Abba, my Father. The most elaborate address is in his prayer of praise, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, where a fuller form is only natural. Jesus' prayers are all models for his own
word, "In praying use not vain repetitions." (Matt. 6,7.) The simplicity of his prayers is only a natural counterpart to the simplicity of the whole of his religious faith. He does not throw himself in the dust after the manner of his own East, but in the prayer-act he lifts his voice and his soul in simple yet complete confidence. On his knees he feels himself, as always, a child in the presence of his loving Father. It is on this quiet but sublime level that the prayers of Jesus move, always a reverent and confident converse, whether in praise, petition or protest. "In his praying the urphenomenon of prayer, the, filial relationship to the Father-God, bursts forth in all its primitive purity and power."
The second thing that impresses the student of Jesus' prayers is their striking brevity. The longest is the Lord's Prayer, a half-dozen simple sentences. The prayer of eighteen petitions repeated thrice daily by the pious Jew of Jesus' day was ten times as long as the longest of his prayers. With the exception of the Lord's Prayer, all others are sentencc-prayers. Within a single simple sentence he pressed the substance of his supplications. Each of his prayers is compact and to the point, terse utterances with not a word to spare. The very brevity of his prayers is the chief guarantee of their genuineness. This remarkable brevity is the product of something deeper, the fine fruit of his general conception of the whole of religious experience, according to which every excess, every too-much, compromises its sincerity and purity. These pointed prayers are the perfect pattern of his own
word to the eff ect that men are not heard for "their much speaking." (Matt. 6,7.) The prayers of Jesus may be characterized, as William Penn characterized the prayers of George Fox, "by the fewness and fulness of his words." In this respect Jesus is true to prayer in its best form. Long prayer loses its free and fresh flow, its spontaneity, because it demands too much reflection and thought. Even when the period of prayer lengthens in the experience of Jesus, the prayer itself remains brief, as in Gethsemane where he repeats three times the same brief petition as the only adequate expression for the hurt of his soul.
A third thing that impresses the student of Jesus' prayers is their elemental character. Without exception they strike down into the very rudiments of religion; in them we see the first principles of piety. The whole ebb and flow of the emotional life finds expression in the prayers of Jesus. They reflect all the varying moods of the religious consciousness in its quest of God. All of those types of prayer most characteristic of genuine personal piety fall from his lips-prayers of praise, petition and protest. In moments of sublime exultation and complete confidence, in times of deepest need, in hours of greatest humiliation and direst distress, Jesus praises, petitions and protests to his God. The pendulum swings from one emotional extreme to the other. The two extreme poles of his prayer-experience are to be found in his prayer of praise-highest joy-and in his prayer of protest-deepest distress of soul and body. It is this strong emotional element that accounts for the utter simplicity and brevity of his prayers. They are terse because
they are tense; his words are few because they are full. His prayers are spontaneous outbursts, intense outpourings of his innermost soul. Each is a release of an inner tension. They spring vitally and organically from a subjective state which, in turn, finds free expression. Jesus, as is natural to the strongly religious consciousness, prayed under personal pressure, and his prayers are charged with emotions of high intensity-joy, native human need and distress. They are primitive in that they are born of the need of the moment, out of a fulness of heart, unrestrained by any degree of rational reflection. In the study of such praying as that of Jesus, theology can not help us. The introduction of a dogma will only obscure our vision. Here we have to do with the solid substance of a sublime soul that launches out into the deep and stakes its all in the quest of God.
A fourth thing that impresses the student of Jesus' prayers is the fact that they are all prayed prayers. His praying was not from habit. He prays out of deep inner impulse. In his hours of need he does not require to be taught how or what to pray. His words betray no reflection, no conscious effort at composition; they are involuntary unpremeditated utterances of a soul in search of satisfaction for its deepest desires. Jesus' prayers are never professional; they are the prayers of the pious layman-always personal, never impersonal; always infor. mal, never formal. They are abrupt and broken with no attempt at rhetorical finish or stylistic smoothness. This is due to the fact that Jesus' prayers are always private and personal; they are never public prayers, even though witnesses are present. Public prayer by its very nature and the demands placed upon it can never be pure. The prayer must think of what he is saying because others are
listening. This destroys the spontaneity of the prayeract at its best. Jesus was forced to pray in public, on the cross, but his prayers are not public, for he is alone with his God. In the prayer-act his attention is undivided; the concentration of his consciousness is complete, undisturbed. Witnesses may be present, yet he has but one Auditor. We have no instances of prosaic prayers from Jesus, prayers that were prayed in response to the general conviction that prayer is a religious duty, a practise that should be observed faithfully. The prayers of Jesus that have come down to us arise out of some unusual situation, and they usually reflect the special situation in which he found himself and which determined their content. For this reason they are always prayed prayers.
A fifth thing that impresses the student of Jesus' prayers is the complete lack of detail. In none of his prayers does Jesus catalogue his needs; he does not rehearse the situation in which he finds himself; he does not elaborate upon all that is involved for himself. He includes in his prayers no promises, no pledges; there is no bargaining with the deity for a favorable hearing and answering such as prayer on a lower level almost always exhibits. In many of the Psalms the petitioner goes into great detail, acquainting the deity with all the items as though such were necessary in the prayer-process. The twenty-second Psalm is a good example of such minute delineation. In his darkest hour Jesus quotes the first sentence of this Psalm, but his confidence in the Father dispenses with all need of elaboration. In Gethsemane he does not say that death is just ahead of him, that his enemies are upon him, that one of his trusted few has betrayed him into their hands, that another is about to deny him, and that all are on the point of deserting him.
In such a situation a single simple statement suffices to express his need, and it says all that prayer can or needs to say. "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matt. 6,8.)
Such is the clear crystallization of this phase of Jesus' prayer-experience. And all this rests upon something deeper, his unreserved faith in God. It is this that gives the prayers of Jesus their solid substance. His disinclination to dwell on detail is the most profound confession of his personal faith in the divine omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence.
A sixth thing that impresses the student of Jesus' prayers is the richness of their content, the high order of values sought in prayer. It is in prayer, as we saw, that the religious subject expresses the sentiments that are strongest, the desires that are deepest, the values that he holds highest and seeks to acquire. In the experience of primitive man the bare necessities of physical existence and survival were of great importance and consequently they occupy the foreground in his prayer-outlook. The exigencies of existence loom up large on the horizon of Old Testament prayers. Jesus' prayers are primitive in the elemental strength of emotion from which they spring and which carries them along. But in the scale of values sought in prayer he is heaven-high above primitive man. Over against many Old Testament prayers those of Jesus manifest a narrowing of the horizon of things prayed for. His objects of desire in prayer are the noblest; he seeks the highest values of human conception. He is really radical in his exclusion of thoughts and things from the
prayer-process. His selection of goods constitutes one of his chief contributions to the history and practise of prayer. The Lord's Prayer is positively unique in the choice of things prayed for. The needs of human existence find expression, "Give us this day our daily bread," for Jesus regards all the concerns of human life, outer and inner, as under the divine providence and direction. But these things fall into the background, or at best they win only a secondary recognition. Jesus prays for the great spiritual values. In his prayers the pressure of outer circumstance, no matter how strong and severe, recedes in favor of an inner pressure of soul which occupies the whole foreground. More intense than the physical pain of crucifixion is the feeling of being forsaken of God.
A seventh thing that impresses the student of Jesus' prayers is the sublimity of their purpose. The goal toward which he strives is the highest which the history of prayer and its practise presents: In prayer he seeks the divine will into which he would fit himself. As we saw earlier in this chapter, the divine will was not always clear for Jesus. He must search to learn it and struggle to perform it. With all of his natural religious genius, Jesus nevertheless belongs to that plodding prosaic type of piety that must battle every step of the way, and prayer is the path which he pursues. In prayer he seeks the harmonization of self, of the whole of his life, with the plan and purpose of God." For Jesus, religion in its highest attainment is the perfect cooperation of the human with the Divine, of man with his Maker. This attainment of religious experience involves one of the
principal paradoxes of personal piety: exaltation through submission and self-surrender. Professor Coe states this paradox in its psychological phases: "The prayer-life may be said to be . . . the organization into the self of the very things that threaten to disorganize it." In Jesus' own word it is put: "Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18,14b.)
This aspect of Jesus' prayer-life, in fact, this supreme goal of the whole of his religious experience, reaches its climax in the Gethsemane submission. Through self-surrender he lifts himself to the exalted plane of the divine will. This goal he regards as the highest open to attainment for the religious subject. He himself attempts and attains it. His goal is not a mystical union with the Divine, but a moral harmony of life with the divine will. Here the prayer-practise and experience attains its height, and here again we strike upon one of Jesus' greatest contributions to the religious enterprise of mankind. "Prayer that climaxes in complete self-surrender is the creation of Jesus."
In an earlier connection we noted that prayer was in no sense a psychological problem for Jesus. There is not a hint in the Gospels to the effect that he in any wise questioned the prayer-process and its power to produce, or that prayer was in any way problematic for him. The only difficulties with which he deals are of a practical and personal nature, and they concern the prayer rather than
the prayer-process as such. Any real skepticism regarding prayer-that it is only a monologue of the prayer with himself-seems never to have crossed his mind. The prayer-experience of a critical temperament like Alfred Loisy has no parallel in that of Jesus. "For a long time I have not found it possible to pray to God as one beseeches an individual from whom some favor is anticipated. My prayers consist of retiring into the depths of my own consciousness and there gathering my best impulses together to determine what for me is right and lawful. The very volume of Jesus' experience of God as living, loving Father threw him out beyond such ra. tional reflection.
The great prayers of history are unanimous in the conviction that prayer is a producing process, and many of them like St. Teresa have left warm testimonials of their prayer-experience. Some of them are really remarkable in their psychological insight and critical care in self-analysis. The scientific psychologist who bases his findings on concrete data fresh from the prayer-life of great and small souls must reckon with prayer as a primary power in the religious life at its best. The following statement of Professor Coe is careful and true to the facts:
"It is a way of getting one's self together, of mobilizing and concentrating one's dispersed capacities, of begetting the confidence that tends toward victory over difficulties. It produces in a distracted mind the repose that is power. It freshens a mind deadened by routine. It reveals new truth, because the mind is made more elastic and more capable of sustained attention. Thus
does it remove mountains in the individual, and through him in the world beyond."
A highly conscientious man of prayer like Sadhu Sundar Singh writes: "The man who prays is himself changed."" Prayer is a producing process only when it has its roots struck deep in the basal needs keenly felt by the strongly religious consciousness. The prayer must find in prayer a personal recourse and resort. It is the practise of the pressed soul. In its best form, then, the results of prayer for the prayer are: a discharge of soul, a release of inner tension, the quieting of turbulent emotions, the restoration of inner repose, a fresh sense of unity of self, a reinforcement of personal resources, a strength of will supplanting its former weakness, a virtue as well as a volume of volition, an ability to choose rightly where the ways were once hopelessly crossed, a full development of decision, a deepening of inner determination, a coming of certainty to displace confusion, a dawning of clearness, a full illumination, an intensification of impulse, and finally an enveloping inspiration that carries the prayer through to triumph.
Jesus has left us no first-hand testimonials of his prayer experience such as Paul supplies in II Corinthians 12,8-9a: "Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness." However, it is quite clear that prayer was a religious re
course and resort of Jesus and that he prayed in response to elemental needs. On one occasion the need of prayer escapes his lips, in Gethsemane, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: abide ye here, and watch." (Mark 14,34.)
Professor Wernle writes: "Jesus was the most powerful prayer of history because he did not rely on his own power. 1157 He manifested no sense of self-sufficiency; he felt the need of powerful supplementation, and he experienced prayer as a producing process.
Just what and all that prayer meant for Jesus we shall never know. The results of his prayers for himself are not so clearly indicated as we might wish and we must draw our conclusions from scattered straws that point, however, quite unmistakably in one direction. His prayer-experience seems to have brought him all that the great prayers understand as religious light and strength. Our glimpses into his prayer-life on one or two occasions show us quite clearly what an important place prayer occupied in his religious experience. The first retreat, in Mark (1,35-38), seems to have resulted in clearness and certainty concerning the essence of his mission. His prayer of praise is a discharge of soul. (Luke 10,21.) His Gethsemane prayer strips the last shred of uncertainty from his mind, and it results in an assembly of volitional powers which bring him through the harassing scenes before the Jewish and Roman authorities with a calm and courage that are more than heroic. His cry of distress (Mark 15,34) is a release of inner tension which reverses into a composure and confidence of soul (Luke 23,46).
On the whole, we may say that prayer for Jesus meant an expression of need, a release of soul, a relief of inner pressure, conquest over severe subjective struggle, an elevation and enrichment of mind, a reinforcement and refreshment of spirit, a clarifying of vision, a freshened functioning of faith, a whetting of will, discovery and illumination, restoration of confidence and courage, in. creased consecration and devotion, adjustment and orientation, a mobilization of personal powers to perform, in short, the energy and power by which to live and work. Even with an increase of clearness and certainty and of personal power to perform, we do not see a diminishing but an intensification of Jesus' prayer-life. His life ends with an almost awful climax-the cry to God de profundis.
In Jesus' practise of prayer we get an insight into the nature and sources of his personal power. His praying brought to him clearness and certainty concerning the divine will for himself; in his retreats he came to important decisions and determined upon the course and code of his conduct. In prayer to God he found that marvelou source of strength that enabled him to perform the divine will even to the cup that was his to drink. Not in vision and voices, but in prayer and communion with Godpurely religious sources of light and strength-Jesus learned the divine will and found the personal power to perform it.
In the history of prayer Jesus marks much more than an advance or development. Jesus was the perfec prayer. His prayer-experience is an enrichment and enhancement of all that humanity may expect and hope from prayer, of all that man understands as his relation
to his Maker. In short, he brought the prayer-act to its perfection.
In his practise of prayer and in his Prayers we have preserved to us the deepest grounds of Jesus' religious consciousness. On the basis of his praying alone we may answer the question, Who was Jesus? The very virtue and volume of his prayer-life settles the issue for ever. In such a state of the facts theology can not help us, for we are not dealing with dull and dreary lifelessness but with a living personality whose whole existence centered exclusively upon God. The historical Jesus was a religious subject, an experient of religion. In his very humanness the religious experience of mankind attains its finest form.
In the first three Gospels the religious consciousness of Jesus is constant. It runs clear, straight and strong through the Synoptic picture, the principal force and factor that supports and sustains him. Without exception, his attitudes, aspirations and acts are religious. In every feature of his personality we witness a sense of deep dependence upon the Divine and an equally. deep and determined devotion. In Jesus the religious consciousness appears in its purity.