Have you ever been around someone who volunteers to pray over a meal, and ends up praying on and on over everything but the meal and you wonder just how cold your food can get before you hear the word “amen”? I’ve noticed some people have a proclivity for long prayer. Not that that’s a problem. I’m sure I’ve gone rambling on much longer than I realize when I’ve been asked to pray for someone – sometimes you just get caught up in the moment of appeal.
One of the shortest prayers in the Bible is from Matt 14:30, when Peter was sinking and cried out “Lord, save me!” Short, yet effective.
The longest prayer recorded in the Bible is found in the passage we’ll be reading this Sunday, in John 17:1-26. It has been called “Jesus’ high priestly prayer”…or “the longest prayer” by some. It is considered the longest prayer for two reasons…one, because it’s really long, but it’s also long in it’s scope. It is a prayer that includes you and I, as Jesus forecasts our becoming his followers…so in a real sense, since it has been written and recorded, it is a prayer that has been ongoing until this very day.
The prayer is divided into three movements – Jesus prays for himself, for his disciples, and for all who will believe throughout history. We learn a lot about a person by what they pray for. In this case, we can discern a lot about God’s purposes and the will of Christ for our own lives.
In v1-8 there is a word that is repeated with different variations. What is the word – and what does it tell you about one of God’s priorities? What do you think it means to “glorify” God?
Jesus then prays for his disciples in v9-19. When you were a child, who protected you? As Jesus describes his role in protecting the disciples, and in handing that responsibility directly to the Father…how then should we see ourselves? Who are we to God?
Note also that Jesus didn’t ask the Father to help us escape from this world, but to be protected in it. What ways have you, or even the church in general been tempted to revert to escapism in our actions or in our doctrines? How can we understand our place in this world as it touches God’s intent for us?
He finishes his prayer in v 20-26. There is a plea on our behalf that is repeated three times in this section. How does that inform you of God’s intent for the church worldwide? When we consider the vast amount of differing opinions on doctrine and practice throughout the whole of the church, on what can we all find unity? How can we do our part in advancing this desire of God withing the sphere of our influence?
It’s a wonderful prayer, and worth a lot of attention – I hope it inspires you to dig deeply into these amazing words. See you on Sunday!