contain the manuscript
that the Pastor uses to
prompt him as he
preaches each Sunday
morning at worship.
The actual sermon may
vary but this will give
you an idea of what he
said if you missed the
We hope to have audio
or video clips of his
messages and the
special music we enjoy
available on this site by
Central Baptist Church of Westerly
16 Elm Street, Westerly, RI 02891
Phone: (401) -596-4929
Check out our blog at Central Baptist Life
John 17:1-11 June 5, 2011
“Father, protect them, by the power of your name…”
Whenever I read this passage of scripture I think of a story told by Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins, the
Executive Director of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies at the Biennial Meeting in San
Jose a few years back.
Aidsand said that he grew up in the projects of Los Angeles. Most of the kids who grew up there
joined the gangs and ended up either dead or in prison. But somehow he made out of there alive.
He said he often thought about that over the years and the only thing that he had that many of the
others didn’t was his grandmother. She would sit in her third floor window and look out over the
complex and pray for him and his family.
Aidsand said that every time he seemed to be about to get into trouble, something pulled him away.
It was as if there was a force that was watching over him. When he decided to go into ministry, he
realized that his grandmother’s prayers were answered and that he was only alive because
somebody, his grandmother, had been praying for him.
I know what it is like to have someone praying for you. My experiences didn’t mirror Aidsand’s
miracle but when I began pastoring down the road at Cross Mills Baptist Church, I knew someone
was praying for me. I didn’t know who until I visited a former pastor of the church. When I first
met Rev. Eugene Bronson, he was crippled up with arthritis and literally house bound. I remember
feeling sorry for him. He was hunched over and couldn’t move very much. But then he opened my
eyes when he told me that he had been praying for church and me since I had arrived.
I didn’t think much about it right then but over the next year and a half, I knew with every little
success, they came because of prayers like his.
There is nothing like having someone pray for you. It may feel a little awkward but there is a
connection, a three way connection that takes place when you pray. You see, at that moment,
Jesus enters the room. He stands right beside you ready to bring his blessing upon you and to
answer the prayers of those who call on his name.
It also draws you together with the other person. Two hearts connect when you pray. You see,
you can’t pray for someone if you don’t care about them. That is what is so powerful about our
scripture reading this morning. Jesus, in his last hours, sits down to pray with and for his disciples.
This isn’t the “teach me how to pray” moment that we see earlier when he gives the disciples the
Lord ’s Prayer. This is a heartfelt prayer for those he loved.
Some have suggested that this was the gist of his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. In John 14
and following Jesus begins telling his disciples about the future. He comforts them and tells them
that he is going away and that he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them.
The whole section corresponds well with the other gospels which tell us that after they had
celebrated the Last Supper, Jesus went out to pray. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus
wrestled with the decision to lay down his life. He questioned whether he had heard God right. But
in the quiet of the garden, he heard God’s voice and submitted to his will, “Thy will, not mine, be
After accepting the fate that God had given him, John gives us a gift in that he reveals the rest of
Jesus’ prayer. It wasn’t for his strength or that he might be spared pain. His prayer was for those
he loved. He began praying for his disciples. While they slept a few feet away, he asked God to
protect them, to encourage and empower them, to draw them together in unity so that they might
continue the good work that he had begun in them.
There has been a lot made of the change that took place in the disciples after the resurrection. They
became bolder and spoke with greater confidence. I would like to think it was because Jesus’
prayer had been answered.
In the days between his resurrection and his ascension, Jesus continued to pray for and encourage
his disciples. So when he was lifted up into heaven, they were ready to take on the challenge that he
had left them with.
This morning Cheryl answered the call of God in her life and she entered the waters of baptism. I
am sure that this was the answer to her grandmother Eleanor’s prayer many years ago. As she
watched Cheryl grow up, she undoubtedly prayed for God to watch over her. The truth is that our
own baptism was probably the result of someone’s prayer over our lives. It may have been our
parents or a neighbor or some sweet lady in the church.
Today, we can all thank God for those prayers. But I want to take it a step further. For you see the
prayer Jesus prayed was not simply for our salvation. Yes, Jesus wants us to be with him in
eternity. He wants us to know the fullness of a life with him and the glory of walking in his way.
But that is not the end of it all.
You see, we get sense here in this passage that Jesus prayer is also for us to share in his mission.
Jesus not only saves us, he sends us. Jesus’ prayer is that we might know the same love of God
that he knew and that we might share it with others.
Sometimes I get the impression from people in church that our job is to hold onto the good news
for ourselves. We want to party and celebrate what God has done but we have to be careful that
only those “we choose” get invited in. That is not Jesus’ intent.
Jesus prayed that his disciples might take the joy they knew in him and share it with everyone they
met. Can you imagine the transformation that would take place in the world around us if every one
of us did that?
Jesus’ last words were to go out into all the world teaching and making disciples. The truth is that
Cheryl wouldn’t be here today if someone hadn’t shared the good news with her. The same is true
for all of us. For you, maybe it was your parents who brought you to Sunday School. For others it
may have been a neighbor or a Sunday School teacher or a friend. The point is that someone
touched your life and Jesus became real to you.
That is the answer to Jesus’ prayer.
I love the words of Jeremiah 1:5. He says to the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I
knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” The
Good news is that before we were born, he knew us and he set us apart to be part of his mission.
And all the while he has been praying for us. Jesus has been praying for you and me.
I’ll never forget the day I met Robert Schuler. I was at the Cathedral Institute and in between
session he was signing books. I waited in line and when I got up to him I said, “I listen to you
every week and then I head to church to preach.” And he said something to the effect of “Good for
you!” I walked away with a sense that Robert Schuler, with his audience of millions, was truly
pulling, maybe even praying for me.
Our mission is to go out and share the good news. We can’t help but succeed because someone’s
praying for us, and that someone is none-other, than Jesus. With a friend like that, how can you