Prayer is an essential element of our faith. We come to God with our joys and concerns. We pray for ourselves, our friends, our family, and people we’ve never met. And each time we pray, we do so in the name of our redeemer, Jesus Christ. It’s easy to think that Jesus never prayed. Why would he need to pray if he was God-with-us? However, we see glimpses of his prayer life throughout the Bible. In this lesson, children will explore Jesus’ prayer of intercession for his disciples in John 17:1-11.
You will need:
- A Bible
- Chart paper or whiteboard and a marker
- Several 6” lengths of ribbon and markers (optional)
- Index cards, crayons or markers, and a large bowl (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “Community rallies behind Texas brothers who lost their mother and home” (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children what they have prayed for over the last few weeks. Make a list of their responses on the chart paper or whiteboard.
After they have shared, ask:
- How many of these prayers are for ourselves?
- How many of these prayers are for others?
- How do you decide what to include in your prayers?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (John 17:1-11):
- This passage comes from the New Testament Gospel of John.
- In the reading, the disciples overhear a prayer spoken by Jesus. It is a prayer of intercession. Prayers of intercession are those where we ask God to intervene in our lives or the lives of others.
- Children may wonder why Jesus is praying since he is part of the Triune God. Remind them that Jesus was fully human in addition to being fully God. Humans pray to God because we believe God is always present and is involved in the lives of all people. In addition, while Jesus is part of the Triune God, he is praying to the whole of God (including the Creator and the Holy Spirit) in this moment.
- This prayer is offered shortly before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. It comes at the end of a long period of teaching where Jesus tries to prepare the disciples not only for his death but also for the lives that they are called to live to continue the work he began on Earth.
Read aloud John 17:1-11.
After reading, ask the children:
- Who does Jesus pray for?
- Why do you think Jesus prays for his disciples?
- What does Jesus ask God to do for his people?
- Though Jesus offers this prayer for the disciples he knew during his lifetime, who else might this prayer be for?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Ribbon prayers of the people: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: several 6” lengths of ribbon and markers. In his prayer, Jesus says, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine.” He is joining his disciples to the ancient people of God as well as connecting us to the Triune God. He does this through prayer. Hand each child a few pieces of ribbon. Ask them to write short prayers on each length of ribbon using markers. Then, tie the ribbons together creating a long string of prayers. Ask the children to hold on to different sections of the prayer chain so that all in the group are connected to it. Offer a moment of silent prayer where children can add other prayers.
- Overheard prayers: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: index cards, crayons or markers, and a large bowl. In the reading, the disciples overhear Jesus’ prayer for them. We also overhear things that we may want to pray for. Hand each child several index cards. Ask them to write or draw on each of the cards something that they have overheard someone say recently that could become a prayer. For instance, a child may have heard a parent talking about a co-worker who is sick. Or they may have heard in school about a community affected by a storm. After the children have filled the cards with prayers, have them place the cards in the bowl. As each card is placed in the bowl, have the group say, “Lord, hear this prayer.”
- Belonging to one another: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “Community rallies behind Texas brothers who lost their mother and home.” In the reading, Jesus prays for people to know they are joined together through God’s love. As people who are part of the community of God, we not only rely on God, we also help one another. Show the video. Discuss how the people of the community joined together to show God’s love to the two brothers.
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