On Those Prayers You May Depend!

Thursday of 7 Easter. Acts 22:30; 23:6-11; Psalm 16:5-11; John 17:20-26.

It’s great to be back with you today! One of the things I miss most by being in one of our regional offices is participating in our chapel life here at the Church Center. So I’m grateful to Fred Vergara for allowing me to “substitute” for him today…really at the last minute when I asked him.

 Having just returned from Cincinnati and our Anglican – Roman Catholic dialogue there, I was tempted to preach on the last line from today’s reading from Acts when the Lord said to Paul: “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome!” (But then I decided maybe I’d better not “go there!”)

 Instead I’ll share with you a thought I gleaned from the Roman Catholic bishop who co-chairs that dialogue with our own Bishop Tom Breidenthal of Southern Ohio. His name is Ron Herzog and he is a relatively new bishop in the Roman Catholic diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. He preached on the very same Gospel reading we had today earlier this week – lines from the great High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17.

 The passage begins with Jesus saying “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they all may be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe…” That is, of course, the great ecumenical text, read at almost every ecumenical service I go to – that we all might be one so that the world might believe!

 But Bishop Herzog picked up on another insight as well. He reminded us that, when Jesus says that he is not only praying for the apostles, but also for those who will come to believe because of the apostles’ testimony, that means that Jesus is praying for US!   

For US…now…today…and tomorrow! For us who have “come to believe” because of those original apostle’s testimony.

 I’m not sure how often we stop to remember that. We know that Jesus came to save us. We know that he lived and died as one of us. We know that he was raised from the dead to give us the gift of eternal life. But do we also know that he is alive today, making intercession for us!

 When he challenged St. Paul to “Take courage,” because he not only had testified to Jesus in Jerusalem, but was now to take that same message to the heart of the Empire in Rome, it must have given that great Apostle some pause. But he knew then what we must learn today – that he was not alone in his mission and ministry. He was being supported, led, guided and prayed for by none other than the same Lord to whom he was bearing witness!

 And so are you, dear friends! So, if you are feeling overwhelmed or overtaxed in your work, in your life and ministry today, just take a minute to remember who’s praying for you – not only your family, not only your friends, not only your colleagues in ministry…but the Lord Jesus Himself! And on those prayers, you can most surely depend!

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