Fr. Ron Millican
MENDING RELATIONSHIPS, 2
In my last column dealing with this subject I set out four goals I hope to address:
- Introduce Jesus’ most personal prayer.
- Discuss the importance of praying for those close to us.
- Praying for others without feeling the need to control the outcome.
- How to pray for relationships that are broken.
I began in the last column by introducing Jesus’ last and most personal prayer for his friends. This is something Jesus did at the end of his life. When he kneels to pray his final prayer (John 17) the night before he is to die, his main concern is these 12 friends who had gathered around him not just to teach then doctrine, but befriend them and show them the importance of connectedness.
Toward the beginning of this prayer (John 17:9), Jesus says, “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me ….” This comes as somewhat of a surprise for those raised on the notion that Jesus died “for the world.” He did indeed, but Jesus was not abstract in his love. It was directed to people he was in a relationship with, not to generalizations such as “the world” or “humanity.”
The old joke goes, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” Well, Jesus was not just interested in humanity as such, but real people, especially those closest to him. In fact, he had a special understanding of these people: He said these were the people God had given him, people God wanted him to be especially concerned about, and individuals with whom he was to play a unique and indispensable role.
This is the context in which we are to pray for own relationships. It is good and right and proper that we pray for the needs of all humanity—for an end to hunger, an end to injustice, liberation from oppression. If such topics are not part of our prayers, some restructuring of our prayer life is in order. But the relationships we have—with our family, our friends, and our neighbors—are given to us by God. In them we play a unique and indispensable role, and it is right that they are a high priority in our prayers.
Jesus continues: “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.” This is the second context in which prayer for others takes place. It is awful easy to forget this and begin praying and living as if our loved ones belong to us.
That is why I have incorporated this prayer into my time with the Lord:
Lord, I am very well aware of my own needs and desires, but sadly, I am much less aware of the needs and desires of my loved ones. Help me to learn to put them first. Help me to break out of my selfishness in order to serve and love them, as you do. Teach me to be truly compassionate toward my loved ones. And let me experience the joy of giving rather than receiving. Through Christ the Lord. Amen.
To be continued ….