I spend a lot of time preparing prayers for Sunday morning. I have the Invocation, the Pastoral Prayer, the Offertory and Benediction. All are prayer. I know a lot of pastors don’t write prayers ahead of time. They instead pray what is in their heart at that moment. I just can’t do that. I like to think about each word and phrase of a prayer and how each prayer points to the day’s Scripture. I think about the theme of the prayer working in praise, thanksgiving, and petition. I must pray a prayer about 100 times before I pray it on Sunday mornings on our behalf.
I am most comfortable praying when I’ve prepared. I am getting more comfortable with praying in meetings or at meals. I am getting more comfortable praying with you in the hospital. These are times of prayer that you can’t really prepare for and pray what’s on your heart.
I like it when others pray at meals and meetings. I like to hear how others pray and what is important in that moment. I learn a lot about a person’s faith when they pray, about what they believe about Jesus and themselves in relation to God. I can even tell what someone believes about prayer. I don’t judge a person by their prayer. I don’t think you can pray the wrong way. I’m just listening and learning about that person and their relationship with God.
I am really uncomfortable when someone prays for me. Not like, I’ll say a prayer for you. That’s good – I like that. I am talking about someone praying verbally for me in their presence. I am used to being the one who prays. I’m not used to someone praying for me. Every so often someone will ask to pray for me. I love that someone cares enough about me to pray for me. Still, it makes me uncomfortable because I am humbled. In that moment, I am reminded that I am at the mercy of God’s sovereignty.
How do you feel when someone prays for you?
I wonder if the Disciples prayed for one another. Did they pray together? I wonder what it was like when Jesus prayed for them.
Our text today is part of a prayer which is called the “High Priestly Prayer.” The whole of chapter 17 is a prayer. It is part of a larger section of the Gospel known as the Farewell Discourse.
Jesus had met His Disciples for the Passover meal. He had washed their feet. They had eaten. Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. They were all lounging after dinner and Jesus was trying to prepare them for His departure. This section of His teachings preparing them for their ministry after He is gone is known as the Farewell Discourse.
Several times in the Discourse, Jesus promises the Advocate or the Spirit of Truth, who will remind them of His teachings and guide them when He is gone. Jesus promises to ask God to send the Holy Spirit to the fellowship of believers when He has gone.
When Jesus was done teaching them, He began to pray to God. Jesus called God Father showing the closeness of their relationship. Jesus knew God personally, not as a transcendent, high, and holy God. Jesus’ relationship with God was as close as that of a father to a son.
A few weeks ago during the Forgotten God small group on Sunday evenings we talked about prayer. Jesus used different words to refer to God as Father when praying. In some prayers, Jesus used pater which is Greek for father. In some prayers, especially on the cross, Jesus used abba which is Greek for daddy. There is a deeply intimate relationship between a daddy and his son. In this prayer, Jesus calls God pater or Father. There is respect and reverence of a son to his father. There is a close connection between a father and son. Only a son can call a man his father.
Jesus prays to His Father. First, He tells God He is praying for believers. This is not just the Disciples gathered that evening. He wants to include all believers that would come to believe because of the Disciples’ witness.
Jesus prays for the unity of believers. It is not necessarily a desire for there to be only one church or for everyone to be of one opinion. The unity Jesus prays for is that the Spirit which He has promised will unite us in common belief. It doesn’t mean that we will always agree on everything, but we will find as common ground our faith in Jesus.
This unity will be like the communion of the Father and Son. Just as God is in Jesus; the Spirit will abide in the community of believers. As part of this Farewell Discourse, Jesus teaches the Disciples about the vine and the branches. Jesus said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15) Jesus has already taught them about the unity of Jesus and the believers; now, He is praying to the Father for that unity.
This unity between God and believers is so important that God became a human. In Jesus, God became a human being to bridge the divide between divinity and humanity. Jesus is asking God to continue the work of uniting divinity and humanity even after His death. God will continue this work by sending the Holy Spirit which Jesus has promised.
Based on this prayer, we can tell that the Holy Spirit is meant to bring unity, not for personal piety. The Holy Spirit gathers us together in the shared belief in Jesus Christ. By the way Jesus prayed, His words tell us that the Holy Spirit is not about an individual relationship with God. That was established by faith. The Holy Spirit unites believer with believer and believers with God.
Jesus continues His prayer asking that the believers gathered will see His glory. As He prays this prayer, He is preparing to go to the Garden of Gethsemane where He will be betrayed and arrested. Jesus asks that the Disciples remain with Him and be witnesses to His crucifixion and resurrection. Throughout the Gospel of John, the glory of Jesus points to His death and resurrection.
And, finally, Jesus prays about the world knowing God. Jesus has testified to God throughout His ministry. Many have come to believe that Jesus was sent by God to bring good news to the poor, release the captives, and bring salvation. Jesus prays that though the world does not yet know, He will continue to make God known to the world.
Throughout the prayer, there has been the underlying theme of love. Just as God loves Jesus, God loves the believers. Love is what bonds the Father, Son, and Spirit. God loves believers and attracts believers by love. Jesus wants that love of God to continue to abide in the community of believers. And, love will bind the community of believers.
We are a community of believers united by the Spirit. We don’t always agree on what to do, let alone how to do it. We love each other, which doesn’t mean we always like each other. We come together as a community because the love of God, our faith in Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit draw us together.
I believe that the Spirit draws believers together. I don’t believe we choose a church. I believe the Spirit guides us to a community of believers where our gifts will fit well with others and where our faith will best be nurtured. I think the members of this faith community, even those who have not yet officially joined, have been drawn together for a purpose.
When I make the invitation to discipleship before the hymn of commitment, I make a few invitations. First is for someone to come forward to make a confession of faith. This would be for someone who has not yet confessed their faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Second, I invite someone to come forward who would like to join this church family. This is an invitation for someone who is not an official member of this church to join its roster. This is a significant step in one’s faith journey – it is more than getting a membership card in our files. When I first became a Christian, I attended a church for more than 6 months before joining. Deciding to join a church means that someone has decided to journey with a particular group of people for a part of their faith journey. There is a mutual investment between individual members. Members promise to love each, do ministry together, learn together, pray together, and pray for one another.
Next week, 3 of our young ladies will be baptized. They and their parents are planning for a significant moment in their lives next week. The girls have told me they are ready to make the great confession of faith and want to be baptized. We have been learning together about faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, and communion. Our workbooks follow the five-finger exercise of Walter Scott: faith, repentance, baptism, forgiveness, Holy Spirit.
Next week, they will publicly confess their faith in Jesus Christ. At their baptism, they will receive the Holy Spirit. By faith and Spirit, they will be joined to this church family. They have been a part of this fellowship, but they will become one with us in a new way.
Please pray for them as they prepare for their baptism next week that they may be one with the Father, as we are one with the Father.