"And it came to pass in those days, that he [Jesus] went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles" (Luke 6:12-13).
Although Jesus spent all night in prayer, this wasn't the first time He prayed to His Father in heaven for such a long period of time. Before beginning His mortal ministry, Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days and nights. On one occasion, after healing the sick and infirmed late into the night, Jesus "in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mark 1:35).
On another occasion, after spending most of the day teaching a multitude of people, "Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone" (Matthew 14:22-23).
Jesus frequently and for long periods of time communed in seclusion with His father in heaven. But why? He was perfect in intellect, in His decisions, in His understanding of the plan of salvation and of His role in it. Why did He need to pray so often and to the extent that he did?
The reason is because Jesus had a very close relationship with His Father. Wouldn't every father on earth love to have a relationship with their sons and daughters where their children felt like talking with them frequently? But often, just the opposite is true, especially among teenagers. As children grow into adolescence, they enter an identity crisis. They wonder who they are and where they fit into society. In this quest to find their identity, they begin to distance themselves from their parents. They want to be recognized as an individual, and not "the son of" whoever their father is. They want to be their own person and not the the carbon-copy of their father.
Because of this tendency, children in general, and teenagers in particular, rebel against the wishes of their parents. They want to do their own thinking. They want to establish their own way of doing things. They want to develop their own goals in life. The fact that parents are older, and therefore wiser, means nothing to a child. With only their limited understanding of life to guide them, children boldly seek to chart their own course through life.
As a result, teenagers often don't feel comfortable confiding with their father. They feel it's degrading to ask for help from their father. In most instances, they even feel embarrassed to be seen with their father. It's rare that a son has so much love and respect for their father that they openly want to be where he is, do what he's doing and learn what he knows.
As a person grows from adolescence into adulthood, this attitude generally changes, but even then they want to be recognized for who they are. Many times in a father/son business, a son may come to the father and say, "Dad, I've got this great idea of how to run the business. Why don't you give me the freedom to try out my plan and see if it doesn't improve things." The hope of the son is that he can prove that he's just as smart and just as capable of running the business as his father. It's rare when a son takes over the family business that he says, "I'm going to run this place exactly like my father did."
Generally speaking those who do have a great admiration for their father are usually those who have already become secure in their own identity. They don't feel threatened by their father's reputation. They don't feel overshadowed by their father's talents. They don't feel intimidated by their father's accomplishments. They don't feel inadequate because of their father's abilities. They can appreciate their father because they are comfortable with who they are and with their own talents, accomplishments and abilities.
Once a person has reached this point in their maturity level, it's easier for them to have a closer relationship to their father. Then it becomes easier for them to talk more frequently, more intimately, and more earnestly with their father than they ever did while growing up.
But Jesus never had an identity crises. He always knew who He was, and, more importantly, was proud to call Himself "the son of God". Jesus didn't glory in Himself. He didn't first seek to establish His own identity before having a close relationship with His Father. He didn't first seek to develop His own success before acknowledging His Father's greatness. From the very beginning He sought His Father's guidance in all He did. Even at the young age of twelve, He was in the temple doing His Father's business, so much so that He had to remind His earthly parents of His heavenly responsibility (Luke 2:49).
Jesus, from the very beginning, had a profound love for His Father. Jesus adored, admired and idolized His Father (John 8:49, 14:31). As such, He not only literally worshipped His Father, but worshipped the sky His Father lived in and the ground which His Father had created. Jesus worshipped all the handiworks of His Father and wanted to become like Him (John 5:17,30). While clothed in mortality, Jesus gave all the praise to and taught people to worship the Father, not Himself.
The Father had designed the plan of salvation, but the work of salvation was a Father/Son business. Yet Jesus didn't say, "Father, I've got this great idea of how to run the business. Why don't you give me the freedom to try out my plan and see if it doesn't improve things." Instead, Jesus followed the plan exactly as His Father had designed it.
Why did Jesus talk to His Father so frequently and for such long periods of time? Because He truly worshipped His Father. He openly declared His desire to be with His Father, to do whatever His Father wanted, and to teach others about His father. As a result of these desires, Jesus wanted to be in constant communication with His beloved Father. He wanted to make sure that everything He did was exactly what His Father wanted done.
Jesus was sent to earth to fulfill a mission. But the mission wasn't His idea; it was dictated by His Father. And because it was the Father's mission, Jesus sought His Father's counsel and advice every step of the way. Just before Jesus selected twelve men to be apostles, from among the hundreds of men who were His followers, He spent the entire night in prayer, earnestly communicating with His Father before establishing the leaders of His church. I'm sure He asked to find out if this was the right time to do it, exactly which twelve men His Father wanted called, what His Father thought He should do with these newly ordained men, and many other similar questions. This was an important step in Christ's mission, and He knew He had to do it right. Instead of making these decisions on His own, He communed with His Father to make sure that every move was what His Father desired, not what He wanted.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we often sum up the meaning of life as, "to live worthily to return to our Father in heaven." Although that is true, it's a very simplistic and limited view of why we are here. God is a god of order, not confusion. The time and place of our birth didn't occur by accident or happenstance. It was designed, planned and executed according to the will of our Father in Heaven. No doubt we had a say in our destiny, but without our Father's approval, our life would not have begun when and where it did.
Our Father has a tremendous work to perform, and all of us are involved in that process in one way or another, whether we are members of the Church or not. This has to be true if we are all children of God, worthy of inheriting mortality and immortality and worthy of the chance to inherit eternal life and exaltation. Therefore, if all of us have a part to play in our Father's great plan of salvation, then we must all have an assignment (or mission) in connection with our life here on earth. We know what assignment Jesus had, and we know the mission of such men as Adam, Abraham, John the baptist, Peter, James and John, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Gordon B. Hinckly.
But not every one is called to positions of great leadership. There are those who are needed to teach the future leaders and prepare them for their missions. There are those who are needed as lights to attract and guide others to the truth. There are others who are needed simply to act as leaven to raise the spirituality of society just by their righteous presence. All of us are needed to prepare our deceased relatives to receive their temple endowments. These are callings, assignments or missions every bit as critical to our Father's plan of salvation as being called to preside over the Church. And just as Jesus earnestly and constantly prayed concerning His mission, so must we.
Jesus didn't pray just because it was a commandment. Jesus didn't pray just to set an example for us to follow. Jesus prayed because He truly loved, adored, admired, and worshipped His Father. He prayed because He wanted to be close to His Father. He held His Father in such hallowed reverence, that He prayed to make sure that all His actions were in accordance with the will of His Father and to gain wisdom and strength to fulfill the mission His Father had given Him.
The example Jesus set for us is that, through prayer, we can develop and maintained a close, personal relationship with our Father in Heaven. He showed us what it means to truly worship and adore the Father through the use of humble, sincere prayer. He taught us how, through prayer, we can develop spiritual maturity by seeking the will of the Father over our own. He demonstrated how each of us can fulfill our mission in life through the regular use of prayer.
When His disciples said unto Him, "Lord, teach us to pray... He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth" (Luke 11:1-2).