The Love of Divine Prayer

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Easter Sunday 7
May 29, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary : Jesus's final act is to pray for his friends and disciples. We are invited to the kind of intimate relationship Jesus has with God, not as eavesdroppers, but as active participants in a lifestyle of divine love.

A woman who was scheduled to have a complex spinal surgery asked for many prayers from anyone who would listen before the surgery. Even people who didn't seem especially religious would hear her ask them to pray for her. Sometimes the plea would be in coded language, like "send me good vibes" or "I need healthy thoughts!" but always the sentiment in her heart was the same: she hoped they would pray for a positive outcome.

When the surgery went well, she said it was thanks to all those prayers. She was sure that the prayers had guided the surgeon's hand, had helped her nurses and assisted her to manage the pain after surgery. When the recovery became challenging, and even life-threatening at one point when it became clear that an emergency surgery would be necessary to clear up serious complications, she credited prayers with her ability to call for help when her body failed her. Prayer was what gave her nurses a level head and her surgeon an even demeanor under pressure. Prayer got her through. And when physical therapy was challenging, painful and seemed pointless, she cited prayer as the force that energized her and carried her through to successful outcomes and her return to a normal lifestyle. Even today, she will tell people that she could "feel the prayers" lifting her up and getting her through.


How do you feel when someone says they are praying for you? When asked about this, many people will say it makes them feel vulnerable, humbled, loved, cared for or maybe just a little weirded-out. It can be a strange and lovely experience to have friends, family or a community pray for you. It means that they are willing to ask God for what you need in ways you may not. They may identify needs you cannot see, they may intercede with words you do not have.

In these final moments of Jesus's life, he does not choose to preach one more time, or teach a final lesson. Instead, he chooses to share a meal with his closest friends and to pray for them. He demonstrates a deep and abiding love for his friends and followers by interceding for them before God. The prayer showcases the enduring bond Jesus has with God. Two members of the trinity, communing together with great concern for lowly humans.

As readers of the gospel of John, we get to eavesdrop on Jesus' prayer. Many have taken from the prayer that Jesus wishes for us to evangelize. The prayer seems concerned about people in the world not knowing God, making it easy to assume that our role is to proclaim, instruct and share what we know about God. Christians have done these things for decades, even centuries, with various kinds of success.

Our evangelism has sometimes been rough-shod. It has sometimes ignored the needs and desires of others. It has downplayed other theologies and cultures. At times, our evangelism has sought to erase whole communities by abolishing their traditions.

Jesus's prayer was not that we would aggressively evangelize about God. Jesus prayed that we would be brought closer to the divine energy and light that created us in love. He wants the world to know God through an intimacy with God, not through a pushy ad campaign.

Intimacy with God

At a recent Hindu engagement party and prayer service, a woman stood up to give her testimony. She talked for a long time about how meeting her guru, or religious leader, and learning more about her god had changed her life. She shared about how hard her life was before, about how much she was striving, but said her relationships and her work were suffering. She explained, with tears, that she did not know how much more god wanted for her until she experienced it for herself. She feels fulfilled now, because she has a relationship with god. What does this mean for her? She told the guests of the party that there is divine energy everywhere, but we are often too consumed with our lives, relationships, our emails and text messages, our work and our businesses to stop and experience the strong pulse of divine energy that is all around us. She suggested that everyone find five minutes each day to be grateful for our blessings. She added that when we feel despair, we should know that the divine one who created us is always with us. She described this as a current of energy that we only need to "plug into."

Very likely, to the other Hindu guests this seemed like a long and rambling speech about one woman's personal experience. They were probably ready to get on with dinner. But, to a Christian outsider, it offered a different perspective on the intimacy of a relationship with God. Obviously, the Hindu woman has a completely different belief system and an entirely different tradition and experience. Many would argue that her god is not the same as the Christian God. Some would even say it is blasphemy to listen at all! However, sometimes it takes getting outside ourselves and hearing and experiencing something completely new and different in order to understand our own experiences. For her, god was like a divine electrical current moving through, around and among us. She maintained that we need only to be still a moment to feel it and experience it. She articulated the possibility of an intimacy with a divine energy that speaks to the kind of relationship that is possible in our religious lives.

Buoyed by prayer

Back to the woman who had spinal surgery. Immediately afterward, the woman was in excruciating pain. She asked her nurses if this was normal, and they said it was. Her surgery was complicated and long and tremendous pain was to be expected. They gave her more pain medication, but that didn't help. She knew it was bad when suddenly she couldn't feel her feet or her legs. The loss of sensation traveled up her body until she couldn't feel her arms. She knew she had to get help, but she couldn't speak. No longer able to move her arms to reach for the call button, she somehow managed to wiggle her thumb until the button was just beneath the pad of her thumb. In a herculean effort, she forced her thumb to hit the button. When the nurse came, she saw immediately that there was a serious problem. She called for help and the surgeon came. They cleared the MRI room and found a large bleed on her spine. This needed to be corrected immediately before the paralysis was severe and permanent. She was rushed to the operating room.

She still isn't sure how she managed to press that call button. Maybe it was angels surrounding her, giving her the courage to try one more time. But she really believes it was the prayers others said on her behalf, not because prayer is like saying a magical phrase, but because others took the time to commune with God and feel, hear and sense the pulse of divine love and creative energy on her behalf. Her panic consumed her. She could not "tap into" God, but she didn't need to. Others helped her when she could not help herself.

Alive in prayer

This is what Jesus's prayer is. It is an intercession for all of us, that we will take the opportunity to experience the abiding love of God that bathes us every moment of every day. It is a spoken hope that we will feel the Creator's energy pulsing through our veins and give thanks for our lives. It is the expectation that we will join the Father and the Son in the brightness of eternal light. It is an invitation to a simple intimacy with God.

When we can rest in the warmth of God's love, we live our lives with an ease that becomes contagious. Others want to be around us and want to know how to have the confidence and courage that God's love gives us. This is how we can help others believe in God. With the assurance of God within us, we can have the strength to pray for others when they cannot carry on alone. We can bolster each other and keep the light of life alive for all of us. This is life in Christ.

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