this fellow asked me my thoughts about this passage from the book of John. And so, this is what I replied, in an email today:
I have nothing smart to say or ask. I am dumbfounded. This prayer has always confounded me.
I feel inadequate to receive it, just reading it. Its as if I am listening to Stephen Hawking describe the nature of Dark Matter, or Einstein on theories of time. Its like, for a moment, we are given a glimpse, in this out-loud prayer, of the essence of the forming of the cosmos - in terms of the relationship between Jesus and his Father. It is too great to take in.
In short, I only understand vaguely what is going on. The content and context here is too boundless. These are the final farewell moments before Christ must face the Ultimate Question of death we all will face someday. How does he spend these moments? Praying out loud about his relationship with his Father, what he wants of his disciples, and words for us all to follow. This prayer is very intimate stuff. May we all be driven to a place like this. More often.
Something very mysterious is happening in this prayer. Jesus is not praying for himself to hear the words come out of his mouth, but for others to hear who are there. What might the moments of this prayer felt like for those watching? I can only imagine that it might be the most profound mixture of emotions we humans can feel in all of life. The feeling of joy and tears at the birth of a child; those rare moments of epiphany in the voices of a choir performing sacred works, the brilliance of an unexpected sunset, the pain of a broken friendship, and the foreshadowing dread of facing the impending death of someone we love so dearly. All these things, all together, at one time, rolled together as we sit closely and watch Jesus pray.
We try to open our mouths to respond, but nothing comes out. This must be a moment for silence - in the way that nature affects us most profoundly when we stand in the alpine forest and absorb the calm. There is deep meaning in our quiet reflection of the words of Christ.
Maybe part of understanding is to read this prayer over enough that it has a chance to sink into our souls, and affect the way we move forth into the word, and in turn, love others for Christ. Can we take the time? Can we really let it sink in? Can we, will we?
I still feel inadequate.