This week we’ll zoom in on a specific chapter in John’s gospel. With just 26 verses (for an brief history of chapter and verse divisions, click here) chapter 17 is one of the shorter ones in John. If you want to check it out before you continue reading, you can hear a recording of my recitation here or read it here.
We all know that prayer is a key means of grace. If you’ve ever tried to pray and struggled to actually do it, you get why it’s often referred to as a “spiritual discipline”. There’s certainly no shortage of books, podcasts, blog posts, etc. on prayer. A Praying Life by Paul Miller is my recommendation if you’re looking for one.
In order to learn how to pray in real life, it’s vital to look long and hard into Jesus’ teachings on prayer. As a start or refresher, check out Matthew 6:5-13, 9:38, Mark 14:38, and John 15:7-8.
We can also be amazed by what the Bible reveals about the way Jesus prayed and word for word recordings of His prayers the Spirit chose to give to us.
Perhaps because of the way I’ve typically prayed in corporate settings (every head bowed, every eye closed, y’all!) this passage always floors me:
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him Who was able to save him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.” – Hebrews 5:7
The other day a good friend and I were talking about how in many parts of the gospels the authors don’t include what tone, facial expressions, etc. Jesus used when He spoke. But according to this verse we can know that many of His prayers weren’t quiet. This doesn’t indicate that a volume increase boosts the value of a prayer or anything. One thing it does show is that Jesus was fully assured of His Father’s love, power, and presence. As a result of this unwavering certainty Jesus was able to cry out to Him without any reservation. He never doubted that God heard Him. The Father was pleased by everything Jesus did (John 8:29) including His blameless prayer life.
With that in mind, let’s look at the words Jesus prayed in John 17. He begins and ends with a focus on His glory and glorification:
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…” – 17:1
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” -17:24
This is a beautiful glimpse into the nature of the Triune God: He has always existed and is always perfectly harmonious and loving within Himself.
John 17 is often described as the High Priestly prayer because in it Jesus intercedes for those whom the Father has given Him. He confidently states the purpose of His words and actions as well as requesting several things from the Father, including:
- That God’s children will be kept in His Name (v. 11)
- That believers may have His joy fulfilled in themselves (v. 13)
- Not that we would be instantly removed from the world, but that we would be protected from the evil one while we are in the world (v. 15)
- For our sanctification in the truth – God’s Word is truth (v. 17)
- That believers through all ages would be one, even as He and the Father are one and that as a result of this unity the world would believe that the Father sent Jesus and loves Christians as He has loved Christ (v. 20-23)
- For us to be with Him where He is to see His eternal glory that flows from eternal love (v. 24)
- That the love with which He has loved us may be in us, and He in us (v. 26)
Jesus knew about the great suffering He was about to experience (John 8:14) and this was how He prayed. His eyes were lifted up to heaven, knowing that His help came from there. This is a huge example for us as we walk through trials on earth. He intercedes for us as we face the enemy’s attacks. May that fill us with great confidence.
We can also learn a great deal about how to pray for the body of Christ from Jesus’ prayer. He desires our oneness and delights to answer that request. May we as the church of the living God pursue sanctification in the Word of truth and grow in unity. May that cause the world to know and believe that the Father sent Jesus Christ in order to lavish His love upon all who receive Him.