John 17, ESV
I love the 17th chapter of John, and have read it many, many times in my life. It is often called the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus, because He was praying to the Father on behalf of His disciples as they met together in the upper room, following the Passover meal. But this morning, as I read again these words of Jesus—“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message” (17:20)—I thought, Wow! Jesus was praying for me! Maybe I should take special note of what exactly He prayed for…
Because the prayers of Jesus are ALWAYS answered!
Unlike my own prayers, which are not always prayed perfectly in line with the Father’s will or according to His purposes, Jesus always prayed according to the very heart of God. As He said to His Father in verse 21, “You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You.” Therefore, it seems important to remind myself of what Jesus prayed, not only for me, but for all His followers throughout history.
In my imagination, I tried to put myself there in the upper room with the disciples, listening to both the tenderness and the power of Jesus’ voice as He prayed over all of us. I have known some powerful prayer warriors over the years. I have been in the presence of someone praying when it felt like the heavens opened and I was awash with a sense of the Spirit of God. But I cannot even imagine what it must have felt like, sounded like, to sit next to Jesus and listen in as He talked to His Father on my behalf.
Even more amazing is the fact that this was not a one-time event. Day by day, moment by moment, Jesus our Mediator is interceding for us before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus’ prayers for us continue to echo through the halls of heaven.
So, what specific petitions did Jesus make on our behalf in John 17? There are six that I would like to draw attention to; we will look at the first three this week, and the last three in next week’s blog post.
1. “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (17:11)
The Greek word translated “keep” means to watch over, to guard, to tend carefully. It’s a word that communicates complete protection. What does it mean that we are to be kept “in His name”? We sang a song in church this past Sunday called “Your Name is Power” (Rend Collective)…and it is true! The name of God is powerful beyond all human reckoning. Matthew Mead, a 17th c. preacher, said “Power is essential to God’s nature, and that cannot be said about any creature. Any power a creature may have is derived from somewhere else…Power is in God originally, and He derives it from no one, for it is of and from Himself.”
And what is to be the nature and purpose of that powerful keeping? “That [we] may be one,” experiencing unity in the universal Body of Christ. That powerful Name, which is above every other name in heaven or on earth, is our core identification as believers. We are not to be known by our church denomination, by our ministry qualifications, by our skin color, nationality, or anything else that may distinguish us with an earthly name tag. We are kept, together, in HIS Name, which transcends all else.
More on that next week.
2. “…these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” (17:13)
Jesus prayed that we would have the perfect joy of Christ Himself, and that we would have it “fulfilled” in us. Literally, “filled to the full!” Like the peace of Jesus, this is another gift He has left for us (John 14:27 says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart,” NLT). These are gifts that are there for us to accept, unwrap, open, and use daily. Jesus says that He spoke these things to us while He was in the world so that we would have His joy. This means that a big part of unwrapping and experiencing His gift of joy involves accessing the words that He spoke by drinking them in regularly, meditating on them and using them to re-focus our thought patterns.
Jesus prayed for us to have joy… And thankfully, the prayers of Jesus are ALWAYS answered!
3. “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.” (17:15)
Again, we see that same word of protection being used; Jesus asks the Father to “keep” us from the evil one. Interestingly though, this protection does not involve separating us from the realm where Satan operates. No, instead we are to be God’s light in dark places, living among and reaching out with loving hearts to lost people, while trusting God to guard us from the evil plans of the enemy.
As Martin Luther wrote in his famous hymn, “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him!” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).
Thankfully, the prayers of Jesus are ALWAYS answered!
We do not need to fear.
Pondering the Prayer...
Take some time to read through John 17 this week; reflect on the prayer of Jesus over His people, and what it means for you. And tune in next Wednesday for Part 2!
Joy means the perfect fulfillment of that for which I was created and regenerated, not the successful doing of a thing.