The Prayer Life of Jesus: Relationships (John 11)
The Prayer Life of Jesus: Praying for Relationships
“Power of Prayer”
I am only a worker employed by the Lord,
And great is my gladness and my rich reward
If I can just spread the wonderful story
That God is the answer to eternal glory…
And only the people who read my poems
Can help me to reach more hearts and homes,
Bringing new hope and comfort and cheer
Telling sad hearts there is nothing to fear,
And what greater joy could there be than to share
The love of God and the power of prayer.
Helen Steiner Rice
One of our monthly series in 2023 has been “The Prayer Life of Jesus.” The first half of the year, we just looked at references to Jesus praying but the last half of the year, we are looking at the actual prayers of Jesus, where His words are recorded.
The application for my series on “The Prayer Life of Jesus” has been focusing primarily on praying for our spouses. Here, I want us to consider praying for our spouses and their relationships.
JESUS’ FRIENDS ARE HURTING - 11:1-4:
11:1-4 - “Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
First, we observe that Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were friends of Jesus. So much so, that verse 5 explicitly says that Jesus loved these three. But Lazarus has now become sick.
Second, for the purpose of our comments on prayer, observe from verse 4 that Jesus says this sickness would not end in death, but was done “for the glory of God,” with a purpose: “so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Jesus is going to allow Lazarus to die; He is going to allow His friends to mourn for four days, before He raises Lazarus from the dead. In other words, Jesus is going to make sure Lazarus is “good and dead. Dead as a doornail.”
We need friends, in good times and bad times. Women need close friendships with other women; men need close friendships with other men. Ideally, your closest friend will be your spouse, but a spouse does not take the place of a close female or male friend - a friendship of good quality.
Does your spouse have friends who use him or her? Wear them down? Is jealous of them? Doesn’t really support them? Talks about them behind their back?
Your spouse needs friends who build them up and enrich their lives, and allows them to do the same. Your spouse needs dependable friends, faithful friends to talk to, to even pray with, to offer help when he or she needs it - from someone of the same gender. Good friends will help your spouse grow and when that happens, it contributes positively to our own marriage.
Pray that your husband or wife will have good, godly friendships.
JESUS DELAYS HIS ENCOURAGEMENT - 11:5-16:
11:5-16 - “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
Jesus knows what He is going to do; but His disciples do not, nor do Martha and Mary. Notice in verse 6 that even after Jesus gets the message that Lazarus is sick that He stays two days longer where He was. Then, when the time was right, Jesus told His disciples they were going to Judea - where Bethany was. The disciples were concerned for Jesus’ life in Judea because the Jews were talking about stoning Jesus.
But Jesus gives a theological message in verses 9-10. Of course, Jesus has already told His disciples and us that He is the light of the world (8:12). So, here, Jesus is saying that if someone knows who Jesus is, they will walk in the light, and not stumble. Raising Lazarus from the dead will help prove to His disciples that He is the light of the world, the resurrection and the life (11:25-26).
Then Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep - and Jesus clearly means that Lazarus has actually died. “Sleep” is often used as a metaphor for death. Jesus said they needed to leave so that He could awaken Lazarus. The disciples surely thought that was strange. So, in verse 14, Jesus says plainly that Lazarus has died. But notice that Jesus says He was glad He wasn’t there so that His disciples would believe in Him. If Jesus had left immediately and healed Lazarus from his sickness, Jesus would not have had the opportunity to perform - surely it is a greater miracle! - a resurrection from the dead! Then the disciples would not have experienced that wonder.
Thomas Didymus, a friend of Jesus, offers them all to go to Judea with Jesus and die with Him!
Bad things can happen to any relationship - even strong husband / wife relationships. As husband and wife, we have certain expectations of each other.
In-law relationships can also be very sensitive. I learned from my older brother’s first marriage that our attitude toward his wife was almost completely dependent on what he told us. We did not know her very well. He influenced us one way or the other.
Men, especially if you are still early in your marriage, pray that your family will accept your wife. Women, pray the same thing.
Be aware of what you say to your family about your husband or wife, because they will draw conclusions based on what you say. And that might be the foundation of their view of him or her.
In front of your family, do you present your spouse as a blessing? An asset? Someone whom you value? A gift from God?
It happens far more often that a wife has trouble connecting with her mother-in-law than a husband has connecting with his father-in-law. Pray that this relationship can be what it needs to be.
JESUS GIVES A WORD OF HOPE - 11:17-27:
11:17-27 - “So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
This paragraph includes the two verses that are really the heart of this text, verses 25-26. First, Lazarus had been dead for four whole days - in other words, he was “good and dead.”
Secondly, there are a lot of eyewitnesses to the resurrection Jesus is about the perform. Because Bethany was only two miles from Jerusalem, many Jews had come to mourn with Martha and Mary, to console them.
Thirdly, when Martha heard that Jesus was on His way, she went out to meet Him. And notice that she whined a little bit: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But, she also expressed some hope and confidence: “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” She had quite a bit of confidence in Jesus Christ and she had confidence in Jesus’ relationship with His Father, Jehovah God.
Fourth, Jesus states, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha assures Him that she is confident that in the final day of judgment, Lazarus will rise again. But she was hoping for something maybe a little sooner than that…
Fifth, Jesus expresses a deep theological truth that is at the heart of our Christian faith. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Sixth, Martha than expresses the conviction that she had come to based on the evidence she had seen in Jesus since she came to know Him: “I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” That was a settled conviction in Martha’s mind. The kind of conviction that guides you through the entire ups and downs of life.
Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. That means that He wanted what was best for them. When we think about our married life, every married couple needs to have 2-3 other couples with whom they can spend time together. If you don’t have those kinds of friendships - especially Christian friends - pray for it. Start inviting folks from church over to your house and work through the entire church directly until you find someone that you “click” with.
The relationships that influence you the most should be those relationships that help you glorify God and challenge you to walk with Christ. Pray that God will remove out of your life those people who are not being a good influence on you, and pray that God will provide relationships for you and your spouse that will be good for your spiritual life.
JESUS WEPT OVER DEATH - 11:28-37:
11:28-37 - “When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
Martha leaves Jesus; Mary comes to Him. Mary says the same thing to Jesus that Martha had said earlier, which suggests to me that they had said these things to each other since Lazarus had died: “If Jesus had been here, Lazarus would not have died.”
Then we see one of the most beautiful and touching scenes in the life of Jesus. Jesus saw Mary crying; He saw the Jews also crying. And Jesus was deeply moved in His spirit and He was also troubled. They asked where Lazarus was buried so they began to lead Him to the grave, and the shortest verse in the English Bible (1 Thess. 5:16 is the shortest verse in the Greek) reveals the depth of our Savior’s love for us: “Jesus wept.” He wept over death. He wept over His friends. He wept for the pain that Satan causes through death.
Reconciliation between God and man and between man and man is a great blessing. When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Martha and Mary will not be upset with Him anymore. Jesus will, in fact, one day destroy death; we’ll read about that in Revelation 20.
Reconciliation. Be very careful that you don’t show disrespect to your spouse in public (especially), you don’t criticize your spouse in public, or you don’t make unflattering remarks about your spouse in public. Those types of behavior work against reconciliation. If you do that type of thing in front of other people, everyone suffers - your children, your friends, your family, your co-workers (whoever hears the comments).
Pray that you will be united with your spouse and that there will be no issues between you.
JESUS PRAYED FOR RELATIONSHIPS - 11:38-44:
11:38-44 - “So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”
We have said all we have said in order to lead up to this prayer of Jesus. Standing at the graveside of Lazarus, Jesus is “deeply moved within.” Jesus asks for the stone to be moved away from the cave. He is told that Lazarus has been dead four days and surely by now he stinks. But Jesus tells Martha: “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Remember, back in verse 4 that Lazarus’ sickness would end with the “glory of God” so that the “Son of God may be glorified by it.”
The Jews removed the stone and then Jesus raised His eyes in prayer to the Father: “Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” What Jesus did, He did to build a relationship - with the Jews around Him and, of course, you and me.
Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come forth.” Notice, “the man who had died came forth.” They took off the grave clothes and Lazarus was embraced by his friends and family.
LET US PRAY FOR RELATIONSHIPS:
Pray that your spouse will have close friendships with godly men or godly women.
Pray that your spouse will have a healthy relationship with your family.
Pray that your spouse will be released from past hurts.
Pray that your spouse will forgive those whom they need to forgive.
Pray that your spouse will have reconciliation in those relationships in which he or she needs it.
LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF THE LORD:
Proverbs 12:26 - “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
Mark 11:25 - “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”
Proverbs 18:24 - “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 - “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Luke 6:37 - “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”
Take home message: Pray for your spouse’s relationships with others, especially to have godly friends to an encouragement to him or her.