As we approach the Easter season, our focus often seems to laser in on the last hours of Jesus’ life before he was crucified. We read about the events of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and the Last Supper. Then it is on to the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest of Jesus, his torture and crucifixion, and quickly (and rejoicingly) to the resurrection. We usually read these passages of scripture as an old, familiar story we’ve heard before, but there may be something we have not seen before…
This year, I want to encourage us all to not hurry through these accounts; rather let’s slow down and deliberately allow Jesus the opportunity to teach us something new.
John 13-16 is the account of the final Passover meal Jesus had with his disciples. We are invited into the intimate circle of friendship, witnessing the love and compassion Jesus has for his disciples. Instruction, clarification, comfort–they are all a part of the words Jesus shares with his followers before his death. And then comes chapter 17.
John 17 is often called the “High Priestly Prayer”. But some say that this is truly “The Lord’s Prayer”. The prayer that we know (Our Father, who art in heaven…) is actually a prayer taught to the disciples by Jesus. John 17, however, is Jesus’ prayer to his heavenly father before facing his most difficult task on earth. I find it interesting that Jesus deliberately prayed this extraordinary prayer out loud, so that his disciples would hear and remember it. Jesus is facing the cross as he prays. He knows what is coming. And he looks toward heaven, and prays: “Father, the time has come.” I believe there is something here for us to learn about prayer.
I have been asked many times, “Why pray? What difference does it make anyway, especially if God has already determined what is going to happen?” And in our finite minds, this question, and our predetermined answer, seem to be valid. If these assumptions are true, then why would Jesus pray at every opportunity, even rising from his warm bed while it was still dark to go outside to pray? Why would the one who knew God the Father best, pray to Him if there was no reason to pray? And why, when facing the most difficult hour on earth, would Jesus be found praying for the hours to come, for his disciples, and for all believers–meaning us!
I think, in our world, we perceive prayer as a list of requests or a quick thanks for a meal. Prayer, however, is not a set of rules, do’s, and don’ts, but is the continuation of a relationship. Just as spending time with a friend or spouse and sharing what is on one’s heart deepens and broadens the love and knowing of another, so prayer gives opportunity to be in relationship with God. The benefits of even minutes a day spent with God are incalculable! And it is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. Minutes a day can add up in a relationship. Just 15 minutes a day with God, every day for a year, would mean you had been in God’s presence a total of over 11 eight-hour-days! That is significant.
In this High Priestly Prayer, Jesus pours out his heart to the Father. He prays that he would bring glory to God through the work he has been given to do. Jesus prays for his disciples, for protection, joy, for sanctification. He then prays for us–and for all believers throughout time. And the one thing that Jesus says, which I believe is a direct benefit of time in prayer is this, “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you…” (John 17:25) Jesus’ time in prayer gave him a deep and intimate relationship with God–where he truly knew God.
Now, look at the next verse: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” As we spend time with God, Jesus says that we will know God more and more, and that His love will be in us, filling us. And, Jesus himself will be in us.
This is a reason to pray–to enter into an ever-deepening relationship with God himself, being filled with His love. Out of those minutes spent in prayer, we can face the trials and tribulations that come our way, strengthened by the trust we have in God. We can rejoice in the blessings He showers upon our lives. And we can participate in the work He gives us to do with the confidence that God will use it to make a difference in our world.
Jesus knew his time had come. I think OUR time has come–to move into relationship with God in a deeper and more intentional way. It is our time this Lenten season, as disciples of Jesus, to enter into prayer. Let’s give up avoiding prayer. Let’s move into a new, fresh time with God.
We ask that you would lift our resistance toward, and excuses for, not spending time with You through prayer. Teach us a way of prayer that we can embrace and actively engage in so that we can come to know you and love you more deeply. Give us the peace and joy which you gave Jesus in his darkest hour, and make us aware of how you walk with us every step of this life. Enable us to hear your call to us, and strengthen our resolve and purpose that we would willingly answer you…and join you as we pray. Amen
There are many ways to pray. In North America, we tend to use “conversational prayer”. I invite you to do a bit of research on these different approaches to prayer, and try each one. You may find that God speaks to you more clearly in one or more of these prayer disciplines: breath prayer, centering prayer, contemplative prayer, fasting prayer, fixed-hour prayer, intercessory prayer, labyrinth prayer, liturgical prayer, praying scripture, prayer walking, prayer partner(s).
Contributed by Joanne Giesbrecht