CARY, N.C. (BP) -- While preparing to speak at a conference, I went into a small Sunday School classroom to pray. Sitting there in meditation, I noticed numerous prayer requests listed on a white board. I thought it was interesting that all the prayer requests on the board were focused on upcoming health tests and various physical needs in people's lives. In fact, not one was focused on spiritual issues or the Father and His work in these peoples' lives.

We spend much of our time praying toward temporal issues that are focused on our circumstances and desires. But if North America is to be penetrated with the Gospel, our prayers must focus on our Father and His purposes and desires. In His High Priestly prayer during the last week of Jesus' earthly ministry, Jesus shows us how to pray toward the Father (John 17). Despite the intense circumstances of what is historically called "passion week," His prayer was focused on the Father and the fulfillment of His mission.

FATHER-FOCUSED

The God-centeredness of Jesus' prayer is evident in the opening word of the prayer as He addresses God as "Father." He repeats this endearing term six times in this poignant prayer -- verses 1, 5, 11, 21, 24, and 24 -- addressing God as "Holy Father" and "Righteous Father" in two of those instances. This term represents intimacy and relationship. Jesus teaches believers that prayer is relational and is not just something we do, like a ritual or task. As Christians, we are not praying to some impersonal deity in the heavens. He is our Father and our access to come boldly into His presence cost Him greatly (see Hebrews 10:19-20).

MISSION-DRIVEN

The phrase "the hour has come," points to Jesus' awareness of the significant times that were near. He was sensitive to the Father's hour and was praying with a view toward what the Father was accomplishing in His world. What hour of the Father's is it today in your life, your family, your city, your nation, your world? How is the Father's hour impacting the way you pray? Are you praying toward the Father's hour?

CHRIST-EXALTING

Jesus' prayer "Glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You" demonstrates selfless praying. His desire was that all would recognize who the Father was through the glory that would be revealed through the Son's righteous act of obedience. This act of obedience is linked to the three "lifted up" sayings in John's Gospel -- John 3:14, John 8:28 and John 12:32. The Father is glorified as the Son is lifted up on the cross, out of the grave, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for those who believe (see Hebrews 7:25). The Father is thus made known (glorified) as Jesus obeyed and was lifted up. Surrendering to the cross was the first step toward the completion of the work of the Christ that continues beyond that historical event.

KINGDOM-BUILDING

As Jesus is glorified, the lost world is redeemed and the Father is made known as His followers tell the story of the Christ down through the ages (see John 17:20). Warren Wiersbe correctly comments, "We glorify our Father in heaven by being what Jesus told us to be: salt in a decaying world and light in a dark world (Matthew 5:13-16)." God-centered praying produces passionate and effective witnesses. It did then and it will now! How then shall we pray?

Chris Schofield is director of the office of prayer for evangelization and spiritual awakening with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Initial articles about the Call to Prayer that Frank Page issued to Southern Baptists for 2013 can be read here and here. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Warren Wiersbe, "On Earth As it is in Heaven" (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010), 27.

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