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May 15, 2018 - A Different Kind of Prayer

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Scripture Readings

One of the reasons that the Lord’s Prayer is so powerful and so beloved is that it is the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. He wanted us to pray like that—acknowledging who God is, asking that God’s kingdom would come, that God’s will (not ours) would be done, that we would have the bread that we need each day, that our trespasses would be forgiven, that we would forgive others, and that we would be spared encounters with evil.

We pray it especially when we are at a loss to know what to pray. And as that happens to me a lot—that I don’t know how or what to pray—I pray this prayer a lot.

In the text from John that is before us today, we encounter another powerful but very different kind of prayer. This prayer is not intended for pedagogical purposes. In praying it, Jesus is not trying to teach his disciples or us something. He is talking to God.

The context for the prayer is really important. This prayer begins here in verse 1 of chapter 17. It comes to an end in verse 26 (which we will encounter on Thursday). Verse 26 closes the chapter. And in the very first verse of chapter 18, Jesus and the disciples enter Gethsemane.

All this means that the prayer that we have before us today is the petition that Jesus puts before God just before he enters into his passion. He knows very well what is coming. And in anticipation of all of that, he makes this plea to God. What is so remarkable is that, thanks to the gospel writer, we (unlike even the disciples who were there) can hear it.

So, what does Jesus ask for? We don’t have the whole prayer in front of us today, and I don’t want to spoil what is ahead in the readings for Wednesday and Thursday. What is so striking in the part of the prayer we have before us today is not so much what he prays for as who he prays for.

He prays for us.

He knows very well that just as Judas betrayed him so too will Peter deny him. And so too will we betray and deny and a whole host of other things. Yet, he prays for us. And the reason he gives for petitioning God on our behalf is that, he says, we are God’s. We belong to God just as we belong to Jesus. Jesus and God are one, he says to God. And we all belong to them both.

What a plea at what a time. Jesus will suffer his passion at the hands of us humans. And here he is praying to God on behalf of us sinning, failing, betraying humans. While this prayer is not a teaching prayer, we have so much to learn from it about the ridiculous, excessive, inexplicable love that Jesus has for us.

May we have something like that kind of love for others. May we pray for others as he has prayed for us. Amen.

- Sue Trollinger