Summary: Throughout the Gospels we find references to Jesus’ work of redemption, and often we read, “His hour had not yet come.” But now it was at hand. These words of Jesus were prayed in the shadow of the cross.
“The Time Has Come” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to Heaven, He said, ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You’.” (John 17:1)
“Some people pray by the yard; but true prayer is measured by weight, not by length.” So said Charles Spurgeon, regarded as the greatest preacher of the 19th Century…and he was right! We have before us a “weighty” prayer. It’s not very long, 26 verses, but of the 650 prayers in the Bible it is the richest, most sacred and significant of all. One minister felt this prayer was so holy he was hesitant to preach on it. It’s been said that if all we had was this prayer to sustain us in our Christian life, it would provide enough insight and encouragement for us to live effectively for God (Lloyd-Jones).
Ask most anyone to describe “The Lord’s Prayer”, and they’ll likely think of the prayer that begins, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven…” That’s the one that first comes to mind. Yet Jesus never prayed that prayer. He could not have. The sinless Lamb of God had no need to ask the Father to forgive Him His trespasses--He had none to forgive. John 17 does not contain a single confession of sin. The “Our Father” is an example of how our prayers should go; it ought to be called “the Disciples’ Prayer”. John 17 is Jesus’ prayer for His disciples.
He begins by lifting up His eyes toward Heaven; verse 1 says He “spoke”. John doesn’t use the normal Greek word to describe prayer, but a word meaning “to request from an equal”. You and I could never pray this way, yet in John 17 this word is used 3 times; why? Because Jesus is God-the-Son. God-the-Father is our Father by grace, but He is Jesus’ Father by nature. If anyone else prayed in this manner, we would figure they’re mentally disturbed. Only Jesus could pray like this.
The purpose of our Lord’s praying audibly was for the benefit of His disciples who were close by; He did so to assure them of His concern for them, which would continue even after He departed from this world.
We like to know that people are praying for us. When we share requests during our prayer time, or call the prayer chain, we’re encouraged to know that others are concerned about our needs. Can you imagine anything more comforting than knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ has prayed for you?
But why would God pray? The Gospels record at least 19 instances of Jesus praying. When He was baptized, He prayed; when he chose His 12 disciples, He spent all night in prayer. When transfigured, He prayed; when arrested in the garden, He was found praying. As they nailed Him to the cross, He lifted up His voice in prayer…and today Jesus is praying for His church; He is a Man of prayer!
Jesus prayed because while here on earth, He lived in total dependence on the Father. The Bible says of Jesus that: “in Him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily”—yet He prayed! “All authority is given unto Me”—yet He prayed! Now if Jesus, with all His power and perfection needed to pray, how much more we need to depend on God in prayer!
We’re loyal American citizens, yet as Christians, we have an even higher allegiance. If we belong to Christ, we no longer belong to the world system. Our true citizenship is in Heaven. Like deep-sea divers, we’re out of our element but able to survive because we’ve got help from Above. Our help comes through prayer.
I spent 25 years listening to people’s job-related problems. A common Army phrase was “Tell it to the Chaplain.” One soldier talking about stress at work said, “If things get any worse, I may have to pray!” Prayer should be more than an SOS signal to God, more than a last resort. Prayer should be our first resort—our steering wheel, not our spare tire!
We pray when frustrated, and fearful…A few nights before the ground war began in Desert Storm, I stood outside near the Iraqi border with an Army doctor. We were gazing into a sky that looked like a Planetarium. The doctor remarked, “Chaplain, I’m sure the Lord is hearing many new voices tonight.” God does hear prayers in crisis, but He prefers an on-going communication with Him. If prayer is an interruption in our lives, then something’s seriously wrong.
We mistakenly limit prayer to asking for things. Prayer isn’t an attempt to change God’s mind or force His hand. The purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in Heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. The premise of prayer is that we are powerless and we’re trusting in God’s might, resting in His purpose. Last week the mother of a lost Boy Scout said when he was found safe, “The windows of Heaven are not closed.” When we pray, we’re relying on God’s will. It‘s like taking a blank contract, signing it at the bottom, then letting God fill in the details.