St. John 17.vv.11b-19
~ Jesus said, "I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in truth, your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth". ~
What a privilege it is for us to have such examples of Jesus' practice and teaching about prayer! For him it might truly be said that his whole life consisted of prayer, because he was ever mindful of the close presence of the Father which is the pre-condition and absolute requirement of all valid praying - nevertheless there were numerous occasions when he retired into solitude away from the world in order to realise more fully the presence of God and to listen to what God had to say to him.
Isaiah in the Old Testament knew something of this. "Be still and know that I am God". Samuel was taught, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth". Here are two prerequisites of prayer that we often ignore to our hurt.
Silent contemplation and adoration must be the first step in meaningful prayer. Having assured ourselves of God's presence in our praying, we should next try to establish a right relationship with him, which involves confession of our sins and our unworthiness and asking his grace and pardon for all the hurt which we have inflicted upon God and our fellows. When we have truly repented and received pardon and peace, our hearts should be filled with gratitude and a desire to say thank you to God for this and all other benefits that he has bestowed upon us.
Jesus, teaching his disciples to pray, bade them give thanks for all the blessings of the past, for all their present mercies and for all their hopes for the future. Acknowledging our utter dependence upon God we thank him for all his goodness and loving kindness to us, and then, and only then, do we come to the point of laying before God our desires for ourselves, those we love and for all mankind.
In our reading from St. John's Gospel, we "overhear" Jesus praying for others, for us, for all God's children. There come times in the lives of us all when prayers of supplication for ourselves and intercession for others become difficult to sustain". "Ora pro nobis" (Pray for us) is a heartfelt prayer we often raise, and we know that the praying Church, our family and friends are continually "lifting us up" in prayer when we are weak in body, mind or spirit.
Jesus taught us to "make our requests known to God". There is nothing that we should hold back out of mock modesty, timidity or faithlessness - provided only that we pray as Jesus did in the faith that God, who knows us and our needs better than we do, will grant us what is best for us and for those for whom we pray.
Occasionally we are privileged to "overhear", as it were, the words Jesus addressed to the Father in prayer, but more often it was a wordless and loving converse with God as it is with so many who know God's presence in their lives, as in the case of old "Jacques", a saintly peasant who every day spent time alone in the village Church. On being asked, "What do you say or do in the Church?", he replied, "He just looks at me, and I just looks (sic) at Him".
In prayer , the ways and the postures we adopt, the words we use, are myriad. Jesus, as a Jew was heir to a tradition in which the arms and eyes were raised to heaven and a "free and frank discussion" took place with the Almighty. Those who have seen the "Fiddler on the Roof" appreciate the frankness so often seen in the Psalms when God is urged to "bestir himself" and come to the aid of his people - such candour is no doubt acceptable to God, for to whom else can one complain? Jesus is continually represented to us as praying long and earnestly (his whole life a life of prayer).