John 17:1-26

This entire chapter is a record of Jesus praying. From it, we learn that the world is a tremendous battleground where the forces under Satan’s power and those under God’s authority are at war. Satan and his forces are motivated by bitter hatred for Jesus Christ and His forces and, especially, all believers in Jesus.

How Jesus prayed

Jesus prayed for His disciples, including those of us who follow Him today. His prayer is a template that we can use for our own prayer lives. It also is a great encouragement because it gives us an indication of how Jesus is praying for us now. (Compare Hebrews 7:25.) Jesus has already said that, when the Holy Spirit has come to us, we can ask anything in the Name of Jesus and we will receive it and our joy will be full. (John 16:23-27) The same joy that Jesus knows can be ours too. (John 17:13)

Firstly, Jesus prays for Himself

Even though Jesus is God, He still had to ask for His desires to be met by the Father. He was asking the Father to restore Him to His original place of honour and authority. He wanted everyone to see the love of God through what He had done and was about to do. This can also be our prayer in everything we do. If the character of God is not evident in our actions, we should not be doing what we're doing.

Secondly, Jesus prays for His disciples

Jesus shares in a very matter-of-fact way with His Father, only saying positive things about His followers: how they have obeyed God's word (John 17:6-8) and increased in knowledge (John 17:8). He prays for unity among them, asking the Father to protect them and to use them while they are still in the "world". (John 17:11-15) He prays that His Father will sanctify them (set them apart for God) and encourage them to believe and obey the truth (John 17:17). When talking to the Father about other believers, we too can be very specific. We need not talk about what they have done, but can pray the same things that Jesus prayed for His friends. We know that such prayers have guaranteed answers.

Thirdly, Jesus prays for us

When Jesus prayed "also for those who will believe in Me through their message" (John 17:20) that includes us! Jesus prayed for us when He was on this earth and He is praying for us day and night right now! (Compare Romans 8:34.) He prayed above all else for unity: the very same unity that exists within the "Godhead" (that is, Jesus Himself, the Holy Spirit and the Father). This unity will demonstrate to "the world" that God has sent Jesus, because the love of God will be evident amongst united believers. Jesus wants "the world" to know that God lives in each and every one of us!

Further elements of prayer

When praying, it is helpful to consider these additional pointers:

  • Use the "Name" of Jesus (John 17:11). This is shorthand for Jesus' character and authority. He will give access to the throne of God and back your prayer request, provided it is made in accordance with God's own word and under Jesus' own authority.
  • Base your prayer on God's own word. This is where He has revealed His nature, purposes and desires. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:16.) Ask God for a revelation from His word for every situation. Write it down and, when you pray, speak that word back to God.
  • Believe that you will receive an answer to your prayer. (John 16:23) Do not major on the problem, look to the answer! Be specific! Be fully persuaded that God has power to do what He has promised. (Romans 4:21)
  • Forgiveness: for ourselves and others. We cannot stand before God and ask for something when we ourselves are "unclean" because of something that we have done wrong. At the very least, we must confess our sin and turn away from it before offering our prayer. (1 John 2:1) Furthermore, we cannot ask for forgiveness for ourselves if we have been unwilling to forgive someone else. This is a command of Jesus and, if we do not obey it, our prayers will not be effective. (Mark 11:25)
  • Depend on the Holy Spirit for your leading. (Romans 8:26) As we become more in tune with God, we will pray more according to His will and less from our natural senses. His word contains more than enough evidence of what God is going to do!
  • Pray in tongues on a daily basis in order to build up your spirit. (Jude 1:20)
  • Pray for others on a regular basis. (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1) Follow Jesus’ pattern for praying and then rely on the Holy Spirit to show you new ways to pray, maybe for a specific nation or people or organisation.

God needs each and every one of us to pray at this special time in "His-Story".

Unity and diversity

“...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in Me and I am in You.” (John 17:21)

Jesus’ great desire for his disciples was that they should become one. He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love. Are we helping to unify the body of Christ or break it down? Here are some things we can do to build unity in the body of Christ:

  • Pray for other Christians. (Psalm 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:10)
  • Avoid gossip (sometimes called "friendly fire"). (Proverbs 16:28; 26:20)
  • Build others up. (Romans 12:8)
  • Work together in humility. (Philippians 2:3)
  • Give our time and money. (Acts 10:2)
  • Lift up Christ. (John 3:14)
  • Refuse to argue over matters that divide us. (2 Timothy 2:24)

The teaching in the gospels is not so much about an organised unity but a unity of relationships, just like the unity within the "Trinity" referred to in the scriptures. Those relating to one another are able to offer encouragement, support, correction, fellowship, love and increased effectiveness. It is a spiritual unity with an outward expression, so that other people can see it in practice.

The unity that Jesus is praying for is unity and diversity, as seen in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all one God and yet have different jobs. An everyday example is a picture of the hand where the fingers all have different jobs but are all a vital part of the hand. If any finger tried to copy any other finger and do its job, it would cause confusion; certainly there would be no harmony. It might even end in injury to one part or all of the hand.

Unity is about relating to other Christians in love, sacrificially sharing our commitment to Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 4:3) We do not have to pretend that there are no differences, but we must recognise and respect them without focusing on them. Whilst there are numerous questions of doctrine and theology on which believers do not necessarily agree wholeheartedly, there are some basic truths that all Christians can hold in common:

  • The deity of Christ;
  • The authority of God's word (the Bible) in all matters of faith and practice;
  • The virgin birth;
  • Christ’s death for the sin of the whole world;
  • Christ’s physical resurrection and return for the church - His Body.

Unity is not oneness at the expense of the truth. We do not have to find the lowest common denominator among people or sacrifice any basic doctrines. Certainly there are occasions when confrontation is necessary, but the end result should be restoration and growth. (Galatians 6:1) The fundamental cause of fighting amongst different believers seems to be low self-esteem. We try to degrade others so that we look better, feel more important or more valuable. The more confident we become of the truth in God's word (who we are in Him), the more that grace will abound in us and the more of that grace we will show to others.

Unity is vital to gain real victory over our enemy. We have to make a choice not to fight with our brothers and sisters, but to love each other, so that we can be effective witnesses to the power of the good news about Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:27) This love should create a deep unity between believers. We cannot forget that we are engaged in an ongoing battle with our enemy: Satan. To that extent, we must consider ourselves as soldiers, albeit fighting a spiritual battle. When not actually fighting, soldiers spend much of their time in preparing themselves for battle. As believers we need to do the same. These pointers can help us:

  • Pray for unity, as this is the heart of the Father. (Philippians 1:3-11)
  • Train in identifying the work of the enemy and being ready with an instant response.
  • Remember that tiredness causes mistakes for soldiers! (Ephesians 4:3)
  • Discipline yourself at all times, choosing to be "crucified" with Jesus. (1 Peter 3:8)
  • Keep lines of communication open. (Proverbs 17:14)
  • Take Jesus as your example. Be mature! (Ephesians 4:13)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Jesus’ prayer

Let's consider in greater detail some of the things that Jesus was praying for in chapter seventeen of John's gospel. I have set out verses 6-26 in the Amplified Version of the Bible that provides (in square brackets) some additional meanings, translations or explanations of certain words or phrases in order to expand our vision of what these verses may mean.

Verse 6: "I have manifested Your Name [I have revealed your very self, your real self] to the people whom You have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed and kept your word."

Verse 7: "Now [at last] they know and understand that all you have given me belongs to you [is really and truly yours]."

Verse 8: "For the [uttered] words that you gave me, I have given them; and they have received and accepted [them] and have come to know positively and in reality [to believe with absolute assurance] that I came forth from your presence, and they have believed and are convinced that you did send me."

Verse 9: "I am praying for them. I am not praying [requesting] for the world, but for those you have given me, for they belong to you."

Verse 10: "All [things that are] mine are yours, and all [things that are] yours belong to me; and I am glorified in [through] them. [They have done me honour; in them my glory is achieved.]"

Verse 11: "And [now] I am no more in the world, but these are [still] in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep in your Name [in the knowledge of Yourself] those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we [are one]."

Verse 12: "While I was with them, I kept and preserved them in your Name [in the knowledge and worship of you]. Those you have given me I guarded and protected and not one of them has perished or is lost except the son of perdition [Judas Iscariot - the one who is now doomed to destruction, destined to be lost], that the scripture might be fulfilled."

Verse 13: "And now I am coming to you. I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my joy may be made full and complete and perfect in them [that they may experience my delight fulfilled in them, that my enjoyment may be perfected in their own souls, that they may have my gladness within them, filling their hearts]."

Verse 14: "I have given and delivered to them your word [message] and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world [do not belong to the world], just as I am not of the world."

Verse 15: "I do not ask that you will take them out of the world, but that you will keep and protect them from the evil one."

Verse 16: "They are not of the world [worldly, belonging to the world, just] as I am not of the world."

Verse 17: "Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for yourself, make them holy] by the truth; your word is truth."

Verse 18: "Just as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

Verse 19: "And so for their sake and on their behalf I sanctify [dedicate, consecrate] myself, that they also may be sanctified [dedicated, consecrated, made holy] in the truth."

Verse 20: "Neither for these alone do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in [trust in, cling to, rely on] me through their word and teaching..."

Verse 21: "...that they all may be one, [just] as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that you have sent me."

Verse 22: "I have given to them the glory and honour which you have given me, that they may be one [even] as we are one:"

Verse 23: "I in them and you in me, in order that they may become one and perfectly united, that the world may know and [definitely] recognize that you sent me and that you have loved them [even] as you have loved me."

Verse 24: "Father, I desire that they also whom you have entrusted to me [as your gift to me] may be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory, which you have given me [your love-gift to me]; for you loved me before the foundation of the world."

Verse 25: "O just and righteous Father, although the world has not known you and has failed to recognize you and has never acknowledged you, I have known You [continually]; and these men understand and know that you have sent me."

Verse 26: "I have made your Name known to them and revealed your character and your very self, and I will continue to make [you] known, that the love which you have bestowed upon me may be in them [felt in their hearts] and that I [myself] may be in them."

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