The Longest Prayer

The outskirts of loss are deep places. There in the shadows of non-comprehension, there in the smacking reality of pain, emotion and intellect collide. There in the crater of grief lies meaning. And I cannot imagine trying to find it in the midst of such dust without my heavenly Father.

Nor could Jesus. In John 17, He stands on the edge of death–and not just normal death, whatever that is. Excruciating death. Torture and torment. Unimaginable humiliation–the Healer wounded, the Savior not rescued, the King executed like a criminal. So Jesus, considering the darkness before Him, turns to the Father and prays.

It is this prayer that becomes the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the New Testament. In it, He looks back at the way He lived His life. He thinks of the ones He’s leaving behind. And He considers the ones who have yet to meet Him, ones who are in His future outside of His life on earth. His mind is sharply aware that although something terrible is about to happen to Him, God the Father is moving and working. He’s not about to waste the suffering of the Son. Jesus is reaching for His Father, remembering their relationship. Rehearsing what He knows to be true, even though not all of it has yet been manifested. He is speaking in faith.

Jesus is mining the meaning from the depths of loss.

Before, after and during seasons of great pain, our hearts long to know that what we’re experiencing is somehow worthwhile, somehow purposeful. Even when–and especially when–the mind can’t comprehend what the heart already does, it seeks to push past the ache and discover the source of light, if it even exists. It’s like moving blindly through an utterly dark cave looking for the pinprick of light that means an opening lies ahead.

Even in the darkness, our hearts begin looking for redemption.

When the prayer in John 17 took place, Jesus was about to accomplish it.

As I read this significant prayer of transition for Jesus, I felt Him acknowledging, understanding, validating my current season of life. My need to assess, to look forward and back. To ask questions. To feel every nuance in the passage between twilight and dawn.

As He prayed, Jesus Himself was experiencing the deepest transition of humankind: the movement from life to death to life on the other side. He knows what every dying person feels and thinks. He knew what my mom was feeling in her last hours, those last couple of days, weeks, months. The questions in her heart, the sensations in her body. What’s more, He was there experiencing everything with her. I believe that as she spoke His name for the last time from her home on earth, He answered immediately. He acknowledged the sacredness of her transition with His presence. When that final, holy moment came, He took her hand and walked her across heaven’s threshold, flooding her awareness with His own resurrection life.

Meanwhile, He is here with me, too, present in my transition as I learn to live without her. The cave has been dark and the crater deep. But the light of His countenance shines upon me, and I speak, by faith, of the redemption He is going to bring.



2 Responses to “ “The Longest Prayer”

  1. Mama Amy says:

    Joanne, Your writing is beautiful. I look forward to reading much more!
    Hugs from PA! Amy Smith (Riniker)

  2. danii says:

    I sigh in peace at knowing Jesus really knows pain and loss at the deepest place of knowing, and our High Priest has gone before and is going before us into everything, including eternity. Thoughtfully and beautifully worded, Joanne, as always!

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