Focal Passage: John 17:1-26
We call the model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 the “Lord’s Prayer” but John 17 is the “real Lord’s Prayer.” The model prayer was part of His public teaching from the Sermon on the Mount. No mention is made in John 17 as to who heard it or what were the circumstances of the prayer. We know that John himself is one of the closest of Christ’s disciples. John’s deepest desire is to portray the love Christ has for His disciples and all of us who believe.
John does not record the Gethsemane prayer of Jesus where the synoptic gospels tell us how He prayed in the garden. Recall how He prayed with great anguish after leaving even His closest ones, including John, and pouring out His heart to the Father. I like to think that John came close enough to Him to hear this prayer and record it for us. What a gift to all who believe to have this document which defines the deep commitment and love of God’s Son for all of us.
Jesus knows what horror loomed before Him. Hence, “He looked toward heaven and prayed.” This was a common posture for prayer, but this was no ordinary prayer. Jesus prayed for Himself, for His disciples, and for all believers. One of my favorite prayers is “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!” This is what Henri Nouwen calls “the Jesus Prayer.” Pray for yourself, for close friends and companions, and for all believers. Try this by writing down your prayer and listing names of people in each group.
Jesus prays for Himself (John 17:1-5). From the cross Jesus prayed as well, mostly for others, but also for Himself. In John 17 it seems that Christ has already settled in His mind and heart and made a deep commitment to follow through on the task before Him. Thus John records the amazing words, “Father the time has come. Glorify your son, that your Son may glorify you.” Jesus reiterates the authority he had to give eternal life and defines that life “… that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (v. 3). He affirms that He has accomplished the task given to Him (recall, “It is finished” from the cross). All these verses confirm glory due and the honor we must give to Jesus.
Jesus prays for His disciples (John 17:6-19). He had revealed the Father to them; they were the Father’s who gave them to Christ; they have obeyed; they know that He came from the Father; He prayed for them who believed; they are Yours. Jesus and the Father are one. “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to Me through them” (v. 10). In verse 11, Jesus says, I am coming home. … “Protect them by the power of your name … so that they may be one, as we are one.” He prays that “they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (v. 13). Note the words Jesus used: joy, Word, protect, truth, sanctify, sent … . And verse 19, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” Jesus is now the great intercessor for all His followers. We are sent into the world not in our own power but the power of Christ Himself.
Jesus prays for all believers (John 17:20-26). One of the most astounding elements of Jesus’s prayer is verse 20, “My prayer is not for them (disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” Jesus prayed for you and me! And He still does. Christ is the divine intercessor. He knows our weakness and He offers His strength. The primary goal of His prayer is that “all of them may be one, Father” and just how much one, “just as you are in me and I am in you … .” Why does Jesus pray thus? “So that the world may believe that you have sent me” (v. 21). We have been given the glory of the Father to enable us to be one. “Complete unity” is the goal, and the answer to His prayer! If you are out of fellowship with another believer, ask Christ to forgive you and help you become an answer to His Prayer. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am” (v. 24). There we will see His eternal glory and the love the Father had for Him before creation. Christ’s final words petition the Father whom He alone knows, and whom He has revealed to us and will continue to make known “… in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them” (v. 26). What a prayer!
Father, help us honor you and Jesus and answer His prayer!
— Dean lives in Orlinda. He is the retired executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.