A child is leaving home. The parents know the dangers and temptations their child will face away from the protected environment of home. There is nothing they can do to shield the child from the evils of this world, but their parting words are, “You’re in our prayers.”
You feel helpless as you leave the bedside of a loved one who is very ill.ÊYour parting words are, “You’re in my prayers. We know that God is
the great healer.”Ê
As you say good-bye to your mother after being at dad’s funeral, youÊassure her that you will call often and that you will pray for her daily.
It is comforting to know that people are praying for us, but it is even more comforting to know that we are in Jesus’ prayers. The seventeenth
chapter of St. John’s Gospel is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer.ÊThis chapter can be divided into three parts. He first prays for Himself,Ê
then for the apostles, and lastly for all believers.
In verse 9, Jesus says, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” It is a general prayer for protection of His followers from a world that would destroy their spiritual teaching if they could. Nazism, socialism, and materialism are
examples of big enemies of Christ’s teachings. In vs. 14, Jesus gets more specific when He mentions that he has given us His Word, and the
world will hate us when we proclaim that word either verbally or in action.ÊThat Word points to Jesus as the only Savior of the world. Those who
do not trust in Christ resent this teaching. It is either too narrow or naive.Ê
In their opinion, the Gospel of Christ is an irrational teaching. In the Word,ÊJesus teaches His followers the purpose for living. Life is not simply to eat, drink and be merry. The most important goal in life is not to be among the
socially elite and financially wealthy. Jesus’ words, “What will it profit aÊperson if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” is an irrelevantÊ
question for the materialist whose life is built around “things” and whoÊgives little thought to the soul that, in his opinion, is intangible.
This world is such a threat to destroying Jesus’ disciples, that it would be natural to believe he would have us separate ourselves from its
evil influence, but such is not the case. He prays, “Father, my prayerÊis not that you would take them out of the world, but that you wouldÊ
protect them from the evil ones.” (vs. 5). He does not desire us to liveÊin a cloister.Ê
Society is our mission field. Unless we walk with people and minister to them with God’s Word, they will never be won for Christ. As theÊworld becomes more and more of a threat to destroying our relationship with God, it is easy for us to withdraw to our own group where all is safe. Christ has other plans. He wants to strengthen us to be strong men and women of God and then to move into a society that needs to hear of God’s love in Christ.
Parochialism has its place. It is necessary for us to be protected inÊthe early years of life from forces that could be harmful. For manyÊof us, the Christian home is that fortress to which we return andÊare guided by God-fearing parents. From the Christian family, we move to the congregation which supplements the home by providingÊus with a fellowship of believers who can encourage and supportÊus in our relationship with God. This is another part of that fortress.
For some Christians, parochialism needs to go farther than the home and congregation. Children are sent to parochial schools where the
student will be in a protected environment and with his or her kind of people. Parochial education begins at the elementary level and
continues through college. I have a few friends who have never had a day of public education. While this is not my recommendationÊunder normal circumstances, I respect those who believe that parochial education is extremely important in preparing people to live in our societyÊas Christ’s witnesses. But they too are willing to admit that the time eventually comes when we must leave the fortress and enter the world.ÊRemember, Jesus said, I do not ask that You take them out of the world,Êbut they be protected as they are the voice of the Gospel in a cultureÊwhere Jesus has little or no place.
Jesus continues His prayer by making this request, “Sanctify them byÊthe truth; your word is truth.” (17) He is praying that we live daily in HisÊ
Word. That means that we will read the Word and listen as God speaks to us directly. There will be no Christian growth unless we are in regular communication with our Father as He speaks to us through the Scriptures.Ê
The man who prays, “God, make me a better Christian,” but never opens his Bible, is inconsistent. God cannot strengthen us unless HeÊhas the opportunity to speak to us on a regular basis.
He continues to intercede for us by also saying, “Father, may they be one as we are one.”Ê
In the hour of trial and temptation, we need the support of Christian friends. That unity for which Christ prays goes far deeper than denominational unity. We have lived in a period of history where many Christian churches have united to become one body. The Evangelical United Brethren joined with the Methodist Church toÊbecome The United Methodist Church. Within denominationsÊthere have been mergers.Ê
In my Lutheran Church, we have spent the last forty years breakingÊdown some of the organizational lines which divided us to become
one organization. The results are that at least ten different synods are now one body known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church. HasÊthis made us a stronger witness for Christ? Some say, “Yes,” andÊothers say, “No.” One thing is certain, that was not what JesusÊwas praying for in this prayer.Ê
I have differences of opinion with friends who are Roman Catholics and others who are Baptists, but we have a oneness in Jesus Christ that far transcends any denominational loyalty.
One of my dearest brothers in Christ is a member of the WesleyanÊChurch. We have a few doctrinal differences, but the support andÊ
encouragement I have received from this dear friend in Christ isÊof great value. It does not require action by church bodies assembled in
conventions to make us one in Christ. This is the work of the HolyÊSpirit alone. I fear that we are confused at this point, and have beenÊmisled by leadership that used this portion of God’s Word to furtherÊtheir own agenda in bringing about these mergers. Have we accomplished more for the Kingdom of God with one large body? I have yet to be convinced. You may feel differently and you may be right, but let usÊagree that Jesus did not have church mergers in mind when He askedÊ
God to unite us.
Jesus is praying for us. It warms our hearts to know others are prayingÊfor us. It has to give us great confidence to know that Jesus Christ,Ê
King of kings, Lord of lords, has us on His prayer list.