The Bible is filled with memorable and significant prayers. Moses’s farewell in the latter part of Deuteronomy contains a prayer (chapters 32-33) that remarkably parallels Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Joshua included a prayer in his farewell address in Joshua chapters 23-24. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the new Temple is a remarkable prayer to study. The Apostle Paul prayed a powerful two-part prayer in the book of Ephesians framing the challenges facing the church. Prayer is a great theme to study through your Bible, noting the prayers of God’s people and thinking of how those same prayers might be prayed in today’s context of life.
One of the best ways to really get to know someone is to spend time praying with them. I fondly remember when Kathy and I began to pray together. We did most of our dating while in Bible College and confined by the rules of that institution. Basically, all we were allowed to do was sit together and talk. That was a good thing. We learned how to communicate. But I remember when our relationship had matured to the point where we wanted to include time praying together. As I heard her pray I learned much about her deep devotion and love for the Lord. My love and respect for her grew just listening to her pray.
If we are to come close to understanding the heart of Jesus, we must study this unique prayer found in chapter 17. Two weeks ago Pastor Fuller led us in studying the first 5 verses of the chapter where we listened in on the intimate conversation between the Heavenly Father and Jesus. A prayer emphasizing the importance of the glory of God as seen in the Father as well as in the Son. The remainder of the prayer divides neatly into two sections: 1) Jesus’ prayer for his personal disciples, and, 2) Jesus’ prayer for their disciples. This means, of course, that there are three distinct sections in the prayer. First, Jesus prayed for himself and the desire for God’s glory. Second, he prayed for his disciples. Third, he prayed for their disciples. Each of these sections share some common themes:
- Each part begins with what Jesus was asking or praying for (vv. 1, 9, 20)
- Each has the theme of glory (vv. 1-5, 10, 22)
- Each has an address to the Father (vv. 5, 11, 21)
- Each mentions the followers given to Jesus (vv. 2, 9, 24)
- Each has the theme of Jesus’ revelation of the Father to his followers (v. 6 “your name”, v. 14 “your word”, v. 26 “your name”)
With today’s message we want to consider the second and third sections of this amazing prayer. In doing so, we might be surprised to find ourselves included in the Lord’s Prayer of so many years ago. Yes, you heard me right. When Jesus prayed this high priestly prayer nearly 2,000 years ago…he was praying for me and he was praying for you!
- Jesus Prayed for his Disciples (vv. 9-19)
- A request for unity (vv. 9-11).
- In the early part of this prayer Jesus reviewed the essential unity that he enjoyed with the Father. With his departure so close at hand he also longed that there be a unity among his disciples, a unity that would reflect that bond between the Father and the Son.
- It is evidence of a deep and spiritual work in the lives of believers when they reflect the unity that was enjoyed between the Father and the Son. When believers seek to bring glory to the name of Jesus they are directly bringing glory to the Father as well. A celebration of the life that is only to be found in the Son is a celebration of the life that was given him by the Father. And a desire to fully accomplish the will of the Son is an acknowledgment of the disciple’s desire to accomplish the will of the Father. These consistent connections are exceptionally important.
- Not only was there an internal reason for Jesus’ prayer for unity among his disciples but there was also the reality of the outward threat. They were going to remain in this world. The world represents abject hostility toward the things of God. So it was imperative that Jesus’ disciples join ranks and together stand strongly, even when the world would put overwhelming pressure on them. As 1 John 5:4 celebrates, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
- A request for provision and protection (vv. 11-16).
- Union with Christ.
- Since the disciples, and all believers since the time of Christ, have been subjected to the hostility of this world, Jesus prayed for God to provide for their needs. Their assignment was dangerous and they needed certain protection.
- In the very context of his request we come to see the first provision and that is our union with Christ. The end of v. 11 testifies that the union we enjoy in Christ is essentially the same union that the Son enjoyed with the Father. This union is a vital key to our provision and protection.
- Security of the believer
- In addition to our union with Christ we also enjoy a certain security in him. Theologians include this concept in their discussions about the perseverance of the saints. It is the idea that those who are truly in Christ will always continue in him. Jesus declared that he had “kept them in your name.” He is the one who keeps us safe and secure.
- It is interesting that the only one ever lost was Judas Iscariot. Certainly, he will not be the only soul in hell. Wide is the path that leads to destruction and many go in that way. But Judas was the only one of the twelve who was lost. This comment reveals the deep sorrow in the heart of Jesus over a lost soul, even one who dealt with him in such a treacherous way.
- Joy of the believer
- There is strength in joy. As Nehemiah 8:10 declares, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” There are no recorded verses where there is strength in sadness but there is definitely strength in joy.
- The great significance of the joy mentioned by Jesus is that it was his joy. This does not mean that it is a joy only experienced by Christ. Rather, the text is clearly suggesting that as Jesus’ joy was being fulfilled the disciples were benefitting. His joy was being fulfilled and that was good for the believers.
- Sufficiency of the Scriptures
- What had God provided for the disciples who would be called to experience life in such a hostile environment? He provided them with his Word.
- God’s Word is sufficient for every spiritual need that we have or will ever experience. It was through the gift of the Word that the disciples could be expected to make it through the darkness of this present world.
- Resident aliens
- Jesus knew that he would be leaving his disciples in this world. That means that physically they would be present in this world and, in conjunction with the trial of their faith, they would be engaged with this world.
- But the significance of Jesus’ words was intended to draw their thoughts away from this world to where their true citizenship lay…in heaven. He had already promised them a place and that he would return for them. Now he was reminding them that it was in heaven that they truly belonged.
- A request for holiness (vv. 17-19).
- The disciples were in this world but the world was not their identity. They were called by his name. They belonged to him. Their home was in heaven. So it was necessary that while pointing out that they were resident aliens they were expected to maintain “separateness” from this world. It was this “separateness” that defined them. This is also called “holiness.”
- When most Christians hear the word “holy” they tend to think of those features that we expect to see in heaven. We think of holiness in terms of something celestial. But actually, the word “holy” (hagiazo) simply means “separate.”
- Not only did their identity in Christ set them apart from the world but also it was an action of the Word of God that also set them apart. The truth sanctifies. The truth aligns us with God and that sets us apart from all that has to do with the world. It does not mean that we have attained some kind of perfection. Clearly that is not the case. But we belong to God. We have been separated, set apart, unto him.
- It would seem that Jesus, in dwelling on this matter of holiness and separateness, was recommitting himself to God’s perfect plan, and it seems that he was including his disciples in that plan. Jesus’ life had been on mission. The will of God for every disciple is that we too be on mission for him. But our being on mission had to begin with his death on a cross and the purchase of our redemption.
- Jesus Prayed for their Disciples (vv. 20-26)
- Just as Jesus was aware that he would soon depart this world to be with the Father, he also knew that his disciples would not be far behind him. As v. 24 clearly indicates, Jesus had shifted in his prayer from being solicitous on the behalf of his disciples to being desirous of God’s blessing on those whom his disciples would reach with the gospel.
- Who are these disciples of the disciples? The church! That means that this part of the prayer was for our benefit. Amazing! Jesus was praying for generations of disciples who had not even been born yet but who would carry on in his name the mission he had begun.
- He prayed for their unity (v. 21) but it was more than just single-mindedness or a cooperative spirit. Rather, it was to be a model of love so that all who would see it would immediately recognize that we are followers of Jesus. But this love was not merely a moral exercise. It was not something that the future disciples would produce. It would be an outgrowth of their essential unity in him.
- He prayed for their union (vv. 22-26) as being an extension of the union between the Father and the Son. With this request Jesus envisioned a profound spiritual intimacy that changes human life. It is a unity encompassing the Father with the Son, the disciples with them both, and the disciples with each other. And who would facilitate this joyous union/unity? None other than the Holy Spirit. In this way we see all persons of the Trinity involved in fulfilling and furthering God’s mission that had been established since before time began.
- And what continued to drive the vision seen here flowing from the heart of our Savior? A passion for the glory of God. A glory seen in the Father. A glory given by him to the Son. A glory for all to see. A glory that would continue to be seen through the work of the church.
Conclusion: There are not many things that are more intimate to share with another human being than a time of precious prayer. And there is not a better way to truly get to know someone than to hear them pray. And there is nothing more encouraging than to know someone is praying for you. We know that Jesus prays for us but in this passage we are privileged to listen in as he talks to the Father about the disciples that he trained and the ones they would someday train. Disciples reaching disciples for the glory of God.