Jesus Gets What He Prays Forby Ed de la Cour on December 12, 2019
Jesus Gets What He Prays For
Pastor Ed de la Cour
We American Christians have struggled for many years to find a way to build a sense of unity in the Body of Christ. It is complicated! Every new wave of revival that swept the frontier in the 19th century brought with it practices of excess and spiritual confusion. Americans were then, and are today, completely in love with being independent actors. We willingly bow the knee to no one. As a result, bending the knee of our hearts to Jesus as Lord is a painful exercise.
As the 20th century dawned, some tried to build organizational unity through the various councils of churches. Bible believing Christians found that unity in that context meant the creation of a lowest common denominator approach to spiritual truth. Clearly, that would never do. Others eschewed unity in favor of doctrinal purity. This caused bitter rivalries between denominations and Christian leaders as one divided from another over relatively small points of doctrine as well as over basic fundamentals of the faith. As a result, any answer to the prayer of Jesus in John 17 seemed unattainable. It is a truly discouraging situation for Christians who desire to see a mighty work of God in our day. We have come to understand that whatever the John 17 prayer might have meant to Jesus as He prayed, it is clear we have not yet found the key to a serious commitment to unity in the Body of Christ.
The last quarter of the twentieth century brought movements such as the March for Jesus, Concerts of Prayer, Prayer Summits, a prayer effort directed toward evangelism in the 10/40 Window, as well as other worthy ventures. These endeavors caused an increase in spiritual hunger among pastors and people, who wanted to see a much different response to the heartfelt prayer of Jesus from all that had happened previously. The wider church began to see unity in different terms. People began to pray for God’s glory, for His purposes to be accomplished, and not simply to satisfy man’s agenda. Such times of prayer were sadly attended by conflicts as many had not yet caught a vision for greater things. Nevertheless, many Christians have persisted in prayer and have persevered in seeking the face of God regardless of how impractical the sought-for answer may have seemed.
Our horizons are so limited; it’s wonderfully difficult for us to see beyond them. We are of the flesh, caught in our humanness and enmeshed in ‘the things of this world.’ The Gospel is God’s plan to free us from lives lived in bondage to the ‘things of this world.’ As we know, the things of this world are primarily those things we believe exist to make us happy, meet our ‘needs,’ and satisfy our desires. Conversely, God’s horizons are unlimited. His purposes are of universal significance, not at all like our own. So, we get caught up, even in spiritual things, by ideas that, while important, should not be the totality of our concern.
Unity is one of those ideas. We believe Jesus wants unity and Jesus gets what He prays for. But He is not possessed by unity to the exclusion of other concerns. Unity is one of the topics of Jesus’s prayer in John17, and it is one of His primary concerns. But there are other concerns. In verse 21, Jesus prays that we be one. Why is that so important? Clearly, it is our fleshly independence that serves to rule out unity. So, fleshly independence is one of those ‘things of this world’ that wants to stymie the purposes of God.
“Just as You and I are one.” Oneness is not sought simply to be unified in the nature of God; Jesus and Father are already one. Jesus asked the Father that we be one in common purpose with God, one in love for Him, and in love for one another. To be one in purpose, one in mission, and one in love is His prayer for us as His church. God does not want us working at cross purposes because the work of the cross is intended to draw us together; it does not pull us apart.
Furthermore, it is God’s purpose that the world at large will be free to see Jesus in our unity and therefore come to believe in Jesus as God’s only Son, the Savior and the Redeemer of this world. The purpose of unity is evangelism!
However, without holiness and righteousness, efforts at unity are wasted and useless. The church that wants to honor God will have a heart for the whole of God’s purposes, for all of His agenda, and will not cherry-pick their favorites. Unity is a costly prize that requires holiness in the church and righteousness in our personal and corporate behaviors.
Unity is costly because unity is rooted in relationship. We are an awkward people, not saying what we mean, and not understanding whatever is said. We absolutely struggle to make it in life, tripping over our wounded hearts, our foibles and irksome ways. It is oh, so hard for me to place myself in second place, when I am striving so hard for first. It’s hard to opt for the back seat when everything that is within me wants my own way. In godly relationships, we learn to submit to one another. We learn to love one another, to set aside our prickly ways in favor of our neighbor.
Unity is costly because there is no unity without the prior positioning of our lives on holiness and righteousness. Holiness and righteousness set the table and prepare the heart for oneness with others and oneness with God, and therefore, unity in the Body of Christ.
There will be no instant unity, no microwaved victory completed in seconds. Unity is a miracle, but it is not a sudden work of God’s grace. Unity takes time. Unity is developed; it is not summoned by the flexing of a wand. Good relationships are a key to unity. Friendships must be sought and built. The building of friendships builds the bonds of trust between one other. Listening builds understanding which contributes to the building of trust. We have to learn not to presume we understand it all and actively determine to lay aside our fleshly eagerness to respond.
To that end, I attach an under two-minute video on what God is doing to unite His Church around the world. Although the video is specific to one mission group, Asian Access, it is germane to our discussion and to what we are seeing God’s desire is for us. Please watch: https://youtu.be/zL3BskkR_NA
God isn’t waiting for us to figure this out on our own. We are seeing Him at work here on Cape Cod, in New England, across America and around the world. God is calling His Church to minister together, to find ways to bring Jesus into the communities where we live, but not to try to win the war by ourselves. Egos may be bruised in the process, but don’t you think it will be worth it to see the Church of Jesus Christ actually seen by the world for what she is, the Bride of Christ!
Truly, Jesus really does get what He prays for.
Edmund C. de la Cour
37 Buzzards Bay Avenue
Buzzards Bay, MA 02532-3132