Letting Jesus pray in you

Former Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican theologian Rowan Williams:

‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”‘ (Galatians 4.6). The new way we talk to God is as Father, and that is the work of the Spirit of Jesus. And of course it is the prayer recorded of Jesus himself, the night before his death (Mark 14.36). So, for the Christian, to pray – before all else – is to let Jesus’ prayer happen in you. And the prayer that Jesus himself taught his disciples expresses this very clearly: ‘Our Father.’ We begin by expressing the confidence that we stand where Jesus stands and we can say what Jesus says.

Some kinds of instruction in prayer used to say, at the beginning, ‘Put yourself in the presence of God.’ But I often wonder whether it would be more helpful to say, ‘Put yourself in the place of Jesus.’ It sounds appallingly ambitious, even presumptuous, but that is actually what the New Testament suggests we do. Jesus speaks to God for us, but we speak to God in him. You may say what you want – but he is speaking to the Father, gazing into the depths of the Father’s love. And as you understand Jesus better, as you grow up a little in your faith, then what you want to say gradually shifts a bit more into alignment with what he is always saying to the Father, in his eternal love for the eternal love out of which his own life streams forth.

That, in a nutshell, is prayer – letting Jesus pray in you, and beginning that lengthy and often very tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals and hopes are gradually aligned with his eternal action; just as, in his own earthly life, his human fears and hopes and desires and emotions are put into the context of his love for the Father, woven into his eternal relation with the Father – even in that moment of supreme pain and mental agony that he endures the night before his death.

* * *

We speak to God as daughters and sons, and so we speak to God as a God who has – through his own freedom – decided not to be remote, but immediate. He has decided to be our friend – indeed, the word in Greek can be even stronger, our lover – the one who really embraces us and is as close as we can imagine. Very near the heart of Christian prayer is getting over the idea that God is somewhere a very, very long way off, so that we have to shout very loudly to be heard. On the contrary: God has decided to be an intimate friend and he has decided to make us part of his family, and we always pray on that basis.

Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer

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