Jesus Prays for Us!
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on May 17, 2015, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The gospel lesson is John 17:6-19.
Dear Friends in Christ,
To pray or not to pray really is not an option for us Christians. It is vital for our continuing relationship with God. How often do we pray? In a recent poll, Pew Research reports that 55% of us Americans say we pray every day. That statistic is greater than the number of us Americans who report going to worship every week. That is just 37%.
What the Pew Research didnŐt report is what we are praying for, or what we are expecting from our prayers.
Today in our gospel reading we get to hear the most amazing prayer. It is the prayer that Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest. It is a heartfelt prayer and I believe it is a prayer that Jesus wanted the disciples and us to hear as a model for how we pray.
In the olden days folks who used telephones had party lines. When the phone rang you knew how many rings meant it was for your house. If you wanted to, you could pick up the receiver and listen in on your neighborsŐ conversations. As a little kid I just loved going to the General Store on Main Street in Disneyland and picking up the receiver and listening in on those recorded conversations. ThatŐs the closest I ever got to experiencing a party line.
In the gospel of John we get to listen in on Jesus praying. We know that Jesus often prayed. Unfortunately most of his praying seems to have been done privately, when he went off by himself to get recharged. We have few short snippets of prayer, such as his words from the cross ŇFather, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doingÓ. We have the LordŐs Prayer in the other gospels. The disciples asked him how to pray and Jesus taught them the LordŐs Prayer. That same question and the LordŐs Prayer is not recorded in JohnŐs Gospel. What we do have is this prayer in John 17.
HereŐs the truth. Jesus not only knew that the disciples were able to hear his prayer, he intended for them to hear it. This is the night of the Last Supper and Jesus has spoken to them about his leaving soon and how they would have to carry on the ministry. Now he is praying with them still sitting at the table. I have no doubt that he wanted them to hear and for them to record what he said so that you and I would know what he prayed for.
In this prayer Jesus never prays for himself. Even though his arrest and trial and death were imminent, his prayer focused on the disciples and on us. This is a very self-less prayer.
You and I know that Jesus loves all people. But this prayer focuses on the Christian Family, believers who will carry on the faith and be GodŐs hands in the world.
Jesus is praying to God to protect them. ŇAnd now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name.Ó
Jesus is praying for unity among his followers in all generations. He knows there is strength in unity of purpose and action. ŇHoly Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.Ó
Someone has said that the Christian Church is always one generation away from extinction. You and I are here today because previous generations have passed on the faith to us ,have taught us about Jesus Christ, have taught us to pray, and have modeled for us how to be GodŐs hands in the world.
Today young Logan Douglas Millar is being baptized at this service. This is not just a cultural tradition. LoganŐs parents and grandparents and godparents and all of us are promising to raise him in the faith. How sad it would be if we did not do our part in providing for his strengthening in Christian faith.
Today we recognize the ministry entrusted to us through our Resurrection Lutheran School. It is a holy privilege we have to love these preschool children, and pass on the faith to them through Bible stories and Christian songs and modeling behavior of love and trust and acceptance.
Yes, you and I would not have the gospel today if those disciples and other early believers had not preserved. But hereŐs what we desperately need to see. The future of faith depends on us just as surely as it depended on them.
May GodŐs Spirit descend on us and make us bold in this generation to share the good news of the gospel and be GodŐs hands in the world.
Thanks be to God. Amen!