Jesus' Prayer For Us

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This morning we’re going to take a close look at that prayer of Jesus in John 17 that we’ve just heard. It’s there on p 1085. Please get a look at it. Share a Bible if you need to. We need to see exactly what he says.

It’s tremendously encouraging when friends tell you that they’re praying for you. It’s encouraging for two reasons. First, it’s encouraging because it shows that they care. It’s good to know that people care. Secondly, though, that encouragement goes to a whole new level if you believe that God answers prayer.

John 17 begins: “After Jesus said this…” What has he just said? Most immediately, he’s just said what’s there in 16.33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So Jesus warns his disciples that they’re in for trouble. But he tells them he wants them to experience peace in the midst of the storm. How does that happen? It happens as they take heart by taking to heart what he’s just been teaching them. What are the things he’s just told them? That’s all in chapters 14 to 16. Amongst much else, he tells them: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14.7). So they – and we – must believe in him. And then when we do believe, this is the promise (15.16): “… the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” So if you believe that promise, and someone tells you they’re praying for you, that’s profoundly encouraging.

Imagine, then, that the friend who tells you he’s been praying for you is Jesus himself. That’s the ultimate encouragement. That’s enough to keep us going through a lifetime of troubles. And that’s what Jesus does here in this chapter. This is Jesus saying to us: “I know your troubles. I warned you they would come. But I want you to experience peace. I’ve been praying for you. And here’s what I’ve been asking for. Listen in to my praying. And take heart. I have overcome the world.” This is the only time that a lengthy prayer of Jesus is recorded in the Bible. So this is a very special chapter. Martin Luther said about it:

In proportion as this prayer sounds plain and simple, it is in reality deep, rich and wide.

Let’s take a close look, then, at what Jesus prays. The prayer is in three sections, so:


This is verses 1-5. Verse 1:

1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”

Note that posture in prayer, though not everything, is not nothing. When Jesus prayed he looked up, as if to his Father. That simple word “Father” on the lips of Jesus is an expression of the inner life of the Godhead – a privileged glimpse into the inner world of God. And now the time has come for Jesus to be betrayed and crucified – the time has come for the work of atonement to begin. The sacrifice is ready. The Father will glorify the Son through the cross, the grave, the resurrection, and the ascension. And the Son will bring glory to his Father as he completes his work. The glory of God is the ultimate purpose of our lives.

2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Jesus has full, sovereign, divine authority and he holds the keys to eternal life. When we come to faith, it is not our doing, whatever we might like to think. It is the work of Jesus. When he decides the time has come for someone to come to faith, they do. God has given him a people from every nation, and Jesus will save his people.

3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

It is not enough for us simply to know the Father. We must know the Son as well .This is the heart of what it means to be saved. This is not mere head knowledge, but knowledge of the head and heart that influences the life. To know God without knowing Christ is not to have eternal life.

4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

Jesus speaks of the work of redemption as in the past, because with the cross looming it is so close now, and so certain, that it’s as good as done. This is the work that he has been commissioned to do by his Father, and he is anticipating its completion. We are always failing to complete what God gives us to do. Jesus doesn’t give up until he finishes it.

5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus existed from all eternity and shared the Father’s glory long before that first Christmas when he came to be with us. This goes far beyond our understanding. Here is clear teaching of the pre-existence of Christ and of his equal glory with God the Father from before the world began. And here this first section of Jesus’ prayer comes back to where it began: Jesus asks his Father to glorify him. My title this morning is ‘Jesus’ prayer for us’ – and John 17 is indeed that. But we don’t come first. God comes first. The shared glory of the Father and the Son comes first. When that becomes true of our prayers, then we’re beginning to learn how to pray.


This second section runs from verse 6 down to verse 19. And here Jesus prays for those who are with him at the time – and that’s the eleven disciples chosen to be apostles and to be his primary witnesses to the world. It’s eleven, not twelve, because Judas has by now gone to betray him. We can apply much of this prayer to the wider group of disciples – and to ourselves as believers. But remember that Jesus’ concern here is above all those apostles as they stand on the brink of their arduous task. So:

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.

They obeyed! Those are amazingly gracious words to describe those weak, often faithless, uncomprehending, sinful disciples. But Jesus sees more in his followers than we do. So take heart. Jesus doesn’t dwell on our failure. He focuses on our Holy Spirit inspired obedience. God gave them to him. He revealed the Father to them. They believed and obeyed.

7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

They know that the mission of Jesus is a God-given mission – that when Jesus speaks, God speaks; when Jesus acts, God acts.

8For 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.

When people were deserting Jesus in droves, Jesus asked Peter, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6.68). That faith was a miracle of grace. It’s a miracle in our lives, too, when we believe like that.

9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

This doesn’t mean that Jesus will never pray for the world – but don’t miss the comfort he gives the disciples here by insisting that he’s praying not for the general mass of humanity, but especially and particularly for them. We should take immense strength from that. If we are believers, Jesus prays for us.

10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

The apostles’ faith brings glory to the Father and the Son. And so does ours. That is a powerful blessing – that our meagre faith and obedience glorifies our Lord. No believer’s life can ever be wasted or useless when that’s the case.

11I 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.

Note the total control that Christ has over his destiny. And see how he remembers the needs of his disciples. This is his first big request for the apostles, and it is for protection. Protection from what? From evil, from the danger of falling away, from false teaching, from being overcome by temptation, from being crushed by persecution, from every subtle or unsubtle attack of Satan. They were in danger. They were weak. They will be protected.

When the prophet Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded by enemies, the servant was afraid. Elisha told him not to be, because “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

That’s 2 Kings 6.16-17. We’re not always aware of God’s protection, but it’s there.

12While 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.

Up to now Jesus has been protecting them in person. He always knew that Judas would betray him and Judas was outside the ring of protection that Jesus has had around the others. The others were safe. When Jesus is keeping you safe, you cannot be lost. He will not let you go.

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.

What Jesus wants for his disciples is joy – the joy that he himself knows. And not just a taste of joy, but the full measure. That’s what he prays for the apostles. That’s his purpose for us too – that we will know his joy. And because this is Jesus praying, this is what will happen. The joy of Jesus is our destiny.

14I 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.

Why does the world that lives in rebellion against God hate them? Because they believe and speak the word that Jesus has given them. If we don’t speak the word, we’re not hated. If we do, we are. We shouldn’t generate opposition by being rude or ungracious. But we shouldn’t be surprised by it.

15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

What good could believers do if they were taken out of the world the moment they first believed? None. So Jesus doesn’t ask for that to happen and nor should we, appealing as the prospect might be. We have work to do in the world. Thank God, Jesus also knows how much his disciples need protecting from the corrupting influences of the world, so he throws up this shield of protective prayer around them.

16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

They are in the world, but not of it. They belong to Jesus.

17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Here’s the next big prayer request. Jesus has prayed for protection. Now it’s for sanctification. He’s praying that they’ll be set apart for God’s purposes, and that therefore they’ll love all that God loves, and do only what God wants. Holy living trains us for heaven and makes us useful on earth. How does this sanctification happen? The powerful tool that the Holy Spirit uses is God’s word. Reading the Bible; hearing it; putting it into practice - that’s how this quiet transformation happens.

18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

It’s an extraordinary thing that the way Jesus sends his disciples into the world to serve the world is in some sense similar to how he was sent into the world by his Father.

19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

It’s not that Jesus becomes more holy in the sense of more free of sin. He is sinless. But he is consecrating himself here for the coming sacrifice. He is giving himself up to the cross. And it is the cross which is the source and power of our sanctification. Without the forgiveness and freedom that flows from the cross, we have no hope of holiness.

And at this point the focus of Jesus’ prayer shifts again, and we come to the final section, verses 20-26. So:


20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message

This is where the scope of this prayer blows wide open, and we see for certain that even we are indeed in Jesus’ mind and heart. And note again the means by which people through the ages and across the world come to faith: it’s through the message of the apostles. That’s what’s here in the New Testament. This little book is right at the heart of God’s strategy to save his people.

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.Here’s the next big prayer request. We’ve had protection. We’ve had sanctification. Now it’s unity. What is this unity? It’s the unity that comes from sharing one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one purpose. It’s being bound together in the love of Christ. It’s the unity of a body – not uniformity, any more than a hand is like a foot, but union. This unity is the work of God’s Spirit, and it’s the living experience of believers. We recently visited our son Ben who’s studying in Spain. On Sunday morning we walked into a church, we were warmly welcomed by people we’d never seen before, and as we worshipped, we were brothers and sisters together. We’re certainly more than capable of grieving the Holy Spirit by our temporary disunities. But this unity for which Jesus prays is a wonderful reality. And when the world sees this kind of supernatural, Holy Spirit produced unity among believers, the world is shaken. And the world, or, at least, many in the world, want what we’ve got. And they believe. And they too are incorporated into the body of Christ and begin to experience this unity for themselves. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:

Perhaps this gift of glory is supremely the gift of the Holy Spirit – the life of God himself living within us, so we can in some small way share ourselves in the glory of God.

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.

The experience of unity is the experience of the love of God. And when we love one another with the love of God, the world sees, and the world, for all its bluster, is impressed.

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.

What Jesus wants, Jesus gets. So we have a partial experience here and now of the presence of Jesus. And one day we will be with him face to face. And we will see his glory. And we will be filled with his joy.

So, as we come to the end, Jesus sums up his great task:

25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I 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.

Tell yourself, as you meditate deeply on this prayer: “This is the Lord Jesus, the Son of the living God, who died and rose again and reigns on high, praying for this believer and for that believer, and for everyone who is going to become a believer, and even for me.” Jesus prays for you. And remember that what Jesus prays for, happens. If we take this prayer to heart, then this will bring us peace, and give us more than enough encouragement to bring us through the troubles of a lifetime, and to bring us to glory, where we will know the joy of Jesus, in full measure.

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