‘He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved”...’ — Mark 16:15-16

Over the years, as a priest, I have had my share of people who came to me with one problem or another, seeking advice and guidance. The first question I usually ask people is, “Have you prayed?” Many times, the response has been, “I didn’t want to bother God with my problems.”

If we don’t pray for ourselves and those we love in our time of need, when should we pray? In this Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 17:11b-19), Jesus is praying to the Father in His time of need. He is preparing Himself for His suffering and death on the cross, and He is trying to prepare His disciples in their time of need by praying also for them: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one” (Jn 17:11).

What should we pray for? Shouldn’t we pray that we remain faithful to Jesus, as Jesus Himself prayed that His disciples would remain faithful? “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” If Jesus prays that we remain faithful, shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?

Shouldn’t we pray that we are united with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t we pray for God’s protection in our lives? Jesus prayed for the protection of His disciples: “When I was with them, I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them.” Shouldn’t we pray that we are protected particularly from the evil one?

Shouldn’t we pray that we are faithful to the Gospel? Jesus prayed that His disciples would be faithful to His word: “I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”

Shouldn’t we pray that we are Eucharist-centered people? We are consecrated in the Eucharist: “I consecrate myself to them, so that they may be consecrated in truth.”

Why shouldn’t we pray? After all, Jesus is praying for us. There is great comfort in knowing that. We profess that Jesus ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. The responsorial psalm (Ps 103) is a song of praise and thanksgiving which proclaims the universal sovereignty of Jesus Christ: “The Lord has set His throne in heaven.”

We are assured of this because John (17:1-19) tells us, “Lifting His eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed.” This is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus explicitly prays for His disciples, but we know He prayed each time He performed a miracle, because it was through prayer that He was revealed to be in full union with God the Father. Each time Jesus prayed, it was to reveal the Father’s glory, for through prayer the lame walked, the blind were given sight and the dead were raised.

Jesus’ prayers which precede His miracles reveal who Jesus is: the Son of God. Jesus’ prayers reveal what Jesus has come into the world to do: to make all things new, for only the preexistent word of God can bring about a new creation (Jn 1:1-18). Jesus’ prayers also reveal what Jesus will do for us, so that we may have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10).

Each time we pray, we draw a little closer to God. The more we pray, the stronger our faith becomes. The Gospel and letters of John speak of the importance of remaining in the presence of God, which will guide us to make proper choices in life: “If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is brought to perfection” (1 Jn 4:11-16).

The Scriptures remind us that we have the ability to bring about change in this world through our prayers: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God” (1 Jn 4:14).

The Apostles understood the importance of prayer, especially when they had to discern who would replace Judas, who betrayed Jesus. They proposed two men to become the 12th Apostle. They prayed before they made the choice: “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen” (Acts 1:15-17,20-26). The Church must bring to prayer all decisions before they are made, for they must decided through seeking the will of God.

What should we pray for? All these things and more! Knowing that we have the presence of Jesus with us gives us courage and strength to change the world, one prayer at a time.