“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
– John 15:11-15
When someone offers to pray for you, they are offering you a blessing and a gift that is worth more than all the silver and gold you can amass. Often, I receive letters from people all over the world who say that they are lifting my congregation and me up in prayer. I do not know these people, yet they are praying for me.
I thank God for those who continue to pray for my congregation and me. They are prayer warriors who constantly make prayer petitions for us.
Last Sunday was the Seventh Sunday after Easter, the last Sunday in the Easter festival. The last Sunday after Easter follows three days after Ascension Day or 40 days after Easter.
In the text, Jesus speaks words of encouragement and assurance in a beautiful prayer. The words of this prayer are quite powerful. They also cover us in the world today.
Our Lord prays for the unity of his disciples, his small company of followers. He prays that they remain focused in him and the cross, that they not fall apart.
He requests that they remain one in heart and mind. This unity, he prays, would be as the unity between him and the Father. This prayer is most appropriate because, almost immediately after the ascension of our Lord, the church came remarkably close to disintegration.
Even though he left them in the world, they were not of the world. He prayed that the Father would protect them while they were in the world because, while in the world, they would encounter the scorn of the world.
They would have a disruptive ministry and they would face persecution. However, even though they would meet up with great difficulty, the Father will protect them.
This prayer is also for the whole Christian church. This is our assurance that the Lord is with us as we live out our faith and advance the proclamation of the gospel.
Jesus’ prayer is very much appropriate for us in the church today. We are to remain in the word and close to God through his spirit. That is why Jesus prayed that the Father “sanctify them in the truth”; “thy word is truth”.
It does not matter what the world says or how the people of the world react. God is on our side. He said that he will protect us and that he will be with us always.
Therefore, when the going gets tough, let us go to him in prayer. He said, “ask and it will be given”. Like Jesus, let us pray for the unity of the church and for a change of heart for those who spurn the gospel.
Despite the apparent gloom that hovered over the disciples after the resurrection, they prevailed. Today, even though we, too, have our gloom, our disappointments, our frustrations and discouraging moments, we, too, will prevail.
We will because Jesus prayed for our unity and preservation. He protects us and keeps us doing what is right. Yes, God is on our side. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at the Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: email@example.com; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.