May 26, 2020 (Tuesday) - When Jesus Prayed - A Reflection on John 17:1-11a

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. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 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. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.

If we ever wanted to learn how to pray, who better to learn from than the Master himself? In John 17, the chapter we began reading today, we find Jesus praying. It’s the longest prayer we have on record for him, and the subjects are a fascinating mix of glorification, revelation, and obedience. There is also petition, where he prays for the apostles, asking his Father to keep them united and for God’s plan for them to be fulfilled. He does pray for himself, but the prayer he makes for himself is actually intended for others. I want us to reflect upon this today, because this is truly the essence of “good” prayer, and these are the prayers that God always answers, because they are in his will.

I know that many of you watching this genuinely want to live holy lives. Now, I’m gonna ask you a question, and I want you to be honest with your answers. “Why do you want to be holy?” It is an important question. You may answer, “Because I don’t want to hurt God.” That’s a good answer, but only if it is true. I have come to realize that very often this desire for holiness is more to satisfy our egos than anything else. We also want people to notice us and say, “Oh, what a holy man!” And we want to be able to tell God, “Look at me, God. I’m living sinless.”

Let me ask you another question, and this is especially for those who serve God. “Why do you serve God?” Is it because you think it is something honorable to do, so that you can feel that you are doing something worthy? Is it to be respected by people; acknowledged and admired by them? Is it to get brownie points in heaven? What is the motivation? The right motivation is key to prayers being answered. A couple of days ago, we looked at why prayers are not answered (see Ask! Ask! Ask!, and heard James saying: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” (James 4:3).

How did he know they were asking wrongly? Because they were fighting with each other! “Those conflicts and disputes among you,” he said. “Where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder.” James was speaking metaphorically, of course. Then he continues: “And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts” (James 4:1-2). Now, isn’t the true for us too? The things we do, even the allegedly “spiritual” things are for ourselves, and that, instantly, defeats the purpose.

So, what should be the purpose? One thing, and one thing alone. The glory of God! We heard Jesus saying in today’s passage (I paraphrase): “The time has come for me to fulfill my destiny. Glorify your Son, Father, so that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus asked to be glorified, ONLY in order that the Father be glorified. If we ask for the grace to lead holy lives, if we ask for the power to do great things for God, if we ask for people to be healed and delivered, if we ask that we are able to preach God’s word to his people, it has to ONLY be for the glory of God.

And, then, believe me when I tell you, he WILL answer our prayers.