The Master Prays

The Gospels record many occasions of Jesus at prayer. From the example the Lord has given us, we can draw deep insights on the meaning and practice of prayer.

At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus was deeply troubled. The death of Lazarus weighed very heavily on His heart, and He enveloped His heart with prayer. He gave thanks to His Father before His prayer was granted, and He expressed confidence that His prayer would be heard: "Jesus raised his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me.'" (John 11.41-42) Indeed, Jesus' prayer was answered, as Lazarus was brought back to life after being dead for four days.

In John 17, John the Evangelist has recorded for us the priestly prayer of Jesus, which Jesus prayed at the last supper. Jesus glorifies the Father and intercedes for all people who have been received in Him so that they may inherit eternal life: "Now this is eternal life, that they should know You, the only true God, and the One whom You sent, Jesus Christ." (John 17.3) He asks the Father to consecrate all who believe in Him, that they may be made perfect in union with the Father through the Son, and with one another -- "that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them." (John 17.26).

His priestly prayer follows the pattern of the Our Father: He honors the Father - "Give glory to Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify You" (John 17.1); He honors the Father's name - "I made known to them Your name and I will make it known" (John 17.26); He intercedes for the kingdom to come -"that the world may know that You sent Me and that You loved them even as You loved Me" (John 17.23); that the Father's will be done - "that they may be brought to perfection as one" (John 17.23); for their daily bread - "Holy Father, keep them in Your name" (John 17.11); for the grace of forgiveness for all who believe in Him - "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one" (John 17.21); and He petitions the Father to "keep them from the evil one" (John 17.15).

From the priestly prayer, we learn that the goal of eternal life is to know the Father through His Son, in union with Them. He prays that we may be one with Him in love and be in covenant with (or 'consecrated to') Him in the truth through the power of His Spirit. He prays that we testify to Him in our words and actions, so that others may believe in Him and be brought into union with Him and with each other. He asks us to take courage in knowing that we are the Father's gift to Him and that He yearns to have us with Him for eternity to share His glory. Most of all, He prays that we may be united with Him with the very same love that has united the Father with the Son since the foundation of the world.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux joined her own prayer to the Lord's priestly prayer: "I may use [Your] very own words to draw down favors from Our Heavenly Father on all who are dear to me… I dare ask [You] to love those [You have] given me, even as [You have loved] me." (Story of a Soul, C.11). We too can pray with the Master's own words, joining our prayer to His.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus agonized deeply with the weight of all the sin of the world on His heart. He struggled to empty Himself to the lowest point possible in His humanity, reaching the deepest humility. Knowing the full extent of what was to happen, He prayed with such intensity to accept His Father's will, that He shed drops of blood from His immensely stressed being: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22.43). An angel appeared to strengthen Him. In our trials, if we bring all the angst of our being into prayer, striving to empty our hearts of all misgivings and self-pity, struggling to accept the fullness of God's will in our lives, then we will be given the strength to endure whatever is to come. God is always able to give us the strength to endure whatever trials befall us.

From the cross, the prayer of Jesus was one of utter and complete forgiveness of all, including those who had condemned Him: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23.34) His last words of His earthly life were a prayer of complete confidence in His Father's love, knowing His Father would not abandon Him: "Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit'; and when He had said this He breathed His last.'" (Luke 23.46) Following the Lord's example, may prayer fill the background of each day of our lives, from moment to moment, until we have breathed our last.

This poem expresses the prayer of the Master in its fullness.

May We All Be One

He carries all the world's pain
In His heart as He intercedes
For each of us; He will obtain
Redeeming grace - He knows our needs.

"O Father, may they all be one
Made perfect in the love We live;
That as the Father loves the Son,
So may they all love and forgive."

Through Him, the Father hears us pray
With Him, our hearts are formed in love;
In Him, by faith, our hearts will stay
United -- we will rise above.

O Master, may Your will be done;
In Your love, may we all be One.

Holy Spirit, just as the Son,
Lifted His eyes to the Father,
May we all look to Him as one --
Praying for one another. Amen.


St Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of A Soul

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2598 - 2606, 2741, 2746-2751

prepared by:

Paul Buis

(c) Paul Buis, 2005