“The Prayer Connection”

The Seventh Sunday of Easter (A)

“The Prayer Connection”

May 28, 2017

Sermon Text: John 17:1-11

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our risen and ascended Lord, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

You and I are given so many unique and important perspectives… but no more so than that which is afforded us in Holy Scripture. For sure, in God’s Word, we are able to see things, to understand things, which those who are of the world cannot even begin to do. We are able to make connections and see relations and relationships which others, blinded by sin and unbelief, simply cannot see.

Talking about perspectives, today’s Gospel lesson, recorded in John 17, is an amazing part of Scripture, one that is worth pondering over and over, for there is simply so much here to take in and learn… to take in and rejoice in.

There is so much here regarding our Savior’s love for us and His love for the Father, God our Father.

So much here regarding the relationship between the Father and the Son.

So much here regarding our relationship with the Father and the Son and theirs to us. And so on and so forth.

You know, what grows old and is so tiresome to hear are those who are always bemoaning that they cannot understand this or that about the Lord, His Word and His ways when they haven’t really tried… are not trying now and maybe not for a long time… maybe ever. What do they expect? What other than an incredibly limited perspective and a faulty one can be theirs of that which God would have us know? How is it with you?

In our Gospel text, our Lord lifts up this amazing prayer to the Father just before He is betrayed and arrested. Just before everything starts happening oh-so quickly. And here, I am referring to not only His passion and crucifixion, but also His resurrection and ascension and how it all takes place in rapid succession.

Before it all happens though, and with us in mind… with you and me always in His heart and mind… we have this wonderful prayer… Christ speaking to the Father, acknowledging to the Father that “the hour has come” in terms of all that would now take place… Christ here asking the Father to glorify Him that He, Jesus, may glorify the Father as our salvation is effected on the cross and this followed by our Savior’s glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven.

“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” Jesus prayed. (John 17:1-2)

Our Savior follows this by declaring, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

There you have it my friends… what is eternal life… who has eternal life… right here in what our Lord says to the Father in this prayer, acknowledging before the Father that eternal life belongs to those who know, those who believe, confess, embrace and live in the Father and the Son.

And here, Christ focuses specifically on the faithful. Yes, there are prayers… important prayers, intercessory prayers and supplications rightly lifted up on behalf of all the world, for all mankind. True enough. Sure enough. But what we have before us this morning is Christ our Savior carrying out His divine office as our High Priest pleading, interceding and praying solely and oh-so passionately for us and all believers… for all His children, His disciples, the faithful remnant here on earth.

Our Lord goes on to say, to pray to the Father, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (John 17:6)

Oh, how this speaks against the insidious “decision theology” that is out there in the world and in many so-called “Christian” circles… of being able to come to Jesus, to come to faith on our own… of our own doing. For if it were up to us, in whole or in part, we would never believe. Why? Because it is by God’s grace alone that we come to faith, in His eternal foreknowledge of knowing and calling to Himself His own. “Yours they were” Christ acknowledges to the Father, “and you gave them to me and they have kept your word.”

It is a fact. The faithful do not dabble, have never simply dabbled in the Word of God. If they did, they would not be… could not be among the faithful. They do not know a little of it, the bare minimum. Rather, they are well versed in it and this more and more, always more and more as they are ever, always, hearing it… growing in it… as they “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” God’s Word all of the days of their lives here on earth.

And what is the result? Our Lord continues in His prayer, “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:7-8)

Oh, how our Savior here is rejoicing in this wonderful reality and divine interconnection as He shares the same in prayer with the Father. What this is, my friends, is the reality of the Christian life, our life in the Father and in the Son… a reality… the reality that our God has lovingly seen to and set. For sure, it is the reality which all of the faithful enjoy and live in now, in these last days… now, in our brief sojourn here on earth. All by grace… all by the working of the Holy Spirit in us.

And this is good because the days in which we live are not good. They are fraught with peril… with trials and tribulations… with one obstacle after another placed before us as we live out the Christian faith and boldly confess it to a world that categorically rejects it, loathes and hates it.

The world. Jesus again speaks about it as He brings this prayer to a close. But as we see, His focus is not it, but us. He is praying for us and our relationship with Him and with the Father… that which only counts… the faithful in God… the faithful in His Church, who make up His Church which is His very Body.

“I am praying for them.” Jesus says to the Father. “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:9-11)

Keep them in your name, Father, because sin, Satan and this world will try… are constantly trying and striving to separate us from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep them as one, dear Father, one in You and in Your Son as You are one… oneness in God Almighty… oneness in Christ’s living Body, the Church… oneness in faith, in hope and love.

All this, that we have here considered, is Jesus’ prayer for us. His prayer for each of us. His prayer for you… for me. May we ponder the same all of our lives and certainly now, today, and throughout this week… to read it over again and again… giving it much prayer and contemplation.

In addition to all that this portion of Holy Scripture says, my friends, what a great example we have here of prayer lifted up to the Father. Christ our Lord speaking with the Father as we also have the great privilege and honor of doing, we… the redeemed.

To come before our Heavenly Father in prayer and supplication… often… endlessly. Indeed, God’s Word tells us, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

And really, why would we ever want to stop speaking to our loving God who so wants to hear us… who wants us to bring before Him all that is on our hearts and minds… our joy as well as our sorrow… our thanksgiving as well as our pleading for others as well as for ourselves… knowing it is God’s good pleasure to hear us and help us always in His perfect way.

The “prayer connection.” In today’s text and in so many other places in Scripture we see the importance of the same… the blessings upon blessings of the same… to daily and many times hourly and minute by minute, talking with the God of all creation… the Great “I AM” … the one true God… the one we have the great privilege of calling “Our Father.” Amen.

 May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“The Prayer Connection”

5/28/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein

St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL