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Easter Seven - Jesus prayed for us

One of the last things Jesus did before he was betrayed and handed over was to pray for his disciples and those who would become his disciples. So before we are conceived, before we draw our first breath, before we utter our first word, or think to pray, Jesus has prayed for us and is praying for us. We are bathed in pray and surrounded in love and God’s desire to commune with us always. (Easter Seven. John 17:6-19)

Prayer is at one level as natural and as simple as breathing. And yet many of us worry that we do not pray enough, or properly, or effectively. The topic of prayer can make the most confident of us feel a little uneasy for one can hardly tell lies about the wonderfulness of our prayer life when we are always in the presence of the other party – our Beloved Lord.

 

Prayer, like love, has become a word so much used that we can end up wondering what it does mean. From my own experience of faith and prayer, and my experience as chaplain and priest, I want to offer the following thoughts. Let them affirm you, encourage you and if need be extend you a little so that your prayer life might continue to be a source of love and life and that it might grow even richer. And if any words or thoughts are not useful, let them drift away on the breeze like chaff separated from grain.

 

Prayer is at its most simple an openness of heart and mind, a listening for the divine, a desire to be in the presence of our God – which given that we are already in the presence of God then it is awareness of presence that is needed. Prayer is conversation with the divine and like all intimate conversations is made up of desire, talk, listening, silence, reflection.

 

Prayer has its seasons – times when our conversation is desperate and troubled filled with pleading for ourselves and others, begging forgiveness, full of struggle and fear. There are seasons of joy when thanksgiving, praise and hallelujahs rolleasily off our tongue. There are seasons of dryness when we pray the words of the tradition with our hearts dull and our minds absent and wonder what we are doing and why and if anyone else is present beyond ourselves. And there are seasons of silence. Sometimes frightening and deafening in the absence of words. And sometimes those sacred deep silences filled with such truth and tenderness beyond words and sound. 

 

Prayer also includes others: when we pray in the garden and the new leaf unfurling and the birds skimming the surface of the water are companions; when we pray with the sick and suffering; when we pray with others and hear in their words and sighs our own hearts communication.

 

Prayer like other intimate conversations ebbs and flows without ever really ending. We pause to draw breath, to reflect on what has been said and not said, to feel the feelings welling up within, to enjoy the nearness of the other without the distraction of words. We pause to go about our other tasks and to attend to our other relationships without ceasing to be mindful of our true love, our first love, our most enduring love.

 

 What our gospel reading this week reminds us, is that Jesus prays for us. According to St John, one of the last things Jesus did before he was betrayed and handed over to death, was to pray for his disciples and those, like us, who would come later because of their witness and mission in the world.

 

It is worth pausing for a moment and considering the full importance of that fact. The one to whom, through whom, we pray has already – even before our birth, our baptism, our awakening – has already prayed for us!!! Is praying for us. The implications of this are wonderful and all encompassing. Before we are conceived, before we draw our first breath, before we utter our first word, or think to pray, Jesus has prayed for us and is praying for us. We are bathed in pray and surrounded in love and God’s desire to commune with us always.

 

So when we sing hallelujah and give thanks we are already in the presence of our Beloved and our thanks goes straight into the ear of God. When we cry out in words strangled by fear and despair, when we cannot even find words for our dread and rage, we are already heard and listened to. When we turn up to prayer dry and worn down the source of life and love is already our companion and our stay. When we enter the silence seeking to hear and to share we are simply being still for a moment so that we can discern the one who has been ready and waiting for an eternity for this moment. And when we get up from our prayers and turn to the other demands of life we only glance away from the face of our Beloved, we do not really leave the presence of God.

 

We know from Jesus’ own example that he prayed in many ways. He prayed in the traditional ways the prayers of the faithful in the temple. He prayed in traditional ways the prayers of daily life in the homes of those he visited. He prayed in the silence of the wilderness. He taught his disciples how to pray in the privacy of their own rooms. He prayed over his last meal that it might become sustenance for his people for ever. He prayed with tears and drops of blood in the garden, in such distress that he continually fell to the ground. He prayed that he might be spared. And then he prayed that he might be obedient. He prayed forgiveness from the cross. And with his last breath he prayed that his spirit be given into the hands of his father.

 

 And in the gospel reading this week he prayed three things for his disciples. Firstly that they be protected. Not removed from the world and its troubles but protected. Then he prayed that his disciples, and that includes us, might be at-one-ment with God just as he, Jesus, was. And lastly he prayed that where he was going his disciples, in the fullness of time, might be also.

Because Jesus prayed and prays for us we are invited into communion, intimate and loving conversation, since before our birth, throughout all our days, and into the eternal embrace of God when our days are finished.

 

Even so, come Lord Jesus Christ, love without end come gather us in.

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