One day, a minister asked a member of his congregation to offer a prayer in the worship service.
So, the man stood up and began to pray. As he prayed someone in the back of the church yelled out, “I can’t hear you.” Of course, the man kept praying. The one on the back row yelled out again, “I can’t hear you.” But the man kept right along praying… Finally, a third time the guy yelled out, “I can’t hear you!” At which point, the man praying stopped, he looked up… and said to the man on the back row, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
In our scripture lesson for today, Jesus was praying. Let’s stop right here, and think about what I just said for just a moment: Jesus prayed.
What a significant thought, and reality, that we so often read over, forget (or choose to ignore). Jesus HIMSELF prayed. Some people actually say this is the real Lord’s Prayer. The prayer that we pray every week and call “the Lord’s Prayer” is really a model prayer - an example of how to pray. Our prayer from John 17, is Jesus actually praying.
And in this prayer, Jesus was openly praying for his disciples. It may be correct say that Jesus was not talking to his disciples. But he was obviously aware that his disciples were listening. Jesus wanted his disciples to know for their own peace of mind, that Jesus cared for them, he loved them enough, to pray for them. That praying was a priority for Jesus. That Jesus believed in the power of prayer so much that He - despite his place in the Trinity (the whole God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit thing) believed that He should be devoted to prayer because of it’s effectual purpose in this life. In other word, Jesus believed in the power of prayer enough to actually pray!
This alone tells me that prayer is the most powerful, spiritual tool available the side of heaven.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again, and again… Prayer is not so much about you, or me, getting the things in life that we want. Prayer’s not about me jumping up in God’s lap and offering him a wish list…
Prayer IS about aligning my will, with God‘s will. Prayer for the follower of Christ, is about seeking God‘s face. Prayer is about allowing God to work through us in ways that we never thought possible. Prayer is about relationship. It’s about talking to the only One who at the end of the day has control of and power over every single part of this life.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less control I realize I have. I don’t have control over anyone’s individual life, I don’t have control over my individual life… I have the illusion of control… But it takes very little at times, to throw me off course, and send me into a tailspin, a free-fall… which reminds me that I’m not in control of the rudder.
Prayer is what grounds me. Prayer is what brings me back to the place where I acknowledge (time and again) that God is in control. God is sovereign. God is the master of everything in this life. And prayer helps me to remember that Christ is Lord, not me, myself, and I. Jesus.
And for me to acknowledge in prayer, that Christ is in control, is what keeps me in a proper relationship with God, as God works out this Will for my life.
Of course, knowing that Jesus prayed for his disciples means that Jesus prays for us. He even said “I’m not praying for the world, but for those you have given to me, for they are yours.” Jesus was praying for those whom he had chosen… those who had willfully followed him. They were about to go through some trials themselves. They would experience pain and anxiety and anguish and loss and guilt and shame. So Jesus prayed for his disciples. And it stands to reason that you and I should pray too.
Notice also, that Jesus’ prayer here in John, was a prayer for unity. It’s like Jesus knew there was going to be great division in the church. And that the people of Christ were going to need each other. To be one as Jesus and God are one...
Of course, I think that’s still Jesus’ prayer today. That in our relationships we’d be one. That in our fellowship we’d be one. In our voice and witness to the world, that we - as followers of Christ, would be one.
That we wouldn’t descend into ideological cesspool of the world: liberal, or conservative, or evangelical, or charismatic... Jesus prayed that we wouldn’t divide ourselves into Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox… that we, as followers of Christ, we wouldn’t be “red” or “blue” - democrat or republican... but that we’d be one in purpose, one in spirit, one in Christ.
I don’t think Jesus wants us to all be carbon copies. I don’t think he expects us to all think alike. God’s Word speaks of the various parts of the body being DIFFERENT, but being necessary to complete their intended function. But as a whole. Not divided. Not in parts. We function as the whole body of Christ.
Prayer unites us. It brings us together around our common faith. It refocuses us, on the hope… the Blessed hope… The eternal hope, that we share in Christ.
The gospels frequently tell us about Jesus going away in order to pray. But here we’re given an example of how he actually prayed. An example he intended us to learn from, to follow… and to take great comfort in.
May you and I, just like Jesus, feel the need to pray. May we humble ourselves in the shared, and certain hope that our eternal life comes from him. And may we find peace in the knowledge that Jesus not only prayed for us, but that He’s still interceding for us, at the right hand of the Father; and through the Holy Spirit who intercedes on our behalf when we don’t even know what to pray.
Jesus is still praying for you, and for me, that we might be united in Christ, and in Christ alone. Let’s respond by praying for one another...