Prayer isn’t about some big reveal. It’s about relationship.
A Reflection for Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Find today’s readings here.
Today’s Gospel reading is one of those “this is going to be on the test” discourses: Jesus raises his eyes to heaven, and (this is important) in the hearing of his disciples, he says: ”Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”
Sometimes, as with a game of hide and seek, prayer isn’t mostly even about the big reveal. It’s about the relationship between two people who both, in their hearts, want to be reunited.
You can almost imagine him muttering to himself, “Man, I hope they’re paying attention.” Maybe discreetly shoving a notepad and pen in the disciples’ direction, hoping it will occur to them to write this stuff down.
This prayer is clearly for the benefit of the listeners who are witnessing his conversation with the Father. They need to know more about the relationship between the Father and the Son, so Jesus is describing it; they need to know why Jesus came to earth, so he is telling them; and they need to know what they’re supposed to do next, so he’s telling them that, too. It’s almost like when a dad is playing hide and seek with his kids and he knows full well that they’re hiding behind the curtain and can see his every move, so he mutters loudly to himself, “Now, where could they be? I wonder if they’re under the toaster? No, they’d never fit in there. . . gosh, I hope I can find them!”
But of course this isn’t a game, and the stakes are much higher. Still, I feel like there is something of a similar vibe going on: Jesus is talking about eternal things, but he’s also really talking to the disciples.
At the same time, if Jesus is anything, he’s sincere. He really means everything he’s saying to the Father, and he really is talking directly to him. And everything that Jesus does is there for us to imitate in some way.
So this discourse is instructive in two ways: Not only for its content, which is meant for us directly (and which is, frankly, too deep and rich for me to expound on in a short reflection!), but also because it shows us Jesus praying to the Father and telling him things that the Father most definitely already knows.
I find this immensely comforting, because sometimes I fall into believing that I have to come up with something innovative in prayer; like I have to reveal things to God, or impress him, or explain things to him, or even entertain him.
That’s all very silly. Or worse than silly: It might prevent me from praying, because I feel like I’m not doing it right. That should never happen. If Jesus himself feels comfortable standing there telling the Father the most basic truths about their relationship, then I should never hesitate to do the same.
Sometimes, as with that game of hide and seek, prayer isn’t mostly even about the big reveal. It’s about the relationship between two people who both, in their hearts, want to be reunited.