by Harry Banks

by Harry Banks, June 3, 2014

A Little Background
 
A couple years ago I found myself walking into the local phone company headquarters for a Sabbath morning Bible study.  The In His Steps Community Fellowship was started to provide a bridge to faith for persons disaffected, disenfranchised, or put off by faith communities.  Sheldon’s “In His Steps” provided a basis for starting to ask the question… “What would Jesus do?”
 
Recently In His Steps Community Fellowship started working through the last chapters of the book of John.  This week we came to John 17.
 
I don’t know how I missed it. . . . For years I hung out with John 14, 15, and 16, but somehow had never spent time looking at John 17. In recent weeks we had looked at the promise of celestial housing, clarifying the confusion over where He was going, the promise of the Comforter, and the illustrations of connection with Christ and abiding in Christ.
 
As I started into the chapter it was as if I had never seen it before. . . .
 
The Fly on the Wall
 
A few years ago I was attending a training session on contract negotiation. Sometimes the contentious issues of opposing sides keep them from being able to openly share intent and interests. A strategy was introduced which suggested that one way of informing the other side of the negotiation table is to engage in an open conversation with the members on your side of the table; ignoring the other side and letting them listen in on the conversation. The effect is that the other side frequently feels as if they are a “fly on the wall” and getting insight into issues that could otherwise be argued or contentious; however, because the conversation is not directed at them; they have no involvement; which lets them listen and take it in without direct confrontation.
 
I stared at the page. . . .  Here was a “fly on the wall” moment. . . . Here was a conversation between Jesus and His Father, and we get to listen in. Larry mentioned that he often wondered what that night of prayer was like for Jesus before the disciples were called. . . . What did He pray about?  One person commented that he has a hard time spending as much as 20 minutes in prayer. . ., and that’s even with a long list of people and issues. 
 
But here. . . here was Jesus directly addressing his Father . . . and we are able to listen in. How did I miss this? This was fantastic! Yeah! I’d been up and down the “Lord’s Prayer,” with wonderful thoughtful expansion of spiritual faith each time. It is a prayer I pray nearly every week with friends. At times we have discussed in a devotional way individual words and phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, with great benefit. But I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon or devotional focus on this most marvelous of all prayers which we could overhear like a fly on the wall…
 
Missing?
 
A quick check of The Desire of Ages and the 2004 Adult Sabbath School Quarterly, “The Gospel of John,” found no focus on the John 17 prayer in either document. I couldn’t believe it! People of the Word, huh? Some of our key literature skips the longest recorded prayer between the Redeemer of the world and Almighty God, His Father.
 
How could this be!?
 
Maybe I’ve had some help in skipping over this prayer.  Well, that’s all the more reason to seize the opportunity to dive in and explore this transparent Divine conversation.
 
Battle Lines
 
Here it is: 650 words, 3½ minutes of conversation between the Savior of the world and His Father. And the pressure is on. . . . In less than 24 hours these friends will be scattered and shattered.  Jesus will be separated in an ultimate finality that no flawed human can comprehend. And we get to listen to the exactly what is most important to Jesus at this critical point in Earth’s redemption history.
 
This was no General George S Patton’s speech to the Third Army prior to the Normandy Landing, captured through the memories of soldiers present
 
Talk about momentous! This is The Prayer at the point of engagement between the forces of Good and Evil at the highest level of the universe.
 
I wondered how important could this prayer be?  Is it possible for this prayer ever to be given too much thought? too much meditation? That doesn’t seem to be a present danger. . . .
 
He Prayed
 
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him (TNIV).
 
(to be continued)