A TIME TO PRAY
As all of us are aware, this is Maundy Thursday. It is the night of our Lord’s betrayal. It is the night on which our Lord gave us the gift of his supper. And, it is the night Jesus gave us the command to love one another as he loves us. But this night is also a night for something else. As Jesus was preparing for what lied ahead; as he knew what lied ahead; it was also a time to pray.
The first recorded prayer of Jesus on this night is found in the seventeenth chapter of John. Knowing that the time had come for him to offer up himself as a sacrifice of atonement for the sake of our eternal welfare, Jesus first prays, that he and the Father would be glorified through what would be accomplished. After this, he turns his attention to us.
First, he prays for our perseverance in the faith. Father, protect them by the power of your name, Jesus prays. He knows the world will hate us because of him. He knows that the Christian life is hard. He knows that Satan will try to wrestle us out of his saving hands of grace. So, he prays for divine protection that we might stand up to whatever the world and Satan might throw at us that we might attain the promised inheritance of our faith, namely eternal life.
Jesus also prays for our unity. He is not praying for a unity to be achieved, but rather he is praying for a continuation of the unity we have in his name. And the reason is twofold. First, the unity we have in Christ provides us with the kind of support we need to live in a world that is often hostile to the Gospel. Second, our unity provides a most powerful witness as we go about sharing the Gospel as the body of Christ.
Jesus also prays for our joy in this prayer. And we need to understand here that this is not as the world gives. The joy that we are to experience as the redeemed people of God is a joy rooted in knowing Jesus as our Savior. This is something the world can never rob us of.
The fourth thing Jesus prays for is our continued growth. In verse 17 he says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is Truth.” If we want our faith to continue to grow. If we want our faith to always be strong. If we want our faith to be unshakable, no matter how strong the storm, we need to be in the Word, the means through which God works.
Finally, Jesus prays for our witness. His prayer is that we will fulfill his marching orders to go into the entire world to make disciples of all nations. He prays that we would be a blessing to others through our living and sharing the Gospel. So he prays, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.” (20)
In this prayer Jesus is not looking past what he has to do and what is about to happen, but he is looking beyond it. He is praying that we might be, and always remain, his faithful disciples.
The second prayer that Jesus prays this night is when he and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prays, (Luke 22:42) “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” We are also told that the anguish Jesus was going through at this time was so great that an angel came to strengthen him and that his sweat poured out of him like drops of blood.
This prayer teaches us two important things. Even as we remember that Jesus is God, this prayer reminds us that Jesus endured the punishment we deserve in his humble state as a human being. Yes, Jesus is God in the flesh. Yes, he allowed his divine nature to shine through on the day of transfiguration. And yes, Jesus knew what was going to happen; that he would suffer, die, and rise from the dead. But in order to take our place as the object of God’s wrath, he had to sacrificially offer up himself as one of us, as St. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The second thing that this prayer teaches us is that, in all things, we are to seek God’s will. And not only are we to seek it, we are to trust it, and we are to follow it; even if it is difficult to do so. Remember, Jesus said (Matt. 10:38) “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” What this means is that we are to live and share the Gospel, as we have been called to do, no matter what.
Time spent in prayer ought never be an afterthought or an avenue of last resort. As Jesus faced an hour more difficult than any of us could imagine, he took time to pray. He prayed for us and he prayed for strength to carry out the Father’s will. Of all the things to be remembered on this night, not to be forgotten is the importance and power of prayer.