Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible touches my heart more than John 17. This is known as the "high priestly prayer" of Jesus Christ our Savior. Prayer is communication between God and man and knowing that Christ, who is both fully God and fully man, offered up prayer for us as believers should touch our hearts with deepest humility.
Aware that He faced death upon the cross as our perfect sacrifice, He spent time talking to God on our behalf. He is, after all, our high priest and the only mediator between God and man. Jesus begins His prayer by preparing Himself for what is to come. He knows He has accomplished what the Father has sent Him to do during His earthly ministry. Then, Jesus says in verse 2: "...since you have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him." Here our Lord makes reference to the fact that God has sovereignly chosen those who would be called by His name. Then, He gave them to His Son that they might find salvation through His sacrifice.
As we consider the part of this prayer that deals with both His disciples and all future believers that should come after them, we can break it down into a few parts. First, Jesus prays for our knowledge in verses 6-9. Looking specifically at verse 8-9, we read: "For I have given them the words that You gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given me for they are Yours." Jesus makes clear in these verses that His prayer is not for the world at large but for those whom God has called to belong to Himself...a people after His own name.
In verses 10-12, Jesus prays for our perseverance. If ever we doubted the Lord's love for us, all we have to do is read these verses. Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him. He came to die for our sins, but in the midst of this time before the storm, He prayed for our perseverance. He was going to the Father and asked that God would guard and protect those who were believers. How well our Savior knew our weak frame and the temptations that would come our way!
Not only did He pray for perseverance but He also prayed for our joy in verse 13: "But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves." Joy is that unspeakable assurance that God is present in our lives. It does not mean happiness which is often here today and gone tomorrow, but an abiding peace which resides in our hearts and minds that no one can take from us. This is a gift worth having and by the sacrifice of Christ, this joy is ours day by day.
One of the most beautiful parts of this prayer, to me, is found in verses 14-17 where Jesus prays for our protection from evil and for our sanctification. Jesus, here, reminds the Father that He has given us God's Word and because of this, the world hates us since we no longer belong to the world. Jesus does not ask God to take us out of the world but to keep us from the evil one. Then comes this verse: "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth." Keep in mind that it is God who does the sanctifying. Our efforts in any of this are of no avail. Rather, it is in and through Christ alone that we are redeemed and sanctified. This is a blessed thought.
Finally, in verses 20-26, Jesus prays for our unity, oneness, our mutual love and for the day when we will be with Him. Not only did Jesus pray all of this for His current disciples who would soon be tested beyond their limits with His trial and crucifixion but He also has prayed this for us as well. We, and all who came after the disciples, are those of the future generations for which our Lord prayed all of these things. Here we have provision for all we need in life and godliness in one prayer. Because He was the perfect lamb of God, all that He asked the Father has been done for us.
This prayer should bring us to our knees in repentance and thanksgiving. We have such a Great Savior, who before He went to the cross, made known by prayer, His desire for our welfare, growth and sanctification. If this does not humble us, nothing will. We are a blessed people who are called by the name of Christ. Meditate on this prayer offered for us as we approach Easter
. Consider our Savior's ministry on our behalf even as He faced death on the cross. Then, rejoice in His powerful resurrection which seals for us all the promises made within this prayer. May we ever live in such a way that we bring glory and honor to our Lord who prayed for us that we might live for Him. Selah!