What you do matters. It may not feel much like it, as you drag yourself from Sunday to Sunday, out to this place to sing hymns, hear Scripture and then return to the fields and plains, the town and city of your life, your family, your work.
And yet it matters. Why?
Because it’s true. Because of your worship, prayer and witness to the love of Jesus makes a difference in this world, empowered by prayer, emboldened by faith. It is prayer that we should think of today: our prayer, frail as it may be, and the prayer of Jesus, praying for us.
Our Gospel today offers a powerful opportunity to see prayer in unity. We are, in our Gospel, brought back on the night of Maundy Thursday, when Jesus gathers his disciples around him for a final meal. He washes their feet, setting an example for them. He shares the first Eucharist with them and then gives them a commandment to love another. And then he tries to prepare them for his departure.
In some ways, it’s an impossible task. The disciples can’t comprehend what is happening; perhaps they can’t even hear him through their confusion and fear. And so when he has said all that they can bear, he promises them that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will come to them, remind them of what he’s said, and lead them into all truth.
And then he does one more thing. He prays for them.
The prayer is complex enough, even convoluted enough, that we can forget that it is a prayer. Indeed, we call it the “high priestly prayer” because it is not only intense, but also at portions – including in this reading – rather theologically dense. In some ways, in fact, it sounds more like a commandment – to be one; or more teaching – this time about his relationship with the Father; or even more promises – that they will one day be where Jesus is going and share his glory. But at heart it’s none of these things. It’s a prayer. It’s the prayer of one person praying for others, others whom he loves.
And that’s important. If you’ve ever had someone pray for you – not in general, but really just for you – I am sure you know what I mean.
That’s what Jesus does here. He prays for his disciples. He senses their anxiety, confusion, and fear, and so he prays for them. He knows they can bear no more, and so he prays for them. He knows he will soon leave them, and so he prays for them. And as he does, and whether or not they understand everything he says, he tells them that they do not have to do everything or even understand everything. He tells them that he is there to support him, that they are not alone, and that they are valued and loved.
It’s a powerful moment. And one of the amazing things about this passage is that Jesus doesn’t do this only for them, but also for us. As Jesus prays, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word…” And that includes us! We are the latest in a long line of persons who have been inspired and encouraged to believe because of the words and lives of those original disciples.
And what does Jesus pray for? “That they may be one.” That we may be one – one with each other, one with Jesus and the Father, one with ourselves. And that being one, we may have peace.
So my suggestion this week, my friends, would be to invite you and those outside this church to hear these words of Jesus addressed to us today. Imagine – really, to imagine – that Jesus was praying for us all those years ago and continues to care for us, to support us, and to love and value us today.
Take a moment to think about where you need to be one, to be more whole, to have more peace in your life. Imagine that Jesus is praying just for you and, indeed, for all of us.
After Ascension we are told that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in glory, ever interceding for us, ever praying for us. We have him on our side.
Let us pray…
Hear us Lord Jesus as we pray for the world, for those who do not know you and for ourselves that we might share the love you have for us, so that we may all be one. In your name. Amen
adapted with thanks from http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=2566