April 11, 2021
Scripture: John 17:12-21
The Real Lord’s Prayer
Ken Lillagore, preaching
Many of you are probably familiar with George Carlin. He was a comedian who became famous by basically making fun with words. I remember seeing him one time on the Tonight Show where he did a routine substituting words. For instance, instead of saying “Ouch” when he pretended to hit his thumb with a hammer, he said “Ralph!” It was really comical hearing sentences with words that didn’t belong, at least not to our normal way of thinking. He also made several collections of misnomers like why is “Driveway” the place where we park our car, but “Parkway” is where we drive it?
Of course, we can find many other similar “Idiocies” in our English language. Like, why do we call it “Rush Hour” when traffic is at its slowest and it usually lasts more like two to three hours. Same way with “Happy Hour” – it usually goes for at least two hours, too. Then there’s the 3-minute “Hourglass” for cooking our eggs. And, when something is too hot, why do we say we need to wait for it to cool off? We want the heat to go off of it and the cool to come onto it.
But, when it comes to misnomers, one that has always puzzled me is “The Lord’s Prayer.” No way is what we call the Lord’s Prayer actually the Lord’s prayer. In Matthew, when Jesus is teaching this prayer to his disciples, the first thing He says is, “Pray then in this way”. He doesn’t say, “Here’s a prayer I like to use,” or “This is how I pray.” What he says is when YOU pray, YOU pray this way. It’s not the Lord’s prayer – it’s the disciple’s prayer!
And look what it says in the prayer. “…Forgive us our trespasses…” Why would the only sinless person in the history of the world have to pray for forgiveness? He wouldn’t, but His disciples would.
And then look at the emphasis of this prayer – US. “Give US this day”, “Forgive US”, “Lead US not into temptation”, “Deliver US”. The emphasis in this prayer is not about a single person, but a group or groups of people who are praying it. It is a prayer for people who need help and forgiveness and assurances and daily bread. Someone who has concerns for themselves. Jesus had none of these. Jesus was always concerned about others; He even came to Earth for the sake of others. So, this isn’t the Lord’s prayer at all.
Our scripture reading today is a part of a real Lord’s prayer, something Jesus actually did pray. In fact, the entire chapter of John 17 is Jesus’ prayer just before He went to the garden on the night he was betrayed. The night he knew he was going to be betrayed. The last free moments He had before His persecution and crucifixion were about to begin. And how did Jesus spend this time? What did Jesus do? He spent this time in prayer for others.
The words “They,” “Them,” “Those,” “These,” and “Their” appear a total of 46 times in this chapter. 46 times! In the last few moments, before he was to undergo agony and torture, Jesus prayed for others. Jesus prayed for us! THAT is the Lord’s prayer!
In our reading today, in verse 13 in fact, Jesus says, “…I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves”. Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, The Son of God, The Prince of Peace has prayed for us that we might have His joy.
At the end of chapter 16, Jesus has just told his disciples that, “These things I have spoken to you that in me you might have peace; in the world you shall have tribulation; but, be of good cheer – I have overcome the world.” Now, in addition to telling us that we shall have His peace and that He has overcome the world, He is also praying to God that we will have his joy! Jesus has prayed to God, on our behalf, that we would have His joy! How fantastic is that!!
Jesus goes on to say, “As you have sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world”. Jesus wants us to have His peace and joy and to take them into the world. He doesn’t want us to sit around, fat, dumb, and happy in our salvation – he has sent us “into the world”.
But, how do we know that all this applies to us? Wasn’t this prayer just Jesus praying for His disciples at that time? Well, in verse 20 Jesus prays, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word…” Jesus is praying for all those who become believers who did not have the opportunity to hear Him personally while He was on this Earth. Which, folks, pretty much includes all of us. So, Jesus was most assuredly praying for each and every one of us.
Then, in addition to praying for us to have His peace and joy and to go into the world, Jesus has one more request in His prayer. Beginning in verse 21 Jesus prays, “…That they may all be one. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one…” Jesus is praying for us, and for all who become believers, that we will become ONE!
Jesus doesn’t want more Methodists. Jesus doesn’t want more Presbyterians. Jesus doesn’t want more Catholics. Jesus wants believers to become one with Him and God and each other, “…So that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Jesus is praying that all who believe in Him will become one with Him and God and each other so that the world will know that God loves them.
THAT is the Lord’s prayer; that believers will be one with God, Jesus, and each other so that the world will know God’s love. That all believers will have His joy. That all believers will go into the world showing His love so that others will believe and share the love and joy that He gives. That is what Jesus prayed for us. That is what Jesus prayed for me. That is what Jesus prayed for you.
So, then, are we an answer to Christ’s prayer? Does the world see Christ’s peace and joy and God’s love in each of us? Are we one with God and Christ and fellow Christians?
Every time I hear someone say, “the Lord’s Prayer,” I know what they mean, but I think of John 17. I think of how Jesus prayed for me, and what Jesus prayed for me. And, honestly, that does much more for me than just reciting some words from Matthew.
Hopefully, after you read all of John 17, it will do the same for you.