May 24, 2009
Seventh Sunday After Easter
John 17:6-19

?One of my favorite childhood places was a farm pond near my house. It provided so many playful opportunities across the years of my adolescence-fishing, camping, hunting, skipping rocks, bike-riding, woods-walking and so much more.
Skipping rocks usually happened whenever boredom set in and there was nothing else to do. It always became a contest to see how many times I could bounce a small, flat stone across the surface of the water before it finally slipped out of sight.
One day skipping stones morphed into a game to see how far out in the pond I could throw a rock. I was amazed at the way a relatively small splash so far out in the pond could create ripples that would continue moving away from the center of impact until they reached the bank. I expected the small ripples to last only a few feet from the splash; but, to my wonder, they just kept going. They refused to die. Albeit small, they continued their swelling roll until they struck land.
I learned that a small splash began something that took on a life of its own and could make an impact far away. We call it “the ripple effect.” This principle that affects water also has a powerful effect on prayer.
The result of every prayer goes beyond the immediate request. When I pray for the strength of a friend in need, the strength God gives her will be a source of continued blessing when my friend reaches out to the next person. When I ask for the healing of my neighbor, the answer to that prayer continues to touch even more people beyond the sick one. When I pray for my missionary friend in Guatemala, that prayer is blessing the needy villagers where he serves. Such is the ripple effect of prayer.
We see this powerful principle active in the prayer of the Lord Jesus in John 17. On this seventh Sunday of Easter, the biblical drama of God’s redemptive mission on Calvary continues to gain momentum. What God accomplished on the rugged cross and through the empty tomb was like the sudden splash of a rock thrown in the water. The effects keep gaining momentum as it moves steadily away from the splash point in every direction.
There is great anticipation as the power of God is about to reach the distant shores of the earth when the Holy Spirit comes upon the global gathering at Pentecost. What better way for us to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church than by reliving this very
personal and penetrating pastoral prayer of Jesus.
One of the details of this passage that struck me most was Jesus’ statement in John 17:9 (NIV), “I pray for them [the disciple]. I am not praying for the world…” This may sound harsh and uncaring if taken at face value, but here is an example of the importance of taking into account both the full biblical portrait of Christ and the broader context of each verse when reading Scripture.
It is evident in other Scripture that Jesus came to save the world (John 3:16), and He was deeply moved to pray for the world (Matthew 9:36-38). Just a short time later in our text (John 17:18), Jesus revealed one of His ultimate motives for praying specifically for His disciples. He was sending them into the world to do what He did-love all people, serve even the least, proclaim the gospel to every person and give all of Himself. His unwavering focus on them in this prayer also reveals His sense of urgency to pour into them as much of Himself as possible in His short time remaining before the cross.
The requests Jesus made that day continue to have a ripple effect as they are still His desire for disciples today. What did He want for them that He still desires for us?
1. Unity (John 17:11-12). His greatest desire is for their spiritual oneness, like that of the Father and the Son. This would lead unbelievers to a powerful understanding and experience of God’s love.
2. Joy (John 17:13). His desire here is not for a surface, circumstantial happiness, but the deep and satisfying joy that is in a close relationship with Christ Himself.
3. Protection (Matthew 17:15). His main concern is that the gospel be unhindered and that the hardships of His followers be highways to share God’s redemptive message with the world.
4. Sanctity (John 17:17-19). This is a process that begins at the point of one’s salvation decision, but it doesn’t end there. It continues as he or she grows in faith and obeys Christ’s commands throughout life.
A simple prayer uttered in faith can touch many lives with multiplied effects. Do you realize the powerful effect of your prayers beyond the immediate request you are making? I hope it will strengthen your prayer life to see the potential of your daily asking, seeking and knocking in matters that are never small in our Father’s sight.

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