Jesus tells us to pray. However, a sister in Christ asked me ‘What is the point of prayer if God is just going to do what he wants to do anyway?’ It’s a good question.
Jesus tells us to pray, and that alone might be a good enough reason to do it. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to do things that don’t have a purpose. He talked about prayer a lot and he prayed a lot. Let’s look at how Jesus prayed and see what we can learn from it.
For Jesus, prayer wasn’t just about asking for things. When Jesus prayed, the beloved son was talking with his loving Father in a very deep way. So, when we read about Jesus praying, we get a glimpse into the very special love relationship that exists between the Son and the Father.
This relationship between Jesus and his Father is so outside our normal human experience that it is, probably, impossible for us to fully understand it. But we can get glimpses. Jesus tells us that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). Jesus also tells us that he is in the Father and the Father is in him and (here’s the amazing bit) Jesus prays that we, his followers, will become part of this oneness experienced by the Father and the Son and (here’s the even more amazing bit) when we become part of this oneness – one with the Father, one with the Son and one with each other – the effect is going to be that the world will be convinced that God sent Jesus.
“My prayer is not for them (Jesus’ disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity*. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23).*
When we pray, we are taking our first steps into joining this indescribable relationship that the Son has with his Father. It is very difficult to even begin to understand a relationship that is so outside our human experience. It seems impossible to imagine what communication in that relationship might be like. So, let’s talk about something that we can grasp. Let’s talk about communion (and I’m not talking about the sacrament we celebrate in our church services). I Googled the word “communion” and the first definition I got was “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level”. That’s a good definition of what “communion” means. When we love someone, we want to share thoughts and feelings with them. We want to be intimate with them. In other words, we want to be in communion with them. When Jesus prayed with his Father, he was in communion with him.
Prayer, at its deepest and best, is being in communion with God. It is sharing thoughts and feelings with God. It is being completely honest and truthful with God. It is being intimate with God. It is loving God in practice. Let’s pray that God will show us how we can be in communion with him when we pray.
*If you would like to read more about what it means to be one with other Christians, you might like to read the article “Why do Christians disagree?”, and other articles in the “Loving Others” category.