Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Prayer of Jesus

John 17: 1-26.  We get to listen in on Jesus' prayer for us.  How cool is that?  In the seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus offers a prayer for his disciples and for the people who will come to faith because of the disciples' ministry.

In a recent sermon I asked the congregation what they wanted Jesus to pray for, what request did they want Jesus to talk to God about on their behalf?  Good health?  A comfortable income, nothing extravagant, just enough?  Congenial companions, at work, in the neighborhood, in the family, to be surrounded by nice, decent people?

After making a few suggestions in order to get them thinking about what their request would be, I then invited them to refer to John 17:17 to see what Jesus does pray for-- "Sanctify them."  This is Jesus' primary desire for us.  My guess is that this is not at the top of anyone else's prayer request list.

The Greek verb ἁγίασον is found two other places in the Bible (Septuagint): in Numbers 16:16, Moses challenges rebellious Levities to prove their holiness by sanctifying themselves; in Joshua 7:13 God tells Joshua to sanctify the Israelites by having them get rid of taboo objects.  In contrast, sanctification is an action that Jesus asks God to accomplish rather than a work achieved by humans.

The stories in Numbers and Joshua do not end well.  God kills the unrighteous; they are not allowed to remain in God's presence.  Jesus' prayer, however has a hopeful ending.  He prays that God will abide in him, he will abide in his followers, and they will be with Jesus in glory (vv. 20-24).  Think of it as a supplication that God would make Christians heaven-ready before their death.  This is what is uppermost on Jesus' mind, this is what he is praying for, and asking God to do.

What's your prayer?  Do you share Jesus' priority?  Is this goal reflected in your ministry?  It was reflected in Wesley's.  Wesley interpreted John 17:17 to be a prayer for Christian Perfection, and Wesley's told one correspondent that he considered the teaching of this doctrine to be the Methodists' reason for being.