We’re still working through John with the students at church, and yesterday we made it to John 17, one of my all-time favourite chapters. (OK, I know I say that about a lot of chapters of the Bible…I just have a lot of favourites – I’m a twin, I like to be egalitarian about things). At the end we had a short talk which posed the question: do our priorities match the ones Jesus demonstrates as He prays to the Father so shortly before His death?
It’s a great question.
It’s a challenging question. But the more I think about it, the more it excites me.
I so easily slide into a routine of praying for my work, for the logistics of my day, for the health and wellbeing of family and friends etc. And all those are good things to pray for. But ultimately my prayer-horizon – which is the best indicator I know of my life-horizon – has shrunk to me living my little earthly life, with my little earthly concerns, and a bit of (often merely polite and left-over) thought for my nearest and dearest.
But Jesus‘ prayer-horizon, and inextricably His life-horizon, is huge. The words are so familiar to me that I find it easy to skim over them, but if I’m allowed to paraphrase, He prays:
“Father…glorify Me that in Me You might be shown to be utterly glorious” (v1)
“Father, keep My followers in Your hands…because they’re aliens and strangers here, they belong to the earth no more than I do, and the earth knows it” (v14,16)
“Father, keep My followers in Your hands…that their inexplicable, family bond of unity and mutual love and self-giving might perfectly reflect our relationships within the Trinity” (v11,20,22)
“Father, keep My followers in Your hands…that their unearthly love for each other and their witness to Your word might win the hearts of the world to Us” (v18,21,23)
“Father, keep My followers…that one day they might rejoice, when the Earth is remade, as they see, with perfect clarity, My glory – which is the radiance of Your glory and the exact representation of Your face” (v24)
Wow: Jesus’ prayer-horizon is God’s glory, and believers’ deepest, mysterious unity, and mission to the whole Earth… What a prayer-horizon. What a life-horizon!
How much more exciting would my life be if I this was my life-horizon. ….or rather: how much more exciting would my life be if I remembered that this is my life-horizon. Jesus has prayed it for me and defined my life-horizon already, it’s out of my hands. Now it’s just a matter of opening my eyes.
And the other thing I love about Jesus prayer is that it’s so saturated with this densely relational atmosphere: it’s what can make it a bit confusing – all the “You in me and I in You and they in Us and Us in them…” but it’s also what makes it so beautiful. It’s magnetic – how could you not want in on all that love? How could you not fall in love with the Father who loves the Son who loves the Father …so much that it all overflows to us and Jesus can say without a hint of dissembling that “You have ‘loved them even as You loved Me.” (V23)
He has loved us, even us – tiny, insignificant, raging, rebellious, sinful us – even as He has loved His Son…
What a life-horizon that is.