Recently I got to teach Sunday school lesson #24 “This is Life Eternal” which covers roles of the Holy Ghost and the Intercessory Prayer.
One of the questions in the lesson really made me think and I want to post some of the thoughts I had about it and what I learned.
Here’s the question:
Even though Jesus knew that he was about to suffer intensely, for whom did he pray? (see John 17:6-9, 20)”
Here are the verses referred to:
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. . . .
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
Looking up those scriptures, the answer was, He prayed for:
--those who believed in Him
--those who would believe on Christ through His disciples words
Why did He pray for them (and us, since we are ultimately included in the effects of that prayer)?
Easy answer: Because Jesus loved His disciples (and us).
But what might He have been worried about that brought Him to petition the Father so feelingly as is recorded in John 17?
I admit that I had to think really hard about this. I admit that I’m not as caring as I probably should be; I have a hard time remembering to pray for others, so I had to work hard to imagine why someone else would, even Jesus.
I think Jesus was profoundly concerned about how His death would spiritually affect His disciples. Consider that He knew why He’d have to die, and even though He’d tried to prepare His disciples for a while to accept the prospect of what had to happen, He must have seen that they were still clueless and that that they had misconceptions about His role. He was also concerned about how His prolonged absence after His ascension would affect them, whether they’d be able to carry on and endure.
What can we learn from this?
I think that if we follow Christ’s example, we will care about and pray for those who will be affected by things that happen to us, especially when our injuries or sicknesses, temporary absence, or death is likely to put a burden upon others. Jesus reached out to others and prayed for others when He could have been very self-focused.
I hope I can remember that the next time something happens to me.