7th Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2013
Whenever I am in a group, everyone looks to me to pray before we eat, to lay hands on someone sick and pray for healing, to lead an opening or closing prayer. I am usually the designated prayer by default. So many people are afraid that their prayers will not be right or not be enough.
“Teach us to pray,” the disciples asked Jesus, way back in the beginning. Jesus taught them to call God by name, to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth, to ask for all they needed for physical life to thrive, and the forgiveness they needed for spiritual health, and for deliverance at the time of evil.
Today we have another chance to hear Jesus pray. Jesus prays for the followers he is about to leave behind. It must be so hard to leave them, especially as he knows what a frightening task awaits him. The whole prayer comes down to what we hear today “that they may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…”
If Jesus is broken-hearted at leaving his beloved disciples behind, he must surely still be broken-hearted at how badly they failed to be one. Because the consecrated gathering he left behind is human with all it’s ego trips and petty grudges and intolerance, there never has been a time when the Church felt like it was one. I believe that when the day comes that we stand before our Maker, we will have to answer for the fact that we were so busy fighting with each other that we didn’t have time to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus gives us the way the unity works: God sends the Word which reveals God’s love and glory; Jesus, that Word, passes it on to his believers, who live the love and pass it on to everyone around them because they want everyone to understand the love of God that forgives and treasures them. Everything Jesus did testified to the love and power of God, and so everything we do testifies to the love of God which animates us. In our living that love, we tell the world about God’s love.
This unity doesn’t mean that we have to agree about everything, or that we will believe exactly the same things. It means that we will honor each other’s faithfulness to God and that we will respect each person’s attempts to face his or her doubts and struggle to learn and serve as each is called to do. And it means we will pray for each other, as Jesus prayed for his disciples and for those who will believe on Jesus because of their faithfulness. It means we will hold each other tightly and hold each other up.
And it means that Jesus is praying for us. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” You have come to faith because of the writings of those first believers gathered in that room. You have come to faith because the faith of the people who believed by their teaching and preaching, the faith that was handed on through generations. And you have come to faith because Jesus prays for you.
In Jesus’s own sermons, he tells people that the Father wants you to ask for what you need, and that the Father is ready to give good gifts. In his last evening with his disciples, Jesus tells them that it makes the Father happy to be asked for what they need, and that he is sending the Spirit to help us ask for all the Father wants to give us.
Did you know that Jesus was praying for you? That it makes God happy to give you all you need and to answer your prayers? I’d like to invite you to take a minute to think about what it is that you most want Jesus to pray for you. We’ll just be quiet for a minute while you think about what it is you want to ask for, and then for you to ask Jesus to pray to the Father for you and with you about it. [Silence for two minutes]
When I used to visit Martha Kirby a member of my internship church, I prayed hard for her. Her pancreatic cancer had been discovered miraculously early, and there was real hope for awhile that she could beat it. She was the matriarch of a big sprawling black family with all its joys and sorrows, and I loved her. I loved her hope. I loved her spirit. I loved her solid and unwavering faith. I’d read to her from her own Bible, and usually the story of comfort I wanted to share with her was already underlined and there were notes in the margins. I prayed for her healing, I prayed for God’s love to surround her, I prayed for her family, and for her not to worry about them and I thanked God for all her blessings, especially her faith. And when I was done, she would take my hand and pray for me. I was always in tears when she was done, and I believe that some of what has happened to me in the meantime is because of Martha’s prayers for me.
Just imagine how much deep and strong and powerful are Jesus’ prayers for you. Don’t ever be afraid to ask God for whatever you want or need, and let Jesus pray with you. And let us pray along to hold you tightly and hold you up. And then you can pray for us, when the time comes that we need it. Amen.