BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa



Apart from the Psalms, there are close to 700 prayers in the Bible. Among the remarkable prayers in the New Testament are those of Stephen, John and Jesus. Stephen a Deacon of the early Church prayed earnestly when he was dying in the hands of his persecutors; the second solemn prayer is the prayer of the Apostle John which is contained in the last chapter of the book of Revelation; and the third prayer comes from Jesus, a prayer that some prefer to call the “Priestly Prayer of Jesus.” What is remarkable about these three prayers is that they are all personal, specific and direct. These prayers are what some spiritual writers describe as “say what you mean and mean what you say” kind of prayer.

STEPHEN PRAYED: In the case of Stephen, it is strange to read that someone who was pelted with stones refused to run away, but rather stayed to pray. We all have that survival instinct in us that makes us flee in the face of danger. When there is a life-threatening situation we naturally run away as fast as we can. Stephen had an extraordinary courage. His prayer was very personal and he prayed for two very special petitions towards: “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” His first prayer is that of total submission to God and his second prayer is similar to Jesus’ prayer on the cross “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

At first sight it would appear that the gruesome death of Stephen contradicts the promise of Jesus who promised he would be with his disciples always and even till the end of time (Matthew 28:20). Stephen would have been angry with God for not sending angels immediately to protect him from the hands of the wicked. Instead, he submitted to God even in the face of adversity. Unlike Stephen, some Christians get disappointed when some misfortune befalls them. There was a woman who is a staunch devotee to the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of her crucial prayers was not answered and she came back very furious to the statue of the Blessed Mother pointing her fingers to the Marian statue and praying loud in disappointment saying: “I do not expect this from you.” Like this woman, we also can get angry with God when things go against our expectations. However, we would notice that in his last moment he experienced the presence of God: “He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts of the Apostles 7:56). We can imitate Stephen by constantly committing our spirit to God. Stephen also teaches us the virtue of praying for our enemies and those who persecute us and wish us harm.

JOHN PRAYED: Another notable prayer is that of John the evangelist, which is found in the book of Revelation. John wrote at a time when the Christian church was under the yoke of persecution. It was a time when the early Christians were eagerly waiting for the second coming of Christ. They were crying in anguish as they were in acute distress. The prayer “Come, Lord Jesus” (The Greek version of this short prayer is: Amhn, ercou kurie ihsou). The prayer is a clarion call to Jesus to come and deliver the church from the evil and wickedness that surrounds her. A similar clarion call is found in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he mentions: Maranatha, our Lord come! (16:22). Like John, we need to invite the Lord to come and take control of our degenerating society. Our families and nation need deliverance from sinking into the mud of moral, economic and political problems.

JESUS PRAYED: The ‘Priestly Prayer’ is the longest prayers of Jesus that is written in the Scriptures and is longer than the classical prayer “Our Father.” This priestly prayer is made up of 26 verses of John 17. Jesus dedicates the first part of the prayer in praying for himself and the second part in praying for his disciples and others who believe in him through their word. The six last verses of the chapter Jesus mentions love four times and unity five times.

Jesus prayed for the faithfulness, unity, victory and sanctification of his disciples and other believers. This prayer has different titles: “priestly,” or “solemn,” prayers of Jesus. I would like to add, that this prayer is also a “visionary prayer” because in His prayer, we can see that Jesus already visualizes the challenges that await his followers. He knew that those who believe in him are going to be targets of wicked people. This explains why he prayed for protection over them. He said, “do not take them out of the world, but keep them away from evil. This prayer of Jesus is specifically addressed to God and an intercession for his disciples and all people of good will (those who believe in him through their word).

Finally, it is important to know why Jesus prayed for his disciples and those who will believe in him through their word. He did so because he loved them wholeheartedly and he cared for their future. A Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in one of his poems said: “Love is not love, if it has no future.” Let us learn to imitate the love of Jesus and care for the future and progress of those we love. Let us constantly pray that we may have the grace to love to pray and pray to love.

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C; Acts of the Apostles 7:55-60; Revelation 22:12-14.16-17.20; John 17:20-26/ World Day of Communication.

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