Prayer is the place where we take the stuff of life, the stuff of faith, and blend them together into faithful living. It is where we bring ourselves to God and we are transformed. It is the place where we talk. Maybe more importantly, it is the place where we listen. It is a place where we cannot hide from God, when the masks we don to face so much of life are translucent, invisible to the power of a God who loves us so deeply and knows us inside and out. Prayer is the place where we are fully honest, about our hopes, about our pain. It is the place where we blend our lives with God, the place where, if we get good at it, we give our lives to God and gain food for our journeys.
The passage for John for today is the beginning of Jesus’ prayer for us. It’s one of those prayers that is intended to be heard so that we can join in the prayer.
What does it mean for Jesus to pray for us? I often say in the declaration of pardon:
‘Who is in a position to condemn? Only Jesus the Christ, and Christ was born for us, lived for us, died because of us, rose for us, reigns in power for us, and Jesus prays for us.’
Have you ever gone into your sanctuary and gone pew by pew and prayed for those who normally sit there? When I do that it never fails to be transforming. How much more transforming is it to know that Jesus does the same thing?
So often prayer is the default comment of the church, something we throw out there like spilled salt over the shoulder, just to be safe. But what does it mean to know that you have church members who pray for you, seriously and honestly?
Finally, here is one of my favorite benedictions. It was used by the Rev. Dr. Doug Oldenburg frequently as he traveled the country as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“As you leave, I charge you to remember this above all else.
No matter how frightening this world may become;
No matter how frightening your life may be today or may become tomorrow,
You need not be afraid, for GOD GOES WITH YOU.
God goes before you to guide you;
God goes beside you to be your best friend;
God goes behind you to protect you;
God goes beneath you to strengthen you;
God goes within you to comfort you;
And God goes above you to give you vision and hope.
Remember that: no matter how dark and frightening this world may become; no matter how frightening the individual circumstances of your life may be today or may become tomorrow or next week, you need not be afraid, for God – Almighty God – goes with you! If you will remember that, then the ‘peace of God that passes all understanding’ will go with you too.”
So. What are you thinking?