Pausing in Prayer
Prayer is one of the toughest habits to get into in this day and age. With the busyness of daily life, we start and end our days tired – with those middle hours of awake time spent just trying to keep up with the demands on our energies.
And in this time of quarantines and pandemics, when we have perhaps more time than ever to develop this spiritual discipline, we still find ourselves anxious and scattered and tired. Prayer is a daily conversation with God but many of us feel, perhaps, unprepared or not good enough or even that it is too late in life to learn a new skill.
But it gives me comfort to know that the disciples also wondered how to pray and even asked Jesus for the words they should use and Jesus gave them the words that we use today as The Lord’s Prayer. This morning we overheard Jesus as he prayed another Lord’s Prayer. Have you ever wondered about the things that the Son of God would pray to God about? Well, guess what, today we got to hear them for ourselves and let me tell you, the words in this other Lord’s Prayer are radical in their simplicity, refreshing in their truth, and challenging to us today two thousand years removed from their utterance.
Jesus was praying to his Father to glorify him. These sentences become all the more powerful when you realize that for Jesus, as for John, as for us, the glorification of Jesus Christ came from one place and one place only… the cross. Jesus was asking his Father for the authority and power to go to the cross for you and for me.
Jesus’ power and authority came not from his ministry, not from his relationship to God or the Trinity, but from his death on the Cross.
Let me say that once again, Jesus’ power and authority came from his laying down his life at the Cross.
There is no other leadership position that I have ever heard of that says that to gain power you must first lay it down, there is no other world leader that would give their authority away in order to truly claim it back… there is no other prayer that has been prayed that went like this, “Father give me the power to die so that I may win eternal life for all of your creation.”
Which brings us to another important question: What is eternal life? Jesus tells us, in this prayer, that eternal life is knowing God. This is an intimate knowledge. The Greek word is Ginosko, to know, this is the same word that means the love of a husband and wife… an intimate knowledge closer than a best friend.
So eternal life is not the kind of knowledge of God where we have read about God in a book. This is not a knowledge of God where we have a vague idea that there is a God somewhere out there. Eternal life means to know God, to be in an intimate relationship with God forever.
Which leads to the final other big question: Am I going to heaven? The answer is yes, even today you are entering into this intimate knowledge of God through his Son Jesus Christ. Eternal life is what happens when we catch glimpses of God at work in and around us each and every day, those little grace-lets or snippets of heaven that catch us sometimes by surprise or sometimes not at all.
I think those moments happen when we stumble across those people living their lives as though they are not constrained by time or space or hatred or judgment or prejudice or any semblance of being so tied down to the here and now that they rarely look up or lookout. God’s love has no boundaries and is not tied down by time or sin. So when we live in eternal life we live that life that is no longer captive to sin or death and we are living that life now along with all of God’s creation across time and space, yes, even with people on the other side of the world!
And Jesus prayed about the accomplishment of his work. And in that prayer he announced that he had finished that his Father had given him to do. And in praying that we overhear another snippet of our mission, our goal, our purpose if you will, to accomplish that which God has given us to do in the time God has given us to do it. Our task is to always be working towards that day when all will be one in Christ Jesus. Not by force but by peace, not by withholding grace and mercy but by spending it prodigally, not by gathering power and authority to us or to this church or even to our proclamation but by living each day so confident in God’s presence that we lay down our lives for Him, that we surrender our reputations, our treasure, our status in order to accomplish the task laid out for us. If we keep even one of our talents buried in the ground for a rainy day will God applaud us for our wise stewardship or will God show us the one mouth we could have fed, the roof we could have built, the outsider we could have welcomed in?
Make God Known to the World
And when you look at that ragtag group of disciples Jesus was praying for, with and about you can take heart that Christ saw them as they truly were and yet still he announced that He had accomplished his mission. Those disciples failed more often then they succeeded but I think that Christ was not looking for the kind of outcomes we look for as templates of success but, rather, looked for what was written on the disciples’ and our hearts… a desire not only to know God but to make God known to the world in Jesus Christ.
Read this “other” Lord’s prayer again today dear siblings and know this, Christ’s prayer for you and for me is to get us off our self-focused me-ology and get focused on the world and he gave us the power and authority to do this by leading the way through death to eternal life. If we were to give our entire congregation away to feed just one hungry person or to house just one homeless person then I would say Christ’s prayer had accomplished in us what he accomplished in himself… unity with God in eternal life forever and ever.