Lord, Teach Us To Pray
Reflection on John 17
“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed” (Mk. 1:35).
What was it like to see Jesus pray? Time and again, the disciples watched Him go off to seek solitude, early in the morning or late at night. Occasionally, they were close enough to observe Him conversing with the Father. At other times, they prayed with Him. For three years they were around this mysterious and intimate dialogue taking place between the Son and His Father. They must have been drawn by this, desiring a like intimacy.
“Lord, teach us to pray,” they asked Jesus one day. And He answered, “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father…’” (Lk. 11:1-2; Mt. 6:9). Father. How often the disciples heard Jesus utter this word, revealing the relationship that set the tone of His prayer.
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” (Lk. 10:21).
“Father…I know that you always hear me…” (Jn. 11:41-42).
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…” (Mt. 26:39).
He is My Father and your Father (Jn. 20:17), the Lord tells us, and so you should pray confidently, as His beloved children.
How did Jesus pray? Though we could never plumb the depths, the evangelists do give us little glimpses into His prayer. They tell us, for instance, that Jesus prayed before choosing the Twelve (Lk. 6:12-16); He asked “Father, glorify your name” (Jn. 12:28); and He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail (Lk. 22:32). Adoration, thanksgiving, blessing, petition; in silence, out loud; apart from the crowds, with others—we see Jesus praying in various ways.
There is one time, however, when the veil is lifted just a little more. It is the night of the Last Supper. The Apostles are gathered with Jesus in the Upper Room. He has shocked them by his humility and outpouring of love—kneeling before each one to wash his feet. He has spoken of betrayal; Judas has left. After discoursing with them of many things, including His departure, Jesus lifts His eyes to heaven and prays.
Can you imagine the silence, the rapt attention of Jesus’ companions? They take in every word; John remembers them so well that he is able to set this prayer down in writing. “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son…so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.” Jesus asks for the Cross, for eternal life will be offered to us once He has accomplished the Father’s will through His Passion, death and Resurrection. “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world,” the Lord says. That is, He has shown us the Father, the merciful Shepherd Who seeks His lost sheep. “They are yours,” He goes on to pray, “and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine…keep them in your name…. Consecrate them in the truth….” Guard and protect them, Father, He asks. “I pray…also for those who will believe in me through their word….” Yes, that is us. “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me….” I can only think that the Apostles were just as moved as I am by Jesus’ desire for each one of us. He wants us to be with Him, to remain securely in Him.
Might I suggest that you and I read this passage anew? In a very real sense this Scripture (as the living Word of God) opens the door to the intimate exchange between Jesus and His Father. Jesus is indeed our intercessor Who prays for us and leads us to the Father. And His desire for us to be with Him remains. So, let us pray with confidence, “Our Father,” knowing we are His beloved children and are invited into the intimacy of the exchange of Love—the mysterious and beautiful life of the Most Holy Trinity.
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR