Hello! It’s Thursday 11th July and it’s foundations time! Whether you’re listening to this at the start of your day over breakfast, on the bus to work, at home while the children are asleep, or catching up on a whole week of podcasts as you’re trekking up one of the wonderful hills that the Peak District has to offer, well done for investing in your faith journey today.
We’re in John’s Gospel at the minute, today looking at John 16:17-33. Here are verses 24, 26 and 27:
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
Today we’re going to think about prayer. How do we pray? I’m not talking about whether we kneel or stand, do it out loud or quietly under our breath. There’s no one right way to ‘do’ prayer. What we’re going to think about today is our attitude as we approach prayer. Specifically, when we approach prayer, do we pray at God, to God or with God?
As with Tuesday’s podcast, some of this language around prayer comes from a talk I heard a couple of Sundays ago. Do we pray at, to or with God? For some people, prayer will mostly look like praying at God. These prayers can be a little more sporadic and impersonal. They are letters sent to someone we don’t really know, addressed “To Whom It May Concern”. They are rocks thrown over the wall in the hope God will find them, pick them up and read what’s been hastily scribbled on them. It’s this level of prayer that Jesus is trying to move people out of. This level doesn’t expect God to actually move, it’s more we just feel we should at least try prayer, or tick a box.
As we move into ‘to’ prayers we become a little more familiar with God. We know who is on the other end of these prayers. They’re more worshipful, they’re prayers that are spoken directly to God, rather than shouted from the room next door. In this passage Jesus makes it clear that when we pray we can pray directly to the Father. We don’t have to just hope He hears us, we can have confidence that He does.
The third stage that we can get to though is ‘with’ prayers. When we read this passage and see that we can ask God for things, we read an invitation to a conversation. God’s not asking for our Christmas list, sent by snail mail, but for a face to face, heart to heart genuine conversation. We read earlier this week that God’s Spirit lives in us. It’s this connection that allows us such an intimate relationship with God. We pray full of the Spirit and as such, when the Father looks at us He sees one of His creations fully redeemed and loved by Jesus. It’s in this place that we can not just ask things of God, but hear the response that comes back. That could be sensing an audible voice or a whole world of other ways. For some people that might look like recognising God speaking through the wisdom of a friend, for others a gut feeling, a prompting, a peace over a course of action. For me sometimes God has put songs in my head where the lyrics become super relevant to myself or someone else later that day. Whatever that looks like, God wants a two way conversation with us, and He wants it because as the passage says, we are loved by Jesus, and love Him in return.
Today as we pray throughout the day let’s be expectant that God will not just want to hear our prayers and bring breakthrough, but want to speak back to us as well.
Thank you God that you are not distant. You are close to us even now, wherever we are. Thank you that you love us and have invited us to go through life being able to pray any time any place and you will listen. Speak to us today Lord we pray, Amen.
READING: John 16:17-33
At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,” and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by “a little while”? We don’t understand what he is saying.’
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’
Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’
‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied. ‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’