Summary: "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" John 17:3
Theme: Union with Christ in prayer and suffering
Text: Acts 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11
Prayer is the heartbeat of the Christian life and it is therefore not surprising that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer. In John 17, sometimes referred to as the “High Priestly” Prayer, Jesus presents the blueprints of God’s programme for this age. Jesus expects His people to be a body - a Church - that would last throughout the ages and make a great impact on the world. For this to be realised Jesus prays for His disciples and the whole future of the church. This was absolutely necessary if His plan is to succeed. Prayer is to the believer’s spiritual life what oxygen is to the human body and without prayer, just as without oxygen, human beings cannot survive. To enable us accomplish God’s purpose Jesus prayed that God would unite and keep His chosen people - His disciples - safe from Satan’s power, setting them apart and keeping them pure and holy. Jesus knew that their success depended on their union with Him, and not on their abilities or methods. Too often the world cannot understand the gospel message and who Jesus is because His followers confuse them. It is only our union with Christ that will enable us to keep His truth and live before a doubting world in a way that glorifies His name instead of slandering His Name by the sin in our lives and the division in the body. Christ has sent us into the world to reveal His presence and His glory through our union with Him. There is no force in the world that can withstand His power and love in such a union. As Jesus Christ lived and worked in complete union with the Father so we also need to live and work in union with Christ, a union with Christ in prayer and suffering.
Our union with Christ in prayer and suffering deepens our intimacy with Him. It wakes us up and puts the desire in our hearts to see that His name is glorified by exalting Jesus over all principalities that have the world bound in misery and death. Intimacy with God allows Him to work in us and through us to reach the world with the message of salvation. It also enables us to manifest His nature and character to others. Many people, however, question the need for our union with Christ and the need to pray. They argue that if God is all-powerful and knows everything He should just go ahead and do what He wants to do without us? They question why events on earth should be related to our prayers at all? If God is going to do something regardless of whether or not we pray, then He doesn’t need us to ask Him and we don’t need to waste our time.
The answer can be seen in the words of John Wesley when he says, "God does nothing on earth save in answer to believing prayer." This is because according to the Scriptures the whole earth was given over to man’s rule or dominion and God was bound for all time and eternity to honour His commitment. When Adam and Eve surrendered to Satan’s lie, they lost this dominion and instead came under Satan’s dominion. When Jesus triumphed over sin and death God’s original intent and purpose for man was restored. God honours the dominion He has given to man and restored to him and therefore waits for us to come to Him in prayer before He enters the earthly arena. We must, however, pray in union with Christ if we are to fulfil God’s divine will. The Psalmist declares that we should delight ourselves in the Lord and He will grant us the desires of our hearts. If we delight ourselves in the Lord we will know what He wants and when we ask what He desires He will be only too glad to grant us our requests. Jesus always prayed for God’s will in the life of His disciples. He never prayed that his disciples might find escape but that they might find victory right where they were in the middle of difficulties. Christianity was never meant to withdraw a man from life; it was meant to equip him better for life. Sometimes we pray to be removed from circumstances that God may desire for us to stay in to strengthen us for battle. One of the greatest judgements God can send on us is to give us what we wrongfully insist on in prayer. In the wilderness the Israelites grew tired of their daily diet of manna – bread from heaven – so they asked for meat. According to the Psalmist “they lusted greatly in the wilderness and provoked God by their strong desires.” The Lord finally gave them what they asked for but it also brought them disease and death. Their wrongful desires brought a sad outcome to their lives as continues to happen today. God honours the dominion He has given to man but we can only exercise that dominion in union with Him. He waits for us to come to Him in prayer which should be in accordance with His divine will before He enters the earthly arena. God will not work on earth without someone who will work with Him. The ministry of prayer is open to everyone but unfortunately we do not consider it important enough. It is only by spending time with Christ in prayer that we will feel what He feels and see what He sees and know what He wants. Why do we so often seek from the world and its influence those things that can only be given by God? We have been given the very best in Him and yet at times, we settle for far lesser substitutes. We need to stay close to Him and He will fill us with more of what is real and lasting than what we can ever obtain elsewhere.