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The Prayer of Jesus: Our call to unity, by John P. Lathrop

The Need of Humanity

Jesus’ prayer also shows us is that there is a need for the kind of prayer that he prayed. Jesus is not one to waste his time on frivolous, or meaningless, activities. Jesus knew that unity would be a challenge for his people, so he prayed about the matter. In fact, the need was so great that he did not refer it to an intercessory prayer group; he prayed for it himself! It is obviously a very significant need if the Son of God prays for something. Jesus was very much aware of the difficulties or challenges that the disciples would face with regard to the issue of unity. He saw evidence of some of these problems early on in the lives of his followers. The disciples talked about which of them was the greatest, or most important, on a number of occasions (Mark 9:34; Luke 22:24). James and John sought places of honor for themselves in Jesus’ kingdom, which resulted in the other disciples becoming upset with them (Mark 10:35–41). Jesus’ disciples also were concerned when they saw someone, who was not a part of their group, doing works in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:38). These are just a few examples, but they demonstrate that unity was a problem for the followers of Jesus from the very beginning of the Christian movement. Subsequent church history has not fared any better; in fact, it is probably worse. Church history records many instances in which the body of Christ has divided. This confirms that the prayer that Jesus prayed for unity among his people was, and is, a very necessary prayer.

Jesus’ Care for His People

A third thing that Jesus’ prayer shows us is his care for his people. We typically pray for people that we care about; Jesus does the same. He prays for all of his followers, and note that there is no partiality in his prayer; he makes the same requests for all of his children in all ages. The requests that he makes are for good things. He does not want his people to be destroyed by the enemy (John 17:15), nor does he want them to be divided; these things would not be good for his people and would not be advantageous to Jesus’ purposes or kingdom. Jesus’ prayer is an indication of his concern for the church. Jesus understands quite well the nature of the conflict that his people are engaged in. Light is battling darkness. While the battle frequently rages in the natural realm, it has its root in the spiritual realm. Jesus takes the battle very seriously; he addresses it in prayer, and his prayer is focused on God’s provision for his people. Jesus does not want his people to buckle under to the opposition that the enemy brings to the church. This opposition can take many forms; it can come in the form of persecution, sickness, or, a major concern of this prayer, division. The enemy knows that pressure and a sense of being isolated can do much to undermine the work of the kingdom, and so he will do all he can to bring these things to bear upon the church. Jesus expresses care for his people by praying that they will not fall prey to these pitfalls.

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Category: Fall 2012, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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