Tag Archives: John 17

Prayer Challenge

Looking to Heaven in Prayer

Last Sunday I challenged the worshipping community at Resurrection to a prayer commitment.  Following Jesus’ example of prayer in John 17 where he looked to heaven, I asked people to pray for three things and to commit at least five minutes daily to this task.  Consistent prayer is vital to a congregation’s mission.  Are you open to a prayer challenge? 

The first part of my challenge is to pray for those who are close to you: your spouse, children, siblings, parents, or significant others.  Jesus prayed for his disciples.  They had shared years of ministry together and had become a family.  He asked his Father in heaven to protect his disciples.   Our prayers for loved one can be that simple: for God to bless, protect and encourage them. 

Second, I encourage you to pray for your congregation’s missionIn our secular age, it is easy to forget that congregations have a God-given mission to accomplish.  Jesus gave his mission to his disciples: to proclaim “eternal life, that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).   At Resurrection we have that same mission, only we call it the Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ. 

Third, I invite you to pray for your adversary, for the person with whom you struggle daily or weekly.   It might be someone at work, at home or in your neighborhood.   In Matthew 5:44, Jesus told the disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 

A friend told me about his struggle to love his adversary.  Every day as he went to work he saw a picture of the person and felt this internal anger rise up.  It got to the point where he would take a different route to work so as to avoid the picture. He was discussing this with his wife when she suggested that instead of avoiding it, he simply pray for God’s blessing and joy to be with his adversary, to envision the person covered in God’s light.  He listened to his wife and started praying.  At first there was no change in his emotions, but he persevered.  Gradually he felt his animosity dissipate.  He grew to see his adversary as a fellow child of God. 

What are your prayer challenges?

Lord Jesus, bless my family, church and enemies.

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Two Portraits of Jesus

In John 17, Jesus prayed with confidence and clarity.  After finishing the Last Supper  Jesus looked to heaven and prayed, 

Jesus looked to heaven

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. (John 17:5)

This confidence is such a strong contrast with the prayer he prayed in Matthew, Mark and Luke when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane a short time later.  As the disciples slept, Jesus prayed for strength to face the cross:

Jesus praying in Gethsemane by artist He Qi

Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.  (Mark 14:36)

In John’s Gospel there is no prayer in the Garden.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke there is no extended prayer at the Passover meal.

Such contrasts can be disturbing for some.  I believe that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are more like portrait paintings than historical biographies.  Whereas John’s Gospel  paints a portrait in which Jesus had a laser-like focus on his “hour” to be glorified on the cross (John 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12:27, 13:1, 17:1), Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus wrestling with this cosmic decision as he approached the cross (Mark 14:32-41).  Both portraits are true, yet they reveal different insights.

Mark reveals that Jesus was truly human; his emotions were raw and deep.  On the cross he would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34).  Jesus understood our own human dilemma, our trials, our brokenness.  Mark’s portrait is so brutally human.

John reveals the divine purpose of Jesus and his constant trust in God’s purpose.  Jesus accomplished God’s purpose of reconciling the world.  As he breathed his last breath, Jesus said, “It is finished, (accomplished, completed).” John’s portrait is so beautifully divine.

In my own life, at times I find support and comfort in Mark’s raw intimacy.  At other times, I am inspired and uplifted by John’s cosmic vision.   Together with Matthew and Luke, I have a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.

What stories of Jesus do you turn to most often?  What stories do you try to ignore?

Lord Jesus, be my light in the midst of whatever confusion or darkness I experience this day. 

Jesus’ Prayer as Gift

This Sunday the Gospel reading is from John 17, Jesus’ great prayer for his followers.  After finishing his last meal with his disciple, Jeus looks up to heaven and talks to his Father about keeping his disciples safe.

I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave to me, because they are yours.  All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. (John 17:9-10)

We belong to God and to Jesus, we are woven into the fabric of the Trinity.  Jesus not only prays for us, he models how we can enter into deeper relationship with God through prayer.  Our prayer relationship is a gift from God that we sometimes try to push or pull our way.

Henri Nouwen has written many things on prayer that I find helpful.  The following quote is from his Genesee Diary when he spent six months living at a monastary in 1975.

I wonder if depression in the spiritual life does not mean that we have forgotten that prayer is grace.  The deep realization that all the fruits of the spiritual life are gifts of God should make us smile and liberate us from any deadly seriousness. We can close our eyes as tightly as we can and clasp our hands as tightly as firmly as possible, but God speaks only when he wants to speak. When we realize this our pressing, pushing and pulling become quite amusing.  Sometimes we act like a child that closes his eyes and thinks  that he can make the world go away.

After having done everything t0 make some space for God, it is still God who comes on his own initiative.  But we have a promise upon which to base our hope: The promise of his love.  So our life can rightly be waiting in expectation, but waiting patiently and with a smile.  Then indeed, we shall be really surprised and full of joy and gratitude when he comes.  (The Genesee Diary, p. 129)

Who has been a model of prayer for you and what have you learned from them?

Lord Jesus, like your disciples, teach us to pray.