Sermon for the Thursday Fellowship 5th of June 2014, ‘The Power of Prayer’

Acts: 30; 23: 6-11

John 17: 20-end

The power of prayer

May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

There are times in all our lives when we are very low. When the world seems against us and all hope is lost. The special blessing of being a Christian is when at times like this a fellow Christian says ‘I will pray for you’. You may have said it yourself when a friend is in distress. You concentrate your mind then lift this fellow child of God to our ever loving heavenly Father in your imagination, and ask him to do for them whatever best meets their needs. It is good to try and put ourselves mentally in our friend’s shoes as we pray for them. Then we may better understand what they most need; we may even see that there are things we ourselves could do to help. Or we may not ask for anything specific, because we don’t know what will be the most helpful for our friend in the long term. But if you surround the person you are praying for with love, God may be able to help them because you have prayed. Love is a very powerful force; and as Tennyson wrote, ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of’.

What a comfort it is, then, to know that you are being prayed for. At times of loneliness, to know that others are thinking of you. In times of danger, to know that they are asking God to protect you. When you have no time to pray for yourself, or are not sure what to ask for, it is marvellous to know that others love you enough to hold you up in their minds before God. Then God’s love can combine with their love to bring you healing and strength. But you have a special friend, a very powerful friend, how much more wonderful it is to know that that friend, Jesus himself, is praying for you. And be sure he is, because he has promised to do so.

The seventeenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel has often been called the High priestly Prayer. The Jewish High Priest would cleanse and sanctify himself before going into the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple to pray for the people on the Day of Atonement. Similarly Jesus prays to his disciples: ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. So you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth’.

Then he goes on to pray, ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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’. That is you and me he is talking about. We are the ones who have come to believe in Jesus because of the words of those first disciples. Jesus was and is praying for us. How wonderful is that! In Stainer’s oratorio The Crucifixion come the words:

Wonder of wonders, oh! How can it be?

Jesus, the crucified, pleads for me!

Jesus is still praying for us. This is called the week after Ascension, to remind us that at the end of his life on earth, Jesus went to be at God’s right hand, where he continues to ask his Father to bless us. We are one in love with Jesus, because we love him. Well, Jesus wants that unity to go on into the next life. He wants us to be as close to his Father, in love, as he is, now that he is in heaven. So he prays. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ Jesus wants you to be with him in heaven and to see his glory. If ever you are feeling down or lonely, and wondering whether you will ever make it to heaven; if you feel unable to pray for yourself, do not despair! Jesus is praying for you. With Jesus as a friend, rooting for you, you have no need to fear, ever!

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