Hebrews 13:7-16
John 17:1-13

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Our Gospel reading this morning was the first half of the 17th chapter of the Gospel of St. John, which is often called the “High Priestly Prayer of Christ.” This prayer is called the High Priestly Prayer because in it Christ prays as high priest, as one who is making an offering to God (and as one who is making an offering on behalf of others). This morning, I’d like us to look at the words of Christ’s prayer in the context of prayer, and specifically, in the context of the liturgical prayers of the Church. The liturgical prayers of the Orthodox Church contain the elements of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer, this prayer is a model for our Orthodox Liturgy—in His prayer, Christ glorifies God (His Father), He remembers God’s works, He prays for others, and He makes a declaration of the offering. Not only is this the model for the liturgical prayers of the Church, as we’ll see, this is also the pattern for our personal prayers as well. We learn to pray as Christ prays.

Firstly, God is glorified. To glorify means to “honor with praise and worship.” Christ praises the Father; He says—You have all power, I have done Your work, I have manifested Your name to the people, the people You have given Me. We are created to give God praise, to worship and hymn and glorify God. Fr. Alexander Schmemann says that the Fall is man’s refusal to give God worship and praise. Adam and Eve took the fruit on their own, they didn’t thank God for it, they didn’t ask a blessing, they didn’t give glory to God for the things He had given them. We see the enormous importance of receiving our food, and everything else, as a blessing from God. Our prayers in the Church, and at home, constantly glorify God—“to Thee belong all glory, honor, and worship…Thine are the majesty and Thine are the Kingdom…” We give God all praise and honor and worship in our prayers. Our prayers should entirely focused on God; prayer time is not about us and what we want, but about giving proper praise and worship and glory to God—worshipping God for Who He Is. The word “Orthodox” not only means right-belief, but it also means right-worship, proper-glory. By our very nature we’re creatures created to glorify God.

The second feature of Christ’s prayer is very much related to the first, we give God glory, and we remember His works for our salvation. Christ’s remembrances relate directly to His own life, to the work the Father is doing through the Son for the salvation of mankind. In the Divine Liturgy, we remember everything—from the law and the prophets, and especially the work of Christ and how it all came about for our salvation. Just a few minutes from now we’ll pray, “Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which came to pass for us: the cross, the grave, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting down at the right hand, the second and glorious coming again…” In our prayers we’re always remembering the works of God. For instance, this morning as we prepared for Holy Communion, we remembered the saving life of Christ, many of His miracles, and even the activity of God in the Old Testament. We remember all of this, and connect it directly to our preparation to communion of the very Body and Blood of Christ our God.

And then, Christ doesn’t finish praising God and then ask for something He wants; worshipping and praising God is not like “buttering Him up” so we can have what we ask for. Christ then proceeds to pray for others, and specifically for His Apostles, and His followers. “I pray for them which You have given me…keep them, that they may be one as We are One…keep them from the evil one…sanctify them by Thy truth…” Christ’s prayer focuses on His Apostles, and not on asking the Father to grant them a “good life” in worldly terms (health, safety, possessions, etc), but asking that they be maintained and strengthened in their faith. That their focus will remain “the one thing needful.” Again, this serves for our pattern in the Liturgy. Our liturgical prayer is predominately a prayer for others, for the world—“For the peace of the whole world, for the good estate of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all men, let us pray to the Lord… For the President, for all civil authorities, and for the armed forces, let us pray to the Lord… For this city for every city and country, and for those who in faith dwell therein, let us pray to the Lord…” And this type of petition continues throughout the Divine Liturgy, offering prayers on behalf of others. We can especially enter into this prayer in two real ways: 1) by making sure that the priest has a list of names of people that we want prayed for during the Proskomede. When I prepare for Liturgy, I pray for any names that anyone has given me; prayers for them are part of the offering of the Liturgy, and the Saints say that the most powerful prayers of the Church are the prayers of the Proskomede, because all of those names are then added to the chalice, and covered with the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. 2) And at home, we should make sure that we intercede for others every day. In the morning prayers, there is a short intercessory prayer—“Save, O Lord, and mercy upon my parents, my brothers and sisters, and all my family, and my neighbors and friends, especially NN., and grant them good things both in this world and in the world above.” And in the place provided to insert names, we should have a prayer list of anyone we want to pray for, and we put their names there. And sometimes we may mention special concerns, or we may just say the name of the person. In the bulletin we also have a list of names of people who have requested prayer, or have been placed on the prayer list by our members—it would be a very good practice, a practice after the example of Christ, to include prayers for these people as well.

Our pattern of prayer is to glorify God, remember His works for our salvation, intercede for others, and finally, Christ declares the offering. He presents Himself as an offering to God, and He knows what has to be done—“glorify You Son, that Your Son may also glorify You…glorify Me together with Thyself…sanctify them (Apostles) by Thy truth…” Christian life is a life of offering—“let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God.” The center of the Liturgy, the Eucharist, is an offering to God—we offer the bread and the wine, and in them we offer our lives to God, as Christ offered both His own life and His Apostles. The center of the Liturgy is the declaration of the offering—“Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all…send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts set forth…and make this bread to be the precious Body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup to be the precious Blood of Thy Christ, making the change by Thy Holy Spirit.” In the Liturgy, we offer all we are to God, we present ourselves as a living sacrifice, and then God works, sending down the Holy Spirit on us, and making us to be the precious Body of Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Church is comprised of us, Her members, so we are the Body of Christ. “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee”…as the Body of Christ, we offer ourselves to Christ.

As with everything in the Christian life, we take our que from Christ. We’re called to be imitators of Christ—to do the things He did in order to place ourselves in the will of the Father, and on the path to eternal life. Our lives should be our prayer—glorifying God, recalling His wonders and His works, interceding for our brothers and sisters and neighbors and friends, and offering our lives as a sacrifice of praise to God.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!