By Lisa Rosenlund,
Saint Brendan Parish Manager
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about using the Gospel of John as a basis for prayer.
The Gospel of John differs significantly from the other gospels with respect to prayer, in that he does not teach the Our Father or present parables on prayer. In fact, Jesus only prays three times in John. Yet, each prayer signifies a greater spiritual reality, namely, that we have to die in order to have life.
Indeed, Jesus embraces his death on the cross from the very start of the Gospel. Two examples of this foreshadowing are found in chapter 2: the Wedding at Cana and the cleansing of the Temple. The ancient Jews believed that there would be a great abundance of wine in heaven. By turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus is preparing for his own heavenly wedding feast, which will occur after he dies on the cross and ascends to the heavenly kingdom. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the “Synoptic Gospels”), the cleansing of the temple occurs right before the Passion and is part of the reason why Jesus was crucified. John, however, puts it at the start of his Gospel to show that Jesus was preparing for his death on the cross from the very beginning.
The first time Jesus prays in the Gospel of John, he looks up and asks God the Father to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. When Lazarus is raised, the Gospel of John refers to it as a “sign” of everlasting life. The second time, Jesus tells his disciples that his hour of glory has come. In John, the hour of glory is the cross. Jesus acknowledges that he is troubled by the knowledge of what is to come, yet does not ask his Father to save him from it. Rather he says “Father, glorify your name” and receives a response from the heavens: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
Jesus’ third prayer is the longest and most important prayer in the Gospel of John. This extended prayer concludes a long set of teachings known as the “Last Supper Discourses,” which run from chapters 14-17. In this extended prayer, Jesus asks the Father to protect his disciples from the evil designs of the world, as well as for unity among the disciples and mystical union with the Father through Jesus. The prayers comes on the eve of his crucifixion and is his last will and testament in the world.
When Jesus prays and teaches his disciples to pray, he is using words to make present his relationship with the Father and their relationship with us. When we pray, we enter into the relationship with Jesus and God the Father, and it becomes present for us as well. This unity, however, comes about only through the death of Christ and our own willingness to die to ourselves.
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