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HIS SACERDOTAL PRAYER
Christ in prayer.—The prayer of the upper room.
That his disciples may be kept.-Sanctified.-Unified.-Glorified.-A limited prayer.-All may be included.
Christ in prayer.- No man ever prayed as Jesus did. He was in such vital communion with the Father that prayer was, as we say, "second nature" to him. Nay, rather it was first nature to him. He knew how to commune with God.
On one occasion, being overheard by his disciples who perceived that he was possessed of a secret unknown to them, they said “Lord, teach us to pray." His answer was, "After this manner pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
We are accustomed to speak of this as "the Lord's prayer.” It was, however, not the Lord's prayer at all but our prayer. It was indeed a prayer in which he himself could scarcely join; because his relation with the Father was quite different from ours. He nowhere includes himself in the same sort of filiation as ours, since he was "the only-begotten Son." The real Lord's Prayer is that which is recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John. This is a prayer which none but he could make; which no mortal man could offer without such a measure of presumption as would amount to blasphemy against God.
The prayer of the upper room. It is to this sacerdotal prayer that our thought is now directed: “These things spake Jesus, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come.”
It was the last night of his sojourn on earth. He was meeting with his disciples for the last time in the upper room. He had preached his last sermon to them; had instituted the last supper; had
; given them his last bequest, saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you": and now he makes his last prayer for them.
. "I pray not for the world,” he says, "but for those whom thou hast given me.” And then he proceeds to ask four things in their behalf; and in our behalf, also, for he distinctly makes mention of "them also that believe on me through their word.” Thus his great prayer includes all true Christians to the end of time. In these four petitions we have a summary of all that makes life worth living or heaven worth longing for.
That his disciples may be kept.-"Holy Father," he prays, "keep them in thy name which thou hast
given me. . T
pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one."
He had himself been sent into the world to accomplish a definite task, and he was not to depart out of the world until he could say, "I have accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do." As the Father had sent him into the world, so had he sent his disciples into the very thick of its toil and conflict to remain there until their work was accomplished. In the meantime he said, "Whither I go ye cannot come;" but in due time, having been faithful, they were to follow him.
He foresaw the trials and persecutions that awaited them. The sword was being sharpened; the fagots were being kindled for them; he heard the roaring of the lions in the amphitheatre. In that company in the upper room was James, who was presently to be slain with the sword; and most of the others, if not all, were destined to climb “the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil and pain.” He did not pray that they might be kept alive. For life is not worth living when faith and honor die. His desire was that they might be kept faithful unto death.
He foresaw also the divers temptations that awaited thein; temptations to turn aside from the straight path of righteousness into the by-ways of sin: temptations to swerve from their loyalty to truth into the easy follies of unbelief. For false teachers were to "creep in" among them, whose
clever presentations of error were calculated to deceive the very elect. He did not pray that they might not be exposed to these temptations; but that, being so exposed, they might be kept from wandering into sin and unbelief.
Oh, how much this prayer of the Master is needed to-day! We are living in a very cyclone of controversy, and in constant danger of being swept away from our moorings by adverse winds. There is not a single fundamental truth of the gospel which is not denied or speciously explained away in these days—the deity of Jesus, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the reality of the supernatural, the very personality of God!
The two pieces of divine armor which we most need, under these circumstances, are the girdle of truth and the sandals of the gospel. It was the spiked sandals of a Roman knight that, at close quarters with his adversary, enabled him “to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand."
But the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints" rests on no frail foundation of human ability. We are saved not by our feeble hold on Christ but by his mighty grip on us, as he said, “No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” Wherefore let us lean hard and trust to his great promise: "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake !"
Sanctified.— The second petition of this great prayer in behalf of his disciples is that they may be sanctified. The word sanctification is used in two different
It refers, on the one hand, to growth in holiness. We as Christians are expected to grow every day; not to stand still, marking time, but "to act that each to-morrow find us farther than to-day.” We are to add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, that so we may increase in the practical knowledge of Christ.
This is character building: to be constantly growing more like him. And to that end we have received the immediate presence and power of the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier. He is not called the Holy Ghost because he is holier than either of the other persons of the Godhead, but because it is his official function to impart and cultivate holiness. Wherefore our sanctification is measured by our close and vital acquaintance with him.
But sanctification means also consecration; that is, devotion to duty. So Jesus says, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth;" by which he means that he sets before them an example of perfect devotion to duty. And he indicates how this is to be accomplished in us. The agent of sanctification,