Joshua J. Masters |
Jesus prayed for the church to have unity, and as we learn to pray together through division into that unity, God reveals His protection and purpose for His church.
Praying (Together) Through…
Message 1 • Division
Joshua J. Masters
March 20, 2022
A. PRAYING TOGETHER
Good morning, Brookwood.
Today we begin a new series called Praying (Together) Through…
And in these four weeks leading up to Easter, we’re going to look at what it means to become a praying church.
When a church begins to pray through their struggles, like:
--or direction—and begins to pray into the identity and mission of Christ, the Spirit moves.
What do you think happens (historically) when the church truly commits itself to praying together, continually, in one voice, to overcome their stumbling blocks and align themselves with Christ’s purpose?
What do you think?
Every revival is preceded by a movement of prayer among God’s people.
When the church cries out to God, renewal comes into the church and revival comes to the region.
So, here’s the question:
--Do we want to see revival in the Upstate?
--In the United States?
--Around the world?
It can begin in this room.
But we must become a people who pray TOGETHER. Not just a few of us—all of us.
We must pray for the church, and we must pray for one another.
But how do we do that?
That’s what we’re going to learn together over the next four weeks.
We’ll start by looking at the prayer Christ Himself prayed for the church.
>>We’re going to be in John 17,
You can go ahead and turn or swipe there in your Bibles (pg. 869).
Now, because this is the first week, we have to set the stage, so don’t worry if it takes us a few minutes to get to the first fill-in.
So, as you find John 17, let me give you a sense of how important this prayer is.
This prayer is how Jesus closes His final teaching with the disciples.
--This is the same night (and likely in the same room), that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.
--It’s the same night He explained how He was leaving them.
--It’s immediately after He shared the Last Supper with them.
And before they leave the upper room and Jesus takes the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane (where He’s arrested), He prays in front of them in one of the most profound passages of Scripture.
We could easily spend all four weeks on this one prayer. In fact, one commentary I use to study has 70 pages of notes on just these 26 verses.
So, we can’t delve into every aspect of this prayer, but we do want to focus on how Christ prays for the church.
But before He prays for us, He starts by addressing the Father.
John 17, Verse 1:
After saying all these things [Everything He told them in the upper room], Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so He can give glory back to You. For You have given Him authority over everyone.
He gives eternal life to each one You have given Him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth. I brought glory to You here on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, bring Me into the glory We shared before the world began.”
John 17:1–5 (NLT)
Jesus prays in front of the disciples and proclaims His submission to the Father but also His unity with the Father.
He’s come to the end of His mission. He brought glory to the Father by fulfilling everything required for His sacrifice to bring eternal life to us, and now He’s ready to submit to the cross.
“I have revealed You to the ones You gave Me from this world. They were always Yours. You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from You, for I have passed on to them the message You gave Me. They accepted it and know that I came from You, and they believe You sent Me. My prayer is not for the world, but for those You have given Me, because they belong to You.”
John 17:6–9 (NLT)
In Philippians 2 it says Jesus laid down His divine privileges to be born a human being.
Now, He’s preparing to pick them up again.
And as Christ readies Himself to re-enter His glory, He turns the focus of His prayer toward the church.
Now watch this transition in verse 10:
“All who are Mine belong to You, and You have given them to Me, so they bring Me glory.”
John 17:10 (NLT)
Do you see that?
Christ is transferring His mission to bring God glory to the church.
And He’s not just praying for the disciples, He’s praying specifically for us.
Jump down to verse 20:
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.”
John 17:20 (NLT)
Jesus prays for the church.
And the theme that repeats itself over and over in the rest of this prayer is unity—unity in the church with one another and with God.
Acts 2 tells us the early church devoted themselves to four things.
The Early Church Was Unified in:
-Learning God’s Word TOGETHER
-Fellowship and Care TOGETHER
-And Praying TOGETHER
And you know what happened?
…while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Acts 2:47 (NLT)
Revival came from being completely devoted to the Word, to one another, and to praying together.
They were completely unified.
Do you think the American church is completely unified?
No. There’s division about politics, and race, and denominations, and selfishness…
Jesus has perfect unity with the Father, but we face the division caused by our sinful natures.
So, for revival to come:
A. The church must pray (together) through DIVISION into UNITY.
(You didn’t think we’d get to the fill-ins, did you?)
The church must pray THROUGH division INTO unity.
Don’t raise your hands but think through:
--Your interactions with others in the church.
--Think through your social media posts.
How many of us are causing division rather than praying against it?
We must pray for the church to have unity with God and one another.
So, as we walk through the rest of Jesus’ prayer, we’ll see 4 ways we can pray for unity in the church.
B. Pray the Father will bring our church…
1. Unity in our PRAISE.
Jesus began His prayer by praising the Father.
In those first 9 verses we just read, Jesus worships the Father referring to:
--His nature as the One true God.
--His authority and sovereignty.
--And His ability to give eternal life.
Before we cry out to God with our needs, we must worship Him as our primary need.
We must recognize and experience who He is.
When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, how did He begin?
“…Our [praying together] Father in heaven, may Your name be kept holy.
May Your Kingdom come soon.
May Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:9–10 (NLT)
This opening stanza of what we call the Lord’s Prayer focuses on:
--God’s acceptance of us as His children,
--The holiness of His glory,
--The sovereignty of His Kingdom
--And a submission to His authority.
Read the Psalms carefully.
When David cries out to God in anguish or in need, much of his prayer is not about the problem but proclaiming who God is.
When we begin to focus on God’s identity rather than our problems, it’s easier to lay those problems at His feet.
Because when you see who God truly is, you’re filled with trust in Him and lay down your need for control.
Look at verse 10 again:
“…You have given them to Me, so they bring Me glory.”
John 17:10b (NLT)
Our first purpose as a church is to bring glory to Jesus Christ.
Yes, we do that by how we interact with the world, but we will never do that with impact or sincerity if we’re not rooted in the praise and worship of who God is.
Not just with our singing, but in a way that praise becomes our identity.
So, we pray the Father will bring us unity in our worship and praise.
Pray the Father will bring our church…
2. Unity through His PROTECTION.
Let’s continue reading. Verse 11:
“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to You. Holy Father, You have given Me Your name; now protect them by the power of Your name so that they will be united just as We are.”
John 17:11 (NLT)
Jesus asks the Father to give the same spiritual protection to the church that Christ was given…
Why? So we would be united—having the same unity Christ and the Father share.
And notice the title Jesus uses, “Holy Father.”
Did you know this is the only place in Scripture where God is called, “Holy Father?”
Obviously, they’re used separately throughout Scripture, but this is the only place they appear as one title.
So, Jesus calls on both the authority of the Father and our relationship with Him as the source of protection.
“During My time here, I protected them by the power of the name You gave Me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.”
John 17:12 (NLT)
Judas is, of course, preparing for Christ’s betrayal even as He’s praying this.
“Now I am coming to You. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with My joy. I have given them Your Word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.”
John 17:13–16 (NLT)
Jesus is setting the church apart and asking for spiritual protection from Satan.
“Keep them safe from the evil one.”
What does that sound like?
It’s how Jesus taught them to pray.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).
We must be set apart.
We cannot do the work of the church (and revival will never come) if the church looks like the world.
So, we must pray for unity in our praise.
And we must pray our church is protected from Satan.
But as we rely on God to protect us from outside influences, we must also look inward.
We must pray for Him to transform us.
Pray the Father will bring our church…
3. Unity with His PERSONALITY (through PRUNING).
If Christ lives in us, and if we are to be an instrument of His glory, we must be willing to have Christ prune away our sinful desires, so our personality and hearts look like His.
Earlier this same night, Jesus told the disciples:
“I am the true grapevine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
John 15:1–2 (NLT)
--There’s no option to just be left alone here.
--Those not bearing fruit get cut off completely,
--And even those producing fruit must be pruned so we can produce more fruit.
And now in His prayer, Jesus prays (v. 16):
“They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy [sanctify them] by Your truth; teach them Your Word, which is truth … And I give Myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth.”
John 17:16–17, 19 (NLT)
We are pruned and made holy by experiencing God’s truth.
And God’s truth is revealed through His Word—not just reading or memorizing it (although that’s good).
But we’re only changed by experiencing the truth of His Word.
The difference between reading God’s Word and experiencing God’s Word is whether or not you’re being pruned by His Word.
Look at 2 Timothy:
All Scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed] and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NLT)
Are you willing to pray this church will be pruned by His Word?
Now, are you willing to pray for YOU to be pruned?
That’s a difficult thing to pray—for unity in pruning.
But if we’re willing to focus on the result rather than the process, we’ll develop a desire to be refined.
Look what the pruning leads to. Verse 21:
“I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You gave Me, so they may be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me.”
John 17:21–23a (NLT)
Christ is offering us His glory—unity with the glory of God in our lives.
And that will change the world. He continues:
“May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me. Father, I want these whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they can see all the glory You gave Me because You loved Me even before the world began! O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know You, but I do; and these disciples know You sent Me. I have revealed You to them, and I will continue to do so. Then Your love for Me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
John 17:23b–26 (NLT)
Pruning leads to:
--Complete unity with Christ and the Father.
--Experiencing the perfect glory and love of God.
--complete unity with one another.
--And being so transformed that the world sees Christ in us and believes who He is.
It prepares us for revival in our homes, in our church, and in our community.
Because when we, as a church, become truly unified with Christ through pruning and prayer… we’ll begin to see miracles and salvations we can’t even imagine right now.
So, we must also pray to be mission focused.
Pray the Father will bring our church…
4. Unity in His PURPOSE for us.
This one is short and to the point.
Unity with Christ and one another will always lead to God revealing His compassion for the lost and the hurting through us.
Look at verse 21 again:
“I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me.”
John 17:21 (NLT)
And back in verse 18, Jesus prayed:
“Just as You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world.”
John 17:18 (NLT)
You know that song, “This little light of mine… I’m gonna let it shine.”?
But you know what’s wrong with it?
Your light is not little.
When we, together, are unified in Christ… we’re not a little light in a dark world.
We’re a blinding beacon of hope that darkness hides from.
So, I return to the question we asked at the beginning of our message.
Do we want to see revival?
I believe God is preparing Brookwood Church to make an impact for the Kingdom in ways we can’t imagine.
Are we willing to step out in faith and pray for the church in new ways together?
Why wait? Let’s start right now!
We’re going to pray together for unity in the church.
Now, no one run away. Ushers, block the doors. (Just kidding).
When I finish these instructions, you’re going to stand up, turn to the people around you, and get into groups of 3 or 5—or whatever.
If you see someone without a group, invite them into yours so no one is alone.
And we’re going to pray TOGETHER though these prayer points we learned today.
PRAISE THE FATHER FOR…
· Sending His Son to give us unity with Him and one another.
· God’s name to be glorified through Brookwood Church.
· God’s protection and unity over Brookwood Church as we’re transformed to be more like Him.
· God’s will and purpose to be revealed for Brookwood Church.
And we’ll also put these up in our Online Campus so you can pray with your family or with us through the screen.
Now, I know I’m stressing some of you out right now.
So, before you move, listen very carefully.
You can’t do this wrong.
This is not about doing it right.
It’s about learning to pray together.
And it may be a little awkward at first—but that’s okay. We’re all doing it together.
-You don’t have to pray these exact words.
-You can either take turns in your group or just have one person pray.
-You can pray one at a time or all at the SAME time.
-Pray loud, pray quietly, pray silently.
-Pray in English, or Spanish, or Portuguese, or Sign Language or Klingon.
Vamos a orar juntos en grupos
(or ‘EM’ grupos in Portugués)
<Repeat in Sign Language>
Let’s pray together in every language but one voice!
And I’ll come back and close us out in a few minutes.
Ready? Let’s go.
Thank you for your willingness to try something new.
We’re going to keep praying together.
And if you’d like to join our Watchers Prayer Team, a group dedicated to praying for Brookwood every day, you can go to:
Care volunteers will be down front if you need prayer for yourself.
Let’s close by praying this blessing from Scripture:
May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:5–6 (NLT)