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June 1-7, 2011–Take It to the Lord in Prayer

Contributed by Dennis Sepper, University Pastor, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA


Warm-up Question

How many friends have you checked in on today by text, Facebook or cell phone?

An Unexpected Message…

A couple of months ago and email showed up in my inbox.  When I opened the email, the message read, “Are you the Pastor Dennis Sepper who lived in Cincinnati?”  It was from the former organist of the church I served there.  I have to admit that it felt good to know someone was thinking of me and searching for me on the web.  That unexpected email led to a renewed connection with someone I cared about but our paths just led to different places and we lost touch.

About a month ago the student congregation at my school received a postcard from a group called the Gideons (these are the folks who leave Bibles in hotels and who may handout small New Testaments at your school or church).  The postcard stated that the local Gideon chapter prayed for our church’s mission and ministry by name and they wished us well.  The students of the congregation were touched to think that the Gideons would care enough that they would remember them by name in prayer.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever received a message or a Facebook friend request from someone that you didn’t expect?  How did it make you feel?
  • Has anyone told you that they prayed for you by name?  If so, how does knowing that fact affect your day or your life?  Does it give you more energy?  Does it make you more hopeful?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, June 5, 2011 (Seventh Sunday of Easter)

Acts 1:6-14

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

As you may have noticed, our Gospel this week is really a prayer.  It is a prayer spoken by Jesus, directed to God, right after Jesus had eaten this last meal with the disciples and right before the passion and crucifixion of Jesus begins.  Also, you may have noted that Jesus uses the word “glory” quite a few times in this prayer.  You should know that in the Gospel John whenever the “glory” of Jesus is mentioned it is a reference not only to the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension to heaven, but it also includes Jesus’ suffering and death.  In John’s view the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension is how Jesus is glorified and how Jesus gives glory to God.  There is no way our experience can be the same as Jesus’ but we know what it means when, to experience a success, we have to work hard to achieve it.  Sometimes we have to “suffer” for a greater good.  As Christians we are a resurrection people but we walk the way of the cross.

In this final prayer, Jesus’ character is revealed and it is consistent with what he has shown throughout his life.  Jesus prays that God be glorified (verses 1-6), he then moves on to pray for the disciples (verses 6-19) and then Jesus prays for us! (See verses 20-27 which are not a part of our text this week but it’s only fair to look at the whole prayer of Jesus.)

What Jesus asks for in this prayer is that the close relationship that God and Jesus have that this closeness might now include the disciples and the Church throughout the world and throughout the centuries.  What is more, Jesus wants us to experience the love that God has for Jesus and Jesus has for us and Jesus asks God to

Prayer is a truly amazing thing.  God has given us the privilege to talk to God directly anytime we want or need to pray.  We don’t have to address God with special words, we don’t have to pray through a pastor or anyone else and there are no special rituals we have to perform to get God’s attention.  Our prayer can be as simple as saying “God, I need you.”  Prayer is one of the ways we stay connected to God.  Like texting or using Facebook to stay connected to our friends, prayer is how we stay connected to God.

Think about this: Jesus knows he is headed to his suffering and death and yet Jesus takes the time to pray for his disciples, who will deny and abandon him, and Jesus takes the time to pray for us.  Like that person who sent me an email or like the Gideon folks praying for the students at my school, it is a little bit of unexpected grace that Jesus prays for us that we might experience the love of God and Jesus and share that love with others!

Discussion Questions

  • How do you view prayer?  Do you see it as a privilege or as an obligation?  Why do you feel that way?  Do you see your personal prayer as an informal conversation with God or as a formal thing?
  • What do you think about the fact that just before his suffering and death Jesus prayed for his disciples and us?
  • Do you pray often or only when you need something from God?
  • If prayer is difficult, what would make prayer easier for you?

Activity Suggestions

Think of someone who might be surprised to hear from you.  It could be a grandparent or a distant relative or a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Then write a note, ask to be their friend on Facebook, or text them and let them know you are thinking about them.  Better yet, let them know that you have prayed for them.  If that unexpected grace feels good for you, imagine how it will make them feel.

Closing Prayer

Abba, our heavenly Father, you are indeed worthy of our praise and worship.  We thank you for Jesus who was so loving that he prayed for us before his suffering and death.  By your Holy Spirit help us to glorify you in word and deed as we walk the way of the cross following Jesus.  Help us to love one another, along with the stranger, that all the world might know your love.  To you be the glory and the honor forever and ever.  Amen.