Sermon from St Edward’s, 15th Jan 2023. Readings: John 17: 1-19 and Deuteronomy 31:30-32:14
Today we are going to focus on prayer. As I’ve said I feel like God is calling us deeper, drawing us to really focus on our own faith and how our relationship is with God.
Now some of us might be thinking, well I’ve been a Christian for years I am quite happy with the way my faith is thank you very much. But I would challenge that to say that we can always learn more right? We can’t possibly expect to know everything there is to know about Christ, the kingdom of heaven, scripture and so on – ever. Period.
Some of us might be a little fearful: what is Jules going to throw at us? but really I’m simply saying let’s all of us focus on who Jesus is a little bit more in our own lives. I’m going to suggest some ways we might draw closer to God over the coming weeks, but it’s up to you what you do with that.
If you said last week – if not I can send you our commitment prayer – that you committed yourself again to the Lord well then let’s get on with it!
So prayer –
A little story to encourage you on the power of prayer. You may have heard before if you are doing Lectio365.
DL Moody, an evangelist from 19th – travelled around America and England sharing the gospel. In 40 years of ministry he saw 1million people come to faith. Early on in his life he wrote a list of 100 people who he committed to praying for to come to know Jesus. And he prayed for them regularly. By the time he died, 96 of them had become Christians. Amazing! But even more so, the final 4 of the 100 converted at his funeral!
So we read John 17 this morning. Jesus is praying. You may remember this is part of the section from ch 13-17 sometimes called the ‘final discourse’, it is Jesus’ last evening with the disciples, the washing of feet, the last supper, Jesus’ teaching over that meal together, and finally he prays before going out and is arrested.
Not many of Jesus’ prayers are recorded other than the Lord’s prayer which he was teaching the disciples. We know he prayed alone, often at night, often by himself, withdrawn from others; he prayed for children as they came to him; He prayed for his persecutors; he prayed out in nature, on the mountainside, in lonely places; he prayed in lots of places and situations – but we don’t know what he prayed in detail. This here in John 17 is the one time where what he prayed was recorded at length.
And he prays for himself, for his disciples and finally for believers of the future – so us if you like. As he prays for them, he is interceding, it is an intercessory prayer. He is lifting the disciples up to the Father, as we sometimes say he is ‘standing in the gap’ for them. That’s what interceding means. He is the go between, the connector, the wifi router if you like. Jesus connects them with the source – Father God.
As he prays he says v 9: I am asking on their behalf
he is praying for them, interceding, lifting them up to God. And specifically he prays for them:
He asks God:
Holy Father protect them v11
So that they may be as one – unity v11
Asks for joy v13
He says again:
Protect them v15 from the evil one
Sanctify them in truth v17
Goodness, what an amazing prayer! To know that the Son of God was asking Father God for all that, for them. Jesus goes on to pray for future believers, and he continues to do that now. We need to know that he intercedes for us too. He stands in the gap for us, he lifts us and our prayers to the Father
Romans 8:34 says: It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and [humanity], the man Christ Jesus .
Not only does Jesus lift our own prayers to God he prays his own for us. Isn’t that a wonderful thought that the Son of God is lifting us before God. He is our mediator/ advocate – he pleads our cause before the Father. And when the final time comes he will state our case. Jesus is on our side, on our team.
I wonder if that is something that might be helpful to spend some time thinking about this week? Imagining Jesus praying for you – what might he be praying?
And as we intercede for others – as we pray for others just as Jesus prays for us – he lifts those too before the Father.
who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Jesus is the means, the reason, by which we have access to the Father.
So just to clarify in case I am confusing anyone you can pray however you like – Loving Heavenly Father, Lord, Lord Jesus Christ, Father God, Spirit lead us… we start our prayers in many ways – knowing the one who will get them to the Father – if that makes sense – just as if I were writing a letter to the King for example I would address it to him even though I know his courtiers would read it first. And Jesus tells us to pray to our ‘father who is unseen’ (Matthew 6.6)
So we get to pray and we know that Jesus not only listens but joins in. If that isn’t enough to make us want to pray I don’t know what is, but just in case here’s some more.
Pete Greig (24-7 prayer) says the word ‘prayer’ derives from the latin ‘precarious’ – we pray because life is precarious. We pray because life is marvellous, we pray because we find ourselves lost for many things.
We pray when we are overwhelmed, when we don’t know what to do or say.
We pray because it is part of us – a need to connect somehow
We pray because Jesus did and he is our example
Above all we pray because it keeps us connected to God. We are in relationship with God – just like with friends or family if you don’t stay in touch – phonecalls/Facetime/messaging – you begin to lose the knowledge of who they are, what their life is like, what they are doing. It’s the same with us and our faith – if we want to continue to grow and go deeper in knowing who the Lord is we have to keep that connection going. Makes sense right?
Prayer for each of us will be different, how we talk to God, what words we use, what we share, when, how. It might vary in different seasons. In Philippians 4 Paul says:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Bring everything before God – pray about anything and everything.
I think God wants you to share the details of your life.
Now for some of us we prefer a plan, a structure, we like things laid out when we pray and this week I am going to give you all some suggestions of things to try which are a little more structured.
And I’d encourage you all to try something different because you just. Don’t know until you do it what might work for you.
- Daily Prayer is part of the life of the CofE. Many clergy pray it every day. Includes some readings and prayer for points of the day. You can get an app you can follow along or listen to, also on the CofE website and if you don’t have any of those I am going to come and do Morning Prayer in in the chapel on Thurs morning at 9am. You are welcome to join me. This week only!
- The Jesus prayer – very simply repeating:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner
- The Examen – one of my faves
From Ignatian prayer, the general premise is, at the end of each day you look back over the day and think about what has been good and what could have gone better reflect on it and offer it to God. It’s very simple, but an easy way to add prayer into your day.
So. Why not try one of those this week. There are some sheets at the back of church with these on and some scriptures about prayer…