In reality prayer is a one to one conversation
not a petition signed by many…
John 17: 6-17
Jesus says that where two or three are gathered he is there and I must admit my two or three are often the Father, Son and Spirit and me on my own in the bath, on a walk, in bed or delivering Christian Aid envelopes in the pouring rain.
I sometimes get the impression that we treat prayer like a petition that gains strength with the number of people who sign it, but the reality for me is that prayer is a conversation that can be a one to one relationship.
The prayer petition with the one signature of a lonely widow with no friends is as important to God as the campaign of prayer supported by thousands, because she is entering into a personal relationship through her conversation. I want to be as one with the Father, Son and Spirit so that I can ask my questions and accept the answers, whether I like them or not.
I am learning that before I pray I must empty myself of all the stuff the world has put in my head and heart so that God can fill it with Kingdom wisdom. If what I had in me before was good then God will put it back. If not, it’s gone!
This doesn’t mean we can’t gather together in prayer, as we do today, but our personal relationship with God will only grow stronger when we have our conversation, with our questions and hear the answers meant for our ears only. Jesus is talking with his disciples at the end of chapter 16 when he looks toward heaven and includes his Father in the conversation at the beginning of 17. It’s as if he is suddenly calling his Father to come and look after the children because he’s got to go away.
I used to have phone calls from my daughter on occasions asking if I could look after the children and when she came home in the evening we would talk about what happened during the day and she would often say: “Dad, you didn’t let them do that, did you?”
If I forgot to mention any events during the day the children would be sure to remember and tell mum with great delight that they had watched tv while I fell asleep or that they had been treated to sweets because they had been so good.
“You know they don’t watch tv during the day, dad!” or “they only have sweets on a Saturday” would be the typical reprimand delivered before we departed with a forgiving hug from my daughter and thank you kisses from the grandchildren as they asked when we were coming next. The joys of being grandparents who break the family rules!
So, as Jesus is preparing to go away, he calls on his Dad to look after the children and protect them from all the temptations of the world — like sweets and tv and far greater evils. If you have to leave the ones you most love you will ask the One you most trust to look after them in your absence.
We don’t agree on everything, but my daughter trusts me to look after my grandchildren because like her I love them so much that I would lay down my life for them. There is no greater love than that and me and my daughter are as one in that love. Father and daughter united together as one with one purpose to protect and nurture the children into the best they can be. I’m sure you can share the same testimony of love in your lives, but if not trust those who can that Jesus is calling on Dad to look after you.
When I am asked by my daughter to look after the grandchildren she is trusting me with what is most precious in her life. We are as one in our love for the children and that is how special we are to Jesus as he asks his Father to look after us. Whether we are disciples who are making Jesus better known in our communities, or believers who are in a growing process of getting to know him better, he asks Dad to look after us.
When the grandchildren were babies they needed mum’s milk so there were visits for a day, or sometimes a weekend, but my daughter had to stay with them to give what they needed. Only when they were old enough to receive solid food were they ready to be left in our care, but they weren’t really ready for it because it was junk food they wanted rather than what was healthy. (Hebrews 5: 11-14 and 1 Corinthians 3: 2) The quick fix beans on toast, a few sweets in the middle of the morning and some kids tv isn’t the nourishment for the best of physical health, but hopefully we have provided some spiritual food through which they have tasted that the Lord is good! (1 Peter 2: 1-3)
As Jesus told his disciples, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work!” (John 4: 34) It is his food for sharing as he becomes known as the Bread of Life and whoever comes to him will never go hungry and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty. (John 6: 35).
As we begin to believe our thirst is quenched by the spiritual milk, but as we grow to know him better we take the solid food of the “living bread.” (Just read John 6) Jesus is the Word in human flesh and “people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4: 4)
I love the conversations I have with my grandchildren when I am looking after them and I imagine God talking with me and listening in the same way. That’s how I hear the words that give life as I can ask questions and hear answers that inspire and encourage me. It’s a conversation with God and it’s called prayer and we accept the answers to our questions — if we ask them, as we did at the beginning of the service.
Jesus is having a conversation with his Dad as he prepares to leave the disciples in his care. It’s more than a prayer for that time though, because it is a prayer for the then and now and all disciples to come. It’s the Jesus prayer for us today, for you and me as disciples and for believers who will grow to know Jesus better because of the message they hear. (verse 20).
Our relationship with each other is a mirror image of our relationship with each other because it is meant to reflect the Kingdom wisdom and attitude that brings us all together as one in prayer and ministry. Jesus prays that the disciples may be as one as he and the Father are one but that all believers will belong together in the same way.
In the same way that God created man and woman to become one in flesh we still have our differences — but they are differences that should bring us together not separate us. When Jesus sent out the 72 they went in twos as different people, but with the same mission of peace and healing so that everyone can be as one in the kingdom of God. (Luke 10: 1-17) The most profound conversation is found at the beginning of scripture when God says “let there be” and the one world is, dare I say it, prayed into being. The Holy Spirit hears what God wants and does it — and it was all good as one earth with many differences!
Our relationships with our children and grandchildren are a reflection of how God cares for us, but we don’t do it as well so continue to ask how we can do it better and that’s the reality of prayer. A conversation with our Dad who we can trust more than anyone.