What is your history with prayer?
I grew up in a Catholic family and even attended Catholic school for a few years as a kid. I learned to pray memorized prayers from various saints and church traditions, but I did not much understand a personal relationship with God or conversational prayer.
In college, I became a Christian reading the Bible and attended what might have been the first Bible study. The group leader meant well but put me in an awkward spot when he asked me to open our time together in prayer. I had no clue how to pray in a group and so I told him I needed to learn how to do that. He kindly opened us up in prayer which got me off the hook. By hearing other people pray, I started to learn how to pray for myself. It was kind of like learning to talk as a child – you hear other people speak and learn how to speak for yourself.
Perhaps the best way to learn how to pray is by listening to Jesus pray. In John 17, the entire chapter is the transcript of the longest recorded prayer that we have from Jesus. In it, Jesus prays for:
1) Himself (17:1-5)
2) Christians (17:6-19)
3) Non-Christians (17:20-26)
The prayer is not found anywhere else in the Bible and if the Holy Spirit had not prompted John to write it down, it would have been lost forever.
The prayer is sometimes called the “High Priestly Prayer”, and the “Holy of Holies” of the New Testament. The Scottish preacher John Knox had John 17 read to him every day as he as dying to prepare his soul for eternity. The Irish preacher Marcus Rainsford published a 500-page commentary on the prayer. The bottom line is that John 17 is a big deal. If Jesus needed to pray, we all do. If Jesus did not feel bad praying for His needs, neither should we.
Here’s how Jesus’ prayer begins as we learn how to pray for our own needs as He did:
John 17:1-5: “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.’”
Schedule some time today, even right now, and let God know what your personal needs are in prayer.