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The prayer that Jesus prayed
The title of this message is “The prayer that Jesus prayed”. Some have called this the greatest prayer of all time. Why would they call it this? Because of who prayed it – Jesus. And because what He prayed.
In the preceding chapter before Jesus prayed, He was telling the disciples about how He would be leaving them soon, the work of the Holy Spirit, and how He had overcome the world. He was preparing them for a time when they would scatter and they would not see Him any more. Then He prays…
John 17:1-26 – 1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Point 1 – Jesus prayed for Himself (V1-5)
John 17:1 – After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
I used to think that praying for yourself was a selfish thing. As a new Christian, when I listened to people pray in a group I used to critique their prayers and I would judge if they were others centred or self-centred. I would give them a score out of 10 and judge them. You will be pleased to know I don’t do that anymore!
Praying for yourself is not selfish, we all need God’s help. One of my most prayed prayers is “Help me Lord”. Jesus as the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the one who performed many miracles including raising people to life… And He prayed for Himself. If Jesus did this, we need to too!
So, what did Jesus pray for Himself?
V1 – Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify the Son that the Son may glorify the Father
V5 – Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify the Son with the glory He had in eternity.
These two things were the bookends to Jesus’ prayer. In verse 2, 3 and 4 He reminded the Father of the authority He gave Jesus to bring people eternal life, that eternal life is found in knowing the Father and the Son, and that Jesus finished His work that the Father gave Him.
So, while Jesus prayed for Himself, it was all about bringing glory to the Father and asking that He would be restored to His former glory He had in heaven. In many ways it was about finishing all He had to do on earth.
Point 2 – Jesus prayed for His disciples (v6-19)
John 17:6-7 – “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.
In the next section of today’s text Jesus switches His focus to the disciples or followers. Jesus said that He revealed truths from the Father to His followers. He describes them as the ones who belonged to the Father but were given to the Son (v6-8).
In verse 9 Jesus says that He prays specifically for His disciples. He is not praying for the world now, but the ones who belong to the Father and the Son. He is interceding for them because He is concerned for them. Why is He concerned? Because He is going away. Verse 11 says He is going back to the Father and they will still be in the world.
So, what did Jesus pray for His disciples?
a. V11 – To keep them in unity.
Jesus is concerned for the disciples for when He goes. He is worried that they will not stick together. Sometimes when a leader leaves, or hard times come, or when persecution happen, the people scatter and go their own way or divisions take place. Sometimes they get off track. We only have to look at Moses and the people of Israel when Moses went up the mountain to be with God. They were electing new leaders and making golden calves. Jesus wanted them to be strong and stick together. It was vital for them in their new faith and vital for their mission.
b. V15 – To keep them safe from the devil.
Jesus prayed that the Father would not take them out of the world. They were required to stay behind and continue Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), so Jesus prayed for protection. He knew the devil would come knocking and try to get them off course. We know that 1 Peter 5:8 says the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. They would be an easy target without Jesus, so He lifted them up to the Father.
c. V17 – To sanctify them.
In verse 17 Jesus prays “Sanctify them, sanctify them by Your Word, Your Word is truth”. To sanctify means to set apart for Holy use. Jesus wanted His followers to be sanctified by the Father, so they could be used mightily in Kingdom work. As we see after the resurrection and ascension, they did some pretty amazing things. I find it interesting that Jesus said to sanctify them by Your Word. For us today the Word of God or the Bible is the key way we are sanctified. The Word and Spirit work together to make us more like Christ.
Jesus prayed out His concern for the disciples. He prayed that God would keep them unified, protect them from the devil and sanctify for them Holy use.
Point 3 – Jesus prayed for His future disciples (20-26)
John 17:20 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.
Jesus now focuses His attention to the future believers. The ones who came to faith through the Apostles, right down through the ages, to us and those who come to faith after us.
Again, what did Jesus pray in this last part of His prayer? What did He think was important for us today?
a. That we would be one like the Father and the Son are one.
Jesus wanted us to be unified and one with the Father and Son. In verse 23a Jesus says, “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Why did Jesus want us to be completely unified with each other and with the Father? So, the world may believe. There is something about being unified and loving one another that grabs people’s attention. They generally don’t see it in politics, they don’t see it in the workplace or sporting club. Church is the place where people should see true unity and love in action. When they do see true love and unity that is not of this world, Christ is revealed.
b. That we may know Jesus’ eternal glory
Verse 24 says, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” Jesus wanted the Father to reveal His true glory to us. He wanted us to see Him as the Alpha and the Omega, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He wanted us to see Him and the Creator who is eternal. All the things we looked at several weeks ago when we focused in on Jesus. We saw the difference seeing Jesus in His glory did to Peter who said he did not know Jesus prior to the crucifixion and then post resurrection gave his life for Jesus and His kingdom. We all need that Peter type of revelation of Jesus’ glory.
c. That we may know the love of the Father for the Son
In verse 26 it says, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” If we get a glimpse of the love the Father has for the Son, there will be no doubt of Jesus’ true identity and we will love Jesus the same way too. The Pharisees and the religious leaders of the day accused Jesus of blasphemy because He called Himself the Son of God. They needed a revelation that Peter had in John 11:27, “”I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” We all need this revelation.
Jesus prayed for us and all believers down the ages. He wanted us to stay strong. He prayed that we truly understand and believe that He and the Father are one, that we would see His glory and know the love of the Father and the Son.
Today we looked at one of the greatest prayers of all time. We saw that Jesus prayed for three main things in John 17.
By Dave Quinn
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