Listen to Jesus Pray
NOVEMBER 12, 2018
You can tell a lot about a man or a woman by listening to them pray.
Let’s study Christology 101 in John 17 (the real Lord’s prayer), but not from a theology book. These are the words that would be remembered long after the blood dried on the empty cross and cobwebs formed in the empty tomb. Let’s listen to a man—the man—pray. If we’re quiet enough and pay attention, we’ll learn things about Jesus that we wouldn’t any other way.
When you listen to a man pray, you know his name.
The concept of name here is significant: “I have manifested your name” (John 17:6); “I kept them in your name” (John 17:12) and “I made known to them your name” (John 17:26). And in John 14:13, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do.”
What’s this all about? In the Bible, names aren’t just nice handles. They reflect the very essence of the thing or person named. And if you know the true name of someone, you can acquire power over him or her. For instance, when Jacob wrestled with God (i.e. an angel), Jacob asked for his name…because he wanted the power of the name. In another example, remember what the angel said to Joseph, “And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). When we get Home, the Bible says that we will have “a new name in heaven” (Revelation 2:17), reflecting the essence of who we really are by his grace.
So who are we? We don’t know all of it, but someday we will. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
The tin man will be called “compassionate.” The scarecrow will be called “brilliant.” The cowardly lion will be called “courage.” I will be called “pure.” Maybe you will be called “fearless” or “loved” or “beautiful” or “without shame.”
When Jesus gave his disciples the true name of God, he gave them a person, God himself. He gave his name…not a doctrine, moral code or theology. He gave them his name—his essence, all that he was. Not only does God know your name, you know his name too.
When you listen to a man pray, you know his mind.
“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
One of the things I tell seminary students is that when they finish their sermons not to pray at the end. They should instead just say “Amen” and then shut up. The problem, especially when you first start preaching, is that you will try to fix the sermon in the closing prayer. Trust me: It’s too late.
That’s not true with Jesus. Jesus wasn’t like us. His life was so integrated that when he prayed, he preached. And when he preached, he prayed.
If you want to know the essence of Jesus’ teaching, listen to him pray. And as you listen to him pray, listen to his message. It’s all about love. Love is at the very heart of everything Jesus prayed for us.
There’s an old story about an orphan at an orphanage. There was a large tree that hung over the wall and onto the sidewalk in front of the orphanage. One day the orphanage head saw one of the little girls hesitantly walk to the tree, climb up the wall, and put something in the tree. He waited until she left and out of curiosity, reached over and found a note: “My name is Sarah. Will somebody love me?”
I hate talking about love. We all overuse the word so much that it has lost meaning and we’ve stopped listening altogether. In fact, I don’t even know how to say it.
When Jesus came into our world, he whispered his love as a baby so as not to scare us. When Jesus died on the cross, it was a declaration, “I love you…Is that okay?”
When you listen to a man pray, you know his pain.
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).
Jesus was always clear in the fact that we live in a fallen world. It’s a hard and painful place.
I get up early in the morning to pray. I pray about everything, including my own pain. People who claim, “I never pray for myself, just for others” aren’t telling the truth. We are desperate people in great need. I pray about my broken fingernail…money…my fears…my worries…and you. I tell God everything.
Jesus did too. Even now, and later in the garden, we can see the pain of the Son going to his Father and telling him where it hurt. You can too.
When you listen to a man pray, you know his joy.
“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). “But now I am coming to you…” (John 17:13).
If I ever speak in tongues and dance, it will be while I pray.
Sometimes we Christians simply don’t get it. We’re so serious in our prayers…while Jesus was joyful. Jesus was remembering Home and, as a result, his joy was palpable.
The principle: The darkness is dark in direct proportion to how much you have seen the light. And the corollary to that principle: The light is light in direct proportion to how much you have seen the darkness.
When you listen to a man pray, you know his heart.
When we listen to Jesus pray—right before his death and facing the most terrible pain any man or woman has ever faced—we were on his heart.
“Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (John 17:6). “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9). “I have guarded them” (John 17:12). “For their sake I consecrate myself” (John 17:19). “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20).
I wish you had known my mother. When we get Home, I’ll introduce you to her. She was very strong but wasn’t manipulative. I have no doubt that she is, right now, in heaven straightening out God.
We were with my mother in the months leading up to her death. I wanted to call all my friends and say, “Hey, come and see a godly woman die.” She had her friends visit to say goodbye and told them that she loved them. She called her grandson and his girlfriend, and asked if they loved each other. She talked to me and told me she was so proud of me. She told my wife Anna how much she loved her. As I saw this going on, I began to realize that my mother wasn’t thinking about dying…she was thinking about us.
Jesus isn’t thinking about dying. He’s thinking about us. We are on his heart.
Hebrews 7:25 is an amazing verse: Jesus “lives to make intercession [to pray] for them.”
Jesus is praying.
Jesus is praying for you.
Time to Draw Away
Read John 17 & Hebrews 4:14-16
What does it mean to you that Jesus has you in his heart…and he is praying for you? How does that make you feel? Jesus identifies with your pain. Jesus loves and cherishes you. Let that sink in. And don’t be afraid to let it go to your head.
Read more of Steve’s Devotionals here