If you followed my blog the last two weeks, I showed you how God gives us four very specific directions for praying for the suffering NON-believer and the suffering believer. Now it’s time for Pastor Wilson to turn our attention in Lesson #12 to Jesus’ famous example of personal prayer (John 17:1-26) just before His death and the often misunderstood request He asks God to give us.
God Is Most Glorified
If the first five verses of John 17:1-26, Jesus lays down a profound truth. He tells us that God has been glorified through the work of His Son. By that we know that God is most glorified in the saving work of Christ providing redemption to sinners. While we don’t yet share fully in that glory (only at our glorification), we can, in this life, bring glory to God. Paul writes: “So glorify God in your body.” Living life dependent on Christ and His work – this is living to the glory of God. Glory to God comes not through our own work, but through Christ’s work alone, working in us. So, we do need to be very careful when saying that we are bringing glory to God with our beautiful nature photography or our winning touchdown.
Following the example of the Lord’s Prayer, we should begin all of our personal/private prayers and corporate prayers with seeking glory for the only person that can be glorified: God.
Be glorified in my suffering…
Be glorified in my success…
Be glorified in my work…
Be glorified in my play…
Be glorified in my family…etc.
When my children were young, I prayed that they would be well behaved, be excellent students, get a great job and marry the right person; all because I knew it would reflect well on me. I wanted to be glorified through them. Now I know better. No matter what issue they have, I just pray that they live lives that bring God glory through their salvation and obedience to Christ. I know that without that, nothing they do will be worth anything to God.
“The only measure of a man or a woman is their surrender to Christ.” Pastor Steve Wilson
Next in John 17:1-26, Jesus turns His attention to those closest to Him. In verse 13 of this amazing and instructional prayer, Jesus says, “I am coming to You [God] now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them.” Who was He talking about and what exactly is the full measure of His joy that He asks God to give us?
At first, He was talking about those closest to Him, the apostles. Then He included all people who will become Christians because He foreknew them before the earth was formed (Ephesians 1:3-14). In verse 9 He says, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world…” This is true intercession; praying for those whom you have a personal, intimate knowledge of.
The Way to Happiness
The full measure of joy that He is asking God to give all of us isn’t a hippy-skippy happiness. The joy He is referring to is His doing the Father’s Will even while He was being tortured and killed. Yep, the Jesus we say we love just wished us some bad stuff while here on earth so that we could become like Him. This peculiar type of joy Jesus speaks of is the same joy that works to make us ‘mature and complete’ (James 1:2-4). In Hebrews 12:1-11 we come to understand that all of our trials are a unique form of discipline that sets us apart and legitimizes our place in God’s forever kingdom.
God gives us ample instruction as to how to persevere through these trials. Do we imagine God wasted His time doing so? I think not. He was giving us the best solution to the bully that is beating up your six-year-old, or the news of your niece’s unplanned pregnancy. Prayer for God to be glorified! It is misguided to pray for health, happiness or any other comfort, while failing to embrace God’s sovereign plan to bring about His own glory. Temporal ‘happiness’ comes only one way: friendship with the world, but that makes God an enemy and robs us of any true joy.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2: 15-17)
Christians are guaranteed to be hated in this world and we will endure tremendous sufferings before we die. If we and our prayers are focused on the relief of our pain, then we miss the purpose of suffering for the glory of the Gospel. Perhaps it’s time for us Christians to want Christ’s joy, real lasting joy, instead of running from it.
I encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to the Always Praying audio series from Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church in Bowling Green, to go back and be immersed in the foundational theology of prayer. Each lesson has an accompanying blog post summarization found in Views from the Pew which began April 13, 2017.