Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The prayer of a righteous man

Jesus prayed for me

Yes he did, didn't he?

You remember? Of course you remember. You don't forget. Especially something like this. 

Jesus said a prayer for me. And if you ever answer prayers (which you do) then you will answer his, won't you? The two of you were pretty close, even when he was down here walking and talking and stubbing his toe like the rest of us. 

Alright, maybe not that much like the rest of us. But anyway. 

I've read this bit of scripture before, but it's just come alive for me. 

Thank you. 

I sometimes ask people to pray for me. I might mention it to someone, or send a text, or ask the church to pray on a Sunday in the intercession. I know that prayer is powerful and I know that you answer. 
'The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.'
James 5:16
Yes. 
And there is none more righteous than your Son. 
If Jesus prayed for me, prays for me, then I'm going to be alright. 

Jesus prayed for the disciples and then he said this:
'My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.'
John 17:20-21
So the disciples knew Jesus and they saw him raised from the dead. They knew him. They knew what had happened because they'd seen it, talked with the risen Christ, listened to him and done as he asked. 
They told people about him. 
Those people told people. 
Those people told people too. 
And so did they. 
Eventually one of the people told me. 

Someone told me about you, and I believed them. 

So Jesus prayed for me
'...I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message...'
Jesus prayed that we would all be one. United in our faith. Obviously different, diverse; but one. One with the people who told us the Good News, one with the disciples who first told it, one with the One who started it all - one with God. 

How sad that we fight all the time. How sad that we squabble and bicker and get hung up on words and points of view and trivia. For I am convinced that it is all trivia in the face of the truth. But it isn't trivial when it completely obscures the picture of Jesus that we're supposed to be showing people. It just misses the point. 

Jesus prayed for us. He wants us to be one. 
'Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity.'
John 17:21-23
There's a reason why he wanted us to be united. It's so that people might see us and believe in him. The glory of God shines through me - or at least it should. There are days when any glory in me is deeply buried beneath layers of grumpiness and selfishness and self-indulgent bad temper, but the fact is that I am created to reflect the wonder of God. 'I have given them the glory...' reminds me of:
'Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.' 
Matthew 5:16
I am supposed to live my life in such a way to point people to you, Lord God. I should shine. I should show people your glory, not distract them or indeed put them off.

'The glory of the only begotten shines in all the Sons of God. How great is the majesty of Christians!'
John Wesley.**

It's part of the thing. The disciples told people. Those people told people. One of the people told me - and so I should tell people. And I should do it in such a way that they will listen and understand.

I get it so wrong sometimes; we all do. The church is in disarray. Just look at the state we're in.

In the words of Matthew Henry:

'The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgement.' *

See? I know that greater minds than mine wrestle with this. Whether it's gay marriage or the ordination of women or the liturgy or saints' days, or minor points of interpretation of scripture or language or the sound the church bells make and how often they should ring I wish we could get over it. I know that good and wise people are trying to bring peace and unity and I don't for one little minute envy the job of Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury in trying to unite a church of more than 80 million people who each have an opinion. 

What I am saying is that it's obvious even to those like me who don't know much, don't understand much, don't influence much that we're getting this wrong. 

Does it grieve you, Father? Or does it make you angry? Or do you just look at us with pity because of the sheer waste of it all?

The Lord, Jesus Christ, said:
'...Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.'
John 17:23b
If we are one, we can sing louder. If we're all on the same page of the song, singing in unison, people will hear what we're saying. 

Harmonies are fine, but different words and different tunes from different books sung to a different rhythm at different times and it's just a noise. 

It gets worse when those words are harsh and argumentative and unwelcoming and unforgiving. 

Just saying. 

Here's the amazing thing. Jesus prayed this prayer:
'Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.'
John 17:24
Lord God, you saw the end from the beginning. Nothing surprises you.  You sent your Son to save people who didn't deserve saving and you knew the problems we'd have. You built your church on a group of ordinary people who messed things up on a regular basis. You know the state of our hearts, the confusion of our minds, our struggle to do what is right even though quite often we're not sure what right is.

You love us. In our squabbles and our meannesses as well as in our odd moments of purity and truth. You died for us. You want us to come and live with you for eternity - you actually enjoy our company.

We who let you down so profoundly so often.

You want us to be with you where you are.

Jesus prayed for all of us who would ever turn to him, fall on our knees and say, 'Yes'. Even then, you knew us by name. You knew then all about me and you knew the day and the minute that I would give you my life. You know each of your children inside out.

Jesus prayed for us all.  He asked you to bring us to your heart, to make us safe in you. To allow us to witness the glory of God himself. I'd like this, please. And this is what Jesus prayed for me. It blows my mind.

And there's more. Jesus is still praying for me. Still.
'Christ Jesus who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.' 
Romans 8:34
Even in all my failures, you love me. Your Son is fighting my corner.

He wants me to be with him where he is, one day, when it's time. Me. Me!

So I think that I'm going to be alright.

Amen to that. Oh yes.
  



*Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Kindle ed. Christian Miracle Foundation Press 2011
** John Wesley, Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, Classic Reprint, Forgotten Books, 2012

Pictures:


114548445045.jpg by kalierin
choirbook.jpg by Anita Peppers
JesuitChurch-010105-07.jpg by Zandert

All used from Morguefile.com with permission


2 comments:

  1. I've thought a lot about "lesser" things and unity since serving on a pastor search team; in the end, the Cross and the Word must be central. So sad to see us trade truth for tradition--or claim truth is merely tradition and dismiss it.
    Jesus prays for us! How grand and humbling and overwhelming the truth of it! Thanks for sharing it with me afresh.

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