|Jesus at Prayer|
The Gospel according to John takes us back to the farewell address of Jesus at his last supper. In saying goodbye, Jesus considers how his community of disciples will continue after his departure. The disciples should be faithful to His words, especially His “new commandment” to love one another. But this community will need guidance. So Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit.
This Easter season we meet different biblical personalities: Thomas, Peter, Paul, Mary of Magdala. Today I would like to introduce Stephen. He was a Spirit-filled leader in the Jerusalem Church, a Greek- speaking Jewish Christian appointed, along with six others, to help needy widows.
Stephen proclaimed courageously that Jesus is the fulfillment of the messianic promises made to Ancient Israel, and is dragged by a lynch mob and stoned to death. Stephen became the proto-martyr of Christianity. He forgave his executioners and cried out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
I believe Stephen had an intense relationship with God, nurtured through prayer.
We wake up to clock radios, watch TV at breakfast; listen to the car radio; check facebook, instagram, emails and so forth, which distract us from hearing God’s voice in our lives.
For Jesus and the heroes and heroines of Christianity, prayer was their top priority. Jesus of course is the model for prayer. He gives us some guidelines which in no way replace public worship. Here are the guidelines.
Keep it real. Be genuine in your relationship with God. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The prayer preceding all prayers is, 'May it be the real “I” who speaks. May it be the real “Thou” that I speak to. '” Yes, be honest.
Keep it quiet. Jesus went up the mountain to pray. Find a place every day to pray for at least 10 minutes without being distracted. Jesus encourages us to find time alone with God so that we can off-load our guilt, our worries.
Keep it simple. It is not the time that counts but the sincerity. Jesus also taught His disciples to be persistent in prayer, to go on seeking. Our heavenly Father knows what we need.
There's a pattern in the Our Father. Here's a paraphrase:
“Our Father: because we are sons and daughters of God, heirs to the kingdom of God;
Your name be honored and reverenced everywhere;
May Your kingdom of truth and justice and peace and freedom permeate everyone;
And may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Satisfy our basic needs: food, health, livelihood, peace.
Forgive us for the things we do wrong as we forgive those who wrong us.
and protect us -- don't let us succumb to evils that will jeopardize our relationship with God.
We are invited to converse with God in a friendship based on love. May we nurture our friendship through daily prayer.