Probably too often, we think of prayer as an opportunity to talk to God.
Not nearly often enough do we use it as a profound opportunity to listen to God. When we do – listen, that is – it is quite possible to be stunned by the deep knowledge, creativity, compassion, wisdom, and forethought God can offer each one of us in every prayerful moment. God is always aware of the big plan – His Big Plan – while rarely do we look beyond our present circumstances, and then only dimly. God is big, we are small.
When Jesus is minutes away from His arrest by Jewish guards, hours away from his trials before Jewish leaders and Roman prelate Pontius Pilate, shortly after which He would be crucified by the Romans, His startling last words to His disciples spoke of nothing they could have imagined, asked for, or, until later, understood.
At that juncture, which we see in John 15-16-17, did any single one of the disciples have it in his mind to pray for all the things Jesus was about to bring into their lives, or the work of salvation He was going to complete for all humanity?
Who among the disciples would have prayed that Jesus fulfill His mission by giving Himself up to His own humiliating death? Who would have prayed for their joy to be complete? Who would have thought to ask for eternal life – for themselves? Or to learn the true and immutable name of God in loving relationship as only Jesus truly knew each of them? Who would have prayed for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit by which they later could understand many things, find peace in the Lord, and be comforted?
Who would have prayed for Jesus to be relieved of His loneliness as He was deserted by men? Who would have thought to ask Jesus to forgive them for deserting Him? Who would have known and prayed for the looming sacrifice of Jesus that would cover all their sins and restore humanity’s relationship with God Almighty forever?
Likely someone would have prayed for courage, but would they have included the prayer for the gift of conquest over sin? There’s no record that any prayer was offered by the disciples during this time: Jesus the son of God was doing all the talking.
Simply enough, any Jew you asked at that point in their history about what they expected of the promised “Messiah,” would have responded, “To kill the Romans.” The astute likely would also pray for the return of Israel with a King and a Kingdom.
Absolutely no praying person looked at Jesus and asked him to provide all of humanity with forgiveness, eternal love, eternal life, and intimate knowledge of the good, loving, and righteous God. No one prayed for their own pathway of faith and hope into the Kingdom of Heaven. Neither the disciples, family, nor friends who loved Jesus, nor the greatest minds of Israel trying to kill Him, saw any of that coming.
This is all to say, then, that when you’re not sure what to pray for, invite God to go ahead and do His thing. Then … be still and listen. You may be very surprised.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) notes that God and Jesus never asked a question to which they did not already know the answer. That makes it hard to argue with them. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.