When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Jesus prayed. This prayer that we just read in the gospel lesson was said just before his arrest. Jesus knows what is about to happen and he has resigned himself to it. Some people might ask why would Jesus need to pray if he is truly the Son of God. Wouldn't he be like praying to himself?
Jesus knew the power of prayer and he understood its importance for all of us. Jesus often praised the Father in his prayer but there are many ways to express ourselves in prayer. Most of us, when we think of prayer often think in terms of petitioning God for something. I was just looking at our Book of Common Prayer and most of those prayers do just that. They ask for God to intervene for various reasons. It may be to be healed or for world peace or even for rain.
Have you ever known someone who would call you on the phone or drop by your house only when they needed something. The first thing that might cross your mind when that happens is “what does he or she want now?”
That should not be our only reason to open ourselves to God. If we truly love God we should take the time to drop by God's house just to say hello. Prayer can take many forms. The Hymns we sing are prayer. Sitting quietly and opening yourself to God can be as well. Doing work with God and God's creation can be prayer to. I have seen services in the African churches where people were expressing their prayer through dance.
The reality is that God doesn't need out prayers but we need to pray to God. Don't feel like you need to limit yourself to one form of prayer. The prayers at the back of the Book of Common Prayer are thoughtful prayers and they are already put together for you. God listens just as well to prayers that you say on your own. God knows how you talk so you can shape your own prayers and they are just as good.
In the first reading we are told the story of Jesus ascension into heaven. Just before his ascension Jesus tells his disciples that they will not know when the restoration of the kingdom will take place. It got me to thinking that there are so many things we do not know. I was talking to a person who has decided to be a member of our church and the topic came up of 'why do bad things happen to good people'. I told her I don't know. The whole idea of the trinity is a mystery to me. The concept of someone or something being eternal, never having a beginning and never having an ending is impossible for me to comprehend.
I do not believe we are meant to understand God's universe and the role we play in it. It may be wiser for us to just keep it simple and show our love for God and God's creation. This reminds me of the Shaker Song, Simple Gifts:
Tis a gift to be simple
Tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come round where you want to be
And when you find yourself in the place that’s right
You will be in the valley of love and delight
When the true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
For to turn and to turn it will be our delight
Until turning and turning we come out right