When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (ESV)
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Believe What We Pray and Pray What We Believe
Thursday of Advent 2
10 December 2015
Have you ever had your mouth run ahead of your brain? I certainly have. While rattling off words of which I think to be witty repartee, I easily stumble into a misuse of my mouth and say things that are either hurtful or understood to be hurtful. Once the mouth runs away what comes out of it cannot be recalled. It does terrible damage that cannot easily be undone. It hurts far worse than whips and scourges. What comes out of our mouths hurts or is understood to be hurtful by those who hear it (which are functionally the same). God did not create the mouth for the frivolous uses for which we employ it. Adam's mouth was created by His heavenly Father to speak the truth, so that his naming would make a thing what it was (Gn 2:16
). Instead, Adam was silent, declining to use his mouth to defend God's Word when our enemy misquoted God in the garden. Adam stood there like a cigar store Indian, refusing to name the truth of God's Word as the divinely appointed priest of his own household. He who named things what they are, would not repeat rightly God's word when necessary. Then Adam went from bad to worse. He found his tongue only to accuse God and the woman and to excuse himself (Gn 3:12; Rm 2:15
). How quickly he perverted the gift of speech.
How different the second Adam is from the first. Christ Jesus never used frivolous words. Whenever He opened His mouth divine grace came from it. In John 14-16
our Lord repeated His teaching to encourage His disciples in it on the night of His betrayal. Then without any interval he lifted up His eyes and offered petitions to His heavenly Father (Jn 17
). Teaching the truth led to prayer. Christ's mouth was formed around the most blessed words: those which "delivered the goods." For like the first Adam, Christ's words named things so. What He said came to be. Unlike the first Adam, however, that never changed; Jesus never was silent when divine speech was necessary. He was always silent when divine speech was unnecessary. Jesus prays this way to show us what the life of faith looks like. It begins in the word of God and proceeds to doxology in prayer. The conversation of Jesus with His Father in prayer was recorded by the Apostle for our benefit. It shows so beautifully that truth and worship are inseparable.
The great theologians have all been men of fervent prayer. They were always driven to pray the doctrine, as Jesus was. They were never too busy. The harder they worked and the more that was demanded of them the more they prayed. Martin Luther testified that when the pressure of his labor was greatest he spent most time in prayer and accomplished most as well. Daily involvement in theology and the trials of this life simply overflows in prayer. So it was for Jesus, placed as he was between the gospel message that he delivered to the disciples and his imminent arrest and crucifixion, by which He put that gospel into effect. He had to show us what prayerful petitions sounded like and how confidently and simply they could be offered.
How little we pray, we who have most to pray about! Jesus had far less reason to offer specific petitions to His heavenly Father than we do and yet He prayed much more and much more fervently than we do. His will was always perfectly united with His Father's will and yet He still prayed. We should pray that our Father would give us such a spirit of prayer that we will believe what we pray and pray what we believe.
Cyril of Alexandria
"Having given His disciples what is sufficient for salvation, and encouraged them by appropriate words and arguments to a more accurate understanding of His teachings, and made them best able to battle against temptation, and confirmed the courage of each one (Jn 14-16
), Jesus immediately changes the form of His speech for our benefit. He turns it into a kind of prayer, allowing no interval to lapse between His discourse to them and His prayer to God the Father.
"He also suggested to us by His own conduct an admirable kind of life. For the man who aims at serving God ought, I think, to bear in mind that he should either be fond of discoursing to his brothers about things beneficial or necessary for their salvation. If he is not engaged in doing this he should hasten to employ the tongue in prayers to God. By doing this he will render it impossible for any random words to slip in. For in this way the governance of the tongue may be well and suitably ordered. Is it not quite obvious that, in vain conversations, sinful things may very readily come out of a man? Moreover, a wise man has said: "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Pro 10:19)."
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, 17.1
Dear Father, give us such a spirit of prayer that we will believe what we pray and pray what we believe, that our lives would ever be a high doxology. Keep us steadfast in Your Word that we might always form our mouths around it, that others might know of Your mercy. Give us courage to lift our eyes to You and offer petitions in Your presence, as did Your precious Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.
For Barbara Wood, who is ill, that Christ her Lord would grant her strength and peace
For Cohen Cunningham, who has an infection, that the Lord Jesus would bring him healing
For Jo Lodholz, that her heavenly Father would send His holy angels and hold her close to His heart and protect her
For Anthony Steinbronn, that the Lord would give him a full recovery from hip surgery
Art: VOUET, Simon Annunciation (1640s)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015