in the school of prayer - lesson twenty-seven

(After writing this post, I realized I'd written it on the wrong chapter!  Rather than write another post, I'll just post lesson twenty-six next week.  Sorry about that!)

Want to learn more about building a life of prayer?  Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.

As we near the end of our study (4 more lessons) we begin to focus more on Christ Himself, the great Intercessor and the Author and Perfector of our faith.  This chapter looks at Jesus' prayer to the Father in John 17, given on His final night with His disciples before the cross.

And now in closing, He Himself proceeds to pray.  To let His disciples have the joy of knowing what His intercession for them in heaven as their High Priest will be, He gives this precious legacy of His prayer to the Father.  He does this at the same time because they as priests are to share in His work of intercession, that they and we might know how to  perform this holy work.  In the teaching of our Lord on this last night, we have learned to understand that these astonishing prayer-promises have not been given in our own behalf, but in the interest of the Lord and His kingdom:  it is from the Lord Himself alone that we can learn what the prayer in His Name is to be and to obtain.  We have understood that to pray in His Name is to pray in perfect unity with Himself:  the high-priestly prayer will teach all that the prayer in the Name of Jesus may ask and expect.

Have we learned this yet?  All the promises, all the hope of prayer is for the fulfillment of HIS Kingdom, not our own.  Now we know why we have so often been discouraged and disappointed with prayer - we were praying for our kingdoms, not His.

Now Dr. Murray takes us through a closer look at the prayer of Christ.

First of all, Jesus prays for Himself, for His being glorified, that so He may glorify the Father....With the utmost boldness He asks that the Father may glorify Him, that He may now be and do for His people all He has undertaken.

Disciple of Jesus!  here you have the first lesson in your work of priestly intercession, to be learned from the example of your great High Priest.  To pray in the Name of Jesus is to pray in unity, in sympathy with Him.  As the Son began His prayer by making clear His relation to the Father, pleading His work and obedience and His desire to see the Father glorified, do so too.  [...] This is praying in the Name, in the very words, in the Spirit of Jesus, in union with Jesus Himself.  Such prayer has power.  If with Jesus you glorify the Father, the Father will glorify Jesus by doing what you ask in His Name.  It is only when your own personal relation on this point, like Christ’s, is clear with God, when you are glorifying Him, and seeking all for His glory, that like Christ, you will have power to intercede for those around you.

Next Jesus begins to pray for His disciples.  The chief mark of a disciple, Dr. Murray tells us, is that they "have received Christ’s word."

Just like the Lord, each believing intercessor has his own immediate circle for whom he first prays.  Parents have their children, teachers their pupils, pastors their flocks, all workers their special charge, all believers those whose care lies upon their hearts.  It is of great consequence that intercession should be personal, pointed, and definite.

This circle of people whom God has given us to love is where we begin the ministry of Christ.

"...our first prayer must always be that they may receive the word.  But this prayer will not avail unless with our Lord we say, ‘I have given them Thy word:’ it is this gives us liberty and power in intercession for souls.  Not only pray for them, but speak to them.  And when they have received the word, let us pray much for their being kept from the evil one, for their being sanctified through that word.  Instead of being hopeless or judging or giving up those who fall, let us pray for our circle, ‘Father!  Keep them in Thy Name;’ ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth.’  Prayer in the Name of Jesus availeth much:  ‘What ye will shall be done unto you.’"

And then, as the Lord did, we cast the net wider:

His priestly heart enlarges itself to embrace all places and all time, and He prays that all who belong to Him may everywhere be one, as God’s proof to the world of the divinity of His mission, and then that they may ever be with Him in His glory.

The disciple of Jesus, who has first in his own circle proved the power of prayer, cannot confine himself within its limits:   he prays for the Church universal and its different branches.  He prays specially for the unity of the Spirit and of love.  He prays for its being one in Christ, as a witness to the world that Christ, who hath wrought such a wonder as to make love triumph over selfishness and separation, is indeed the Son of God sent from heaven.  Every believer ought to pray much that the unity of the Church, not in external organizations, but in spirit and in truth, may be made manifest.

Finally, Dr. Murray looks at the mode in which Christ prays these things. 

Jesus says, ‘FATHER!  I WILL.’  On the ground of His right as Son, and the Father’s promise to Him, and His finished work, He might do so.  The Father had said to Him, ‘Ask of me, and I will give Thee.’  He simply availed Himself of the Father’s promise.

Jesus gave His disciples the same promise.  And at last we see what the promise truly means:

"Abiding in Him, in a living union with Him in which man is nothing and Christ all, the believer has the liberty to take up that word of His High Priest and, in answer to the question ‘What wilt thou?’ to say, ‘FATHER!  I WILL all that Thou hast promised.’  This is nothing but true faith; this is honouring God:  to be assured that such confidence in saying what I will is indeed acceptable to Him.  At first sight, our heart shrinks from the expression; we feel neither the liberty nor the power to speak thus.  It is a word for which alone in the most entire abnegation of our will grace will be given, but for which grace will most assuredly be given to each one who loses his will in his Lord’s.  He that loseth his will shall find it; he that gives up his will entirely shall find it again renewed and strengthened with a Divine Strength.  ‘FATHER!  I WILL:’  this is the keynote of the everlasting, ever-active, all-prevailing intercession of our Lord in heaven.  It is only in union with Him that our prayer avails; in union with Him it avails much.  If we but abide in Him, living, and walking, and doing all things in His Name; if we but come and bring each separate petition, tested and touched by His Word and Spirit, and cast it into the mighty stream of intercession that goes up from Him, to be borne upward and presented before the Father;—we shall have the full confidence that we receive the petitions we ask:  the ‘Father!  I will’ will be breathed into us by the Spirit Himself.  We shall lose in Him, and become nothing, to find that in our impotence we have power and prevail."

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Let's pray:

Dearest Lord,

You have opened our eyes and now we see.  For so long we were bound up in our own petty desires, railing against heaven when Your promises seemed weak and confusing.  We did not understand what it meant to pray in Your name, to lose our wills to the will of the Father.  Thank You for teaching and revealing. 

We pray today for each person reading here, that the power of this revelation will illuminate their hearts and draw them to join You in Your priestly ministry.  Let the work of God burn in our hearts.  Speak to us in the morning, about the house, on the way to work, in the afternoon, in the quiet of the evening.  Speak to us and urge us to prayer.  If we have yet to begin praying for that first circle of people, Lord, teach us to pray for them.  If we have yet to cast wider and pray for Your Church, Lord, teach us to pray. 

May we follow You in the work of Your kingdom.

In Christ's precious name,

amen

Next week I'll be sharing my thoughts from Lesson Twenty-Eight: ‘Father, Not what I will’ Or, Christ, The Sacrifice.  I hope you'll join us.

Previous entries in this series can be found here:  Wednesday Prayer Series