When certain songs come on the radio, we all get excited. These are certain songs we enjoy hearing and are memorable to us in some way. When that song comes on the radio we’ll probably sing along, even if we are off key..
If you’re like me, when these songs come on not only do I get excited, but the radio gets turned up just a little bit louder. Because, obviously, good music can only be enjoyed if it is loud.
One such song is Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” It’s a great and powerful song of a young couple attempting to make it in a troubled economy. As Tommy and Gina wonder how they are going to make it, we get the iconic riff and lyric that they are “halfway there” and are “livin’ on a prayer.”
There’s a lot of reasons why it’s a great song. There is the powerful music. There is the fact that it is Bon Jovi’s greatest hit. It could be it’s a song that is easy to remember. But I think it is also because this song is one we can relate to. We’ve been Tommy and Gina, where the only thing keeping us together is our prayers.
There are times when we really are just “livin’ on a prayer.” It is those times when things are stressful, difficult, or unbearable. When things are so desperate that there is seemingly no hope, we cling to a prayer that will help us in these difficult times.
“Livin’ on a prayer” is something we all do. This is a good thing. We must cling to our need to pray and seek God’s guidance in the most delicate and tender aspects of our lives. When we pray, Richard Foster says, we “begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills.” In our prayer, we attempt to align ourselves with God’s will for our lives. We desire to hear the voice of God in the depths of our soul, so that we may be obedient to the love of God in our lives.
Each of us need prayer in our lives. We cannot live a day without our need of God and our need to align our lives with God’s purposes and will for us. What if we didn’t just live on a prayer, but we live into the prayer. By living on a prayer, we are saying that we are going to pray, but we are going to continue to do things our way. It’s a prayer life that is like playing the lottery. We’re not sure it is going to work, but we are going to take the gamble that it will.
To live into a prayer means we are living into a prayer that has been prayed before and continues to be prayed over us this day. Living into a prayer means to live into the reality that Jesus prayed and seeks for his followers, both his immediate twelve Disciples and those of us today. It’s a prayer life that aligns our hearts and will with the Father’s will for us, our church, and our communities.
Today, we will look at a specific prayer from Jesus to see how this idea looks. After a discourse where Jesus called the disciples to remain in a relationship with him and promised them that the Holy Spirit would come, Jesus turns his attention to a time of prayer. It’s appropriate. Jesus has an intense and powerful prayer life, where he is in constant communication with the Father. His entire ministry on Earth is surrounded and wrapped in prayer.
When we think of Jesus and prayer, we don’t often think of the prayer found in John 17. Often, we turn to the prayer that Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount, which we know as the “Lord’s Prayer.” It is a prayer that gives a formula and structure for our prayer life, and it is important for us to understand. This prayer of blessing, glorification and sanctification in John 17 is also important for us to understand. In this prayer, Jesus sets a vision for the church then, and the church today, regarding what he desires us to live into.
In the first eight verses of the prayer, Jesus gives honor to the Father, mentioning that the time of the crucifixion has come. Jesus is praying over the mission that is ahead and the mission that has transpired. In all, he is speaking of a time of glory, a time of high honoring of the Father that will come when Christ offers himself as a sacrifice. In that moment, Christ will be glorified out of the Father’s love.
Beginning with verse 9, we see something different. Jesus begins praying for his disciples. Here, he prays for the disciples who have been under his care during his three year ministry. Their ministry is part of the ongoing work of Christ, and they will remain in the world to proclaim the love of Christ, even though Christ will soon be with the Father. In this moment, Christ desires the Father to protect these disciples in their mission and ministry, just as Christ has protected them. But, how are they protected? It is by the Father’s name. Jesus prays for the Father to protect the disciples due to his character. It is out of God’s holiness, his perfect love and care for all, that God the Father will protect those who remain to proclaim the name of Christ.
There is a reason they need protected. They are going to remain in the world. This protection is so that their mission and message does not get infected by the world. That’s not to say the disciples, both then and today, are to remove themselves completely out of the world. Instead, Christ is praying that the Father will protect his children as they engage the world in his name. Even more, that they will remain in a relationship with the Father, through faith in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as they seek to proclaim the name in a lost world. This prayer is important for the disciples, and it is important for us today. Christ has prayed over the mission of this church, and is inviting each of us to participate in this mission.
Christ doesn’t just pray for the disciples then, but he also prayed for us today. Think about this: on the night before Christ was crucified, we were on his heart. You were on his heart. Beginning with verse 20, Christ begins to pray for each and every one of us – that we will remain in our relationship in Christ. This is a carry forward of the words and teachings we see in John 15. We are called to remain in our relationship with Christ as we go out into the world to proclaim through our giving, our words, and our actions. This prayer is Christ seeking the Father’s protection over us. There is never a moment when Christ is not in prayer for us, and interceding on our behalf to the Father. Each moment of our lives is surrounded by a prayer from Jesus to the Father in Heaven.
There is a specific type of protection that Christ prays for us. He is praying that we will be in perfect unity with each other, as the Father and Son are in perfect unity. How will this be? How are we to be in unity with each other, and share in this with the Father and the Son? This is by love. The love of the Father shared with the Son is what unifies the Father and Son together. It is the Father’s love that we receive through faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit that we share with one another. We are called to reflect the Father’s love for humanity by being people who are defined and known by love.
In the last portion of the prayer, beginning with verse 24, Jesus prays for the church to come. It is the kingdom of God, that glorious place that we will be in unity with the Son. Christ’s thoughts aren’t just on the disciples then and now, but also on the kingdom to come. His desire is that we will all gather together with Christ and share in the place that he is creating. This is Heaven, when we can be together with the Father, just as the Son is today. Christ desires this for all who would seek after him. We should seek after this and pray for this as well.
So, what does this all mean for us? How can we live into this prayer, as we live in this world today as disciples of Christ?
The first thing we can take from Jesus’ prayer is that we are never alone. Even when we think we are without hope and without anything to hang on, we can live into this prayer knowing that Christ is continually praying for us. There is never a moment that Christ is not praying over us, the church, and the world. We are called to follow after that prayer by trusting in Christ’s provision and protection. When we have the confidence of knowing that Christ is with us, it changes our perspective. Things will be better, because Christ is with us.
We also live into this prayer by living out the words that Christ is praying over. We are called as a church to abide and live into the vision that Christ sets forth in this prayer. These are not nice little statements just to keep in black and white, or red even. These are actionable statements that Christ has prayed over and desires for his followers to live into. The call for us to abide in a relationship with the Father, through faith in the Son, by the power of the Spirit, is real for us all. Each of us are called to grow in our personal faith, so that we might engage the world by our gifts, words, and actions. The call to be a disciple is not a call for some; it is a call for all. As well, this prayer is actionable for the church. The church abides in Christ, by keeping Christ as the center of our worship and affection. When we get distracted by the things that do not matter, it takes us away from what does matter – our obedience to Christ. Christ prayed over us, as a charge, when he prayed this prayer for us to live out our call to be obedient to Christ, by our giving, actions, and words in our communities. How can we live out this prayer today and tomorrow
Christ desires us to live into this prayer, so let us. Let these words be real and actionable. There is a place that Christ has prayed over and is inviting us to participate in and care for. It is up to us to be attentive to God’s voice and be willing to go where God is sending us, and be the church that God is calling us to be, no matter what that might look like, no matter the cost it might take, no matter the obstacles that might be before us.
We have been blessed by a great prayer of protection, now let’s live it out.