Evening Prayer, Cairo,
Painted by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904),
Painted in the 1860’s,
Oil on panel,
© Sotheby’s London, 30 April 2019, lot 22, sold £735,000

Evening Prayer, Cairo,
Painted by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904),
Painted in the 1860’s,
Oil on panel,
© Sotheby’s London, 30 April 2019, lot 22, sold £735,000

Gospel of 18 May 2021

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said

John 17:1-11

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

'Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you; and, through the power over all mankind that you have given him, let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him. And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me with that glory I had with you before ever the world was. I have made your name known to the men you took from the world to give me. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Now at last they know that all you have given me comes indeed from you; for I have given them the teaching you gave to me, and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you, and have believed that it was you who sent me. I pray for them; I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you: all I have is yours and all you have is mine, and in them I am glorified. I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.'

Reflection on the Painting

Whilst the disciples are present, Jesus prays: 'Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:…'  The disciples are simply listening to Jesus praying to His Father. What a privilege! In His prayer, Jesus doesn't just pray for Himself, but also for His disciples and those who will come to believe through them. 

Jesus shows beautifully how we too can and should pray for others. Praying for friends, colleagues and family does not only seek to impact the very lives of these people in a positive way but praying also changes our own hearts towards them. Prayer expands our own hearts too, as we discussed a few days ago. 

Two years ago, a few months before I entered seminary, I saw this painting at Sotheby's in London, and it stayed with me. It is an Orientalist work by Jean-Léon Gérôme, depicting Muslim men doing the daily maghrib, or evening prayer, performed on the housetops of Cairo. The men face East, towards Mecca, as the crescent moon and direction of the waning light suggest. They articulate each of the ritual postures associated with the prayer, from the initial standing (qiyam) to the last prostration (sajda). The forms that prayer takes in the different religions throughout the world, though varied, generally follow similar patterns with expressions of praise, meditation and introspection. Prayer is the foremost expression of any religion.

Prayer delights God's ear and is our way of nurturing our friendship with Him. Prayer is what connects us with God… 

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