Psalm 68 : 1-10, 32 – 35; Acts 1 : 6 – 14; 1 Peter 4 : 12 – 14, 5 : 6 – 11; John 17 : 1 – 11 by Local Preacher, Adam Biddlestone
Prayer was important to Jesus, he modelled it, he practiced it privately and publicly, he taught his disciples about it giving them a set of words for their own prayer life (Matthew 6 : 9– 13). He challenged public prayer done to impress others and encouraged private prayer. So, it is not surprising that one of the habits the early believers devoted themselves to was prayer (Acts 2 : 42).
Jesus praying occupies the whole of John 17 and is a more than worthy alternative to the Synoptic Gospel accounts of Jesus praying in Gethsemane and sharing a last meal with his disciples.
His prayer across the whole chapter has three distinctive but linked themes, prayer that he may be glorified, prayer for his disciples and prayer for all believers. Jesus recognises that he is fast approaching the point where his work on earth is complete, there is suffering, death, resurrection and ascension to follow. There is little more he can do, all the signposting through teaching, through miracles, through parables, through planning and preparing his followers for what is to happen, through the signs so important to John, all this intense preparation is coming to a climax.
So, for Jesus this provides a natural time to reflect, to look back and to look forward. In the section where he prays for his disciples (verses 6 – 11) he thanks God for the gift of them, that they have heard and received all that he has given to them and to protect them beyond the point at which he remains in the world. As his work in the world concludes, he is confident their work will continue and through them others will believe because of their message (verse 20). Jesus prays for them too and in doing so prays for future generations throughout time, including each one of us. Jesus took time to pray for his disciples because it these disciples to whom he will soon give the charge and responsibility to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptising them… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28 : 19 -20) and to ‘be witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1 : 8).
Like them and each generation of disciples who have followed in their footsteps, Jesus’ prayer relies on our continuing to take up his charge as recorded by Matthew and Luke, in Acts at the point of his ascension. Our Circuit is beginning to prepare for a year of evangelism during the next Connexional year, so taking up Jesus’ challenge and knowing that in doing so we are prayed for as are all those who will believe in him because we have responded to the call.
The last verse of Marjorie Dobson’s hymn (STF 532) seems appropriate for today. You cannot know but Jesus is praying that in your life God’s love will break through. We will join with him, love you and bless you. All this for you, child, all this for you.