Prayer How should we pray? What should we pray? John 17.1-11
This morning we are looking at prayer. Some of us love praying. Some of us find it a bit more of a challenge. Essentially prayer is a conversation. We listen to God speak to us and we speak to him. We can do it alone or we can join with others to pray. Prayer is essentially a conversation between our Heavenly Father and his children.
Many people are not confident about prayer. Somehow it’s not something that comes to us naturally. We need help. We ask, ‘How should we pray? What should we pray?’ Many good books have been written about prayer, but the best place to look for guidance is in the bible. The book of psalms is a treasure trove of prayers that can help us whether we are in the joy of celebration or the depths of despair. As we read a psalm we can make the psalmists words our own. There are so many ways to pray. At the moment, we are in the middle of a prayer Novena called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. It is a prayer movement where Christians around the world are praying for the nine days from Ascension Day until Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus Christ.
Sometimes people ask: Is it right to pray for people to come to know Jesus? Today we are going to look at one of the great prayers in the bible in John 17 and we are going to focus on the first part of the prayer in verses 1-5. It is the prayer that Jesus prays just before he is betrayed and takes his journey to the cross. Looking at how Jesus prays and what he prays can help us in our prayer life.
- Giving glory and praise
John 17.1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him…17.4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
Jesus is with his disciples and he is praying out loud to the Father. He says that the hour has come-the time that the Father has appointed for his death and exaltation. Jesus asks the Father to glorify him. To glorify is to give praise and honour. It is to clothe in splendour. Jesus asks to be restored to the splendour he had since before the creation of the world.
Jesus knows that he is going to his death. He tells the Father that he has finished the work that the Father gave him and this work has given the Father glory. This work that Jesus had completed and would complete by his death and resurrection was to give eternal life to the people that God gave him.
Our prayers and our lives need to be built on a foundation of giving God glory-the praise and honour that is due to his name. We see this in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples that we know as the Lord’s prayer. It begins, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.’ The prayer starts with praise. The words we use in our prayers can be:
- or they can be founded on words from scripture
- or based on the many prayers that other Christians have written down over the years.
On Tuesday mornings some of us meet together in St John’s for informal prayers. We pray for our church and our community. We always begin with a time of worship-usually contemporary worship songs where we praise God. Singing these simple songs remind of us of how wonderful God is and whatever setbacks we might be facing, we know that God still reigns and he is good. We also give thanks for things that God has been doing in our lives and the lives of our community, especially for answered prayers. This praise and thanksgiving are like a launch pad for praying for our community.
The words of our prayers are important but what is going on in our hearts is even more important. God is not honoured when we say words by rote and have hearts that are not full of praise. Nor is God honoured by our words if our lives for the rest of the week do not honour God. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect. We all get things wrong and forgiveness is at the heart of God. But it does mean that God is looking for hearts and lives that are turned towards him.
A healthy prayer life is a one that changes and grows. We can all get stuck in a rut. For some of us it will be a rut of a shopping list form of prayer. Giving God a list of what we want him to do for us. There is a place for asking God to give us things and God delights to do that. But I want to encourage you to explore filling your prayers with thanks and praise. This not only delights God but as we praise him for who he is and what he has done for us, it strengths our faith and love for him.
- Praying for people to come to know Jesus
This prayer in John 17 is a window into the heart of the Father. It is a window into the heart of Jesus. It is a window into the heart of the relationship between the Father and the Son. At the heart of God is a longing for a family. A family where the relationship is close, personal and loving. The Trinity-God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit have had a close and loving relationship with each other from all eternity.
Jesus says this to the Father in verses 1-3, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’
At the heart of God is a longing for human beings to join in with the loving relationship at the heart of the Trinity. The reason that Jesus came to earth was to invite every human being into this relationship. Jesus calls this relationship eternal life. It is a relationship of love and intimacy with God that will last for eternity. It is in this relationship that we can find a full and abundant life and healthy loving relationships with one another.
The work of Jesus to make this possible was extremely costly to Jesus. He emptied himself of his glory when he took on human flesh in the incarnation and then eventually was to die on the cross to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God.
It is only through trusting in Jesus that we can enter into eternal life. Enter into relationship with God.
In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples that we call the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.’ When we pray this we are praying for every aspect of our lives to come under the kingship of Jesus. The heart of Jesus our King is for people to come to him and be given the gift of eternal life. We can know with full assurance that when we pray for people to come to know Jesus we are praying in accordance with the Father’s will and the will of Jesus.
Over the last three weeks we have been doing prayer walks around the villages. We started in Avington in glorious sunshine, the next week we were in Easton which as slightly more soggy and on Monday we were in Martyr Worthy. I have been really touched that on each prayer walk, it has not just been people from the local village that have come but people from the other villages in the parish. On Monday, we had somebody from Itchen Abbas, Easton and Avington praying for Martyr Worthy. Essentially what we are doing is praying for God’s blessing on the homes, the businesses, the schools, on everybody who lives and works or is at school in our parish. We pray for, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in this place. We pray for people to come to know Jesus. It’s all about blessing and not about judging-all of us have room to grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus.
I would like to encourage you to join in with the prayer novena even if you didn’t start on Ascension Day on Thursday. We are committing to pray at 12 noon each day and I’ve put some suggested prayers on the back of the flyer about the novena. Our prayer is for more people to come to know the love of Jesus. There is one suggested prayer where we can pray for people by name-I suggest you choose five people. It could be more or it could be less.
Somebody once told me when I first became a Christian, ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’. Prayer is not scary. It is speaking to our loving Heavenly Father. If you miss a day, don’t come under condemnation and give up, just get going the next day. Remember praise and thanksgiving. Remember to pray for people to come to know the love of Jesus. For some extraordingary reason God has chosen to use our prayers in order to release his power to transform our world and our lives. God doesn’t need us but he delights to work with us.
I’m going to end by praying one of the Novena prayers. Please join me:
God of our salvation, hope of all the ends of the earth, we pray: That the world may know Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace, That we may be bold to speak the word of God while you stretch out your hand to save, That the Church may be generous in giving, faithful in serving, bold in proclaiming, That the day may come when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.