How Jesus Prayed (John 17:1-11)

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“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. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For 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. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 

All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I 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.” (New International Version)

Prayer can be described in many ways. Yet, at it’s heart, prayer is simply talking to God. Jesus had taught his disciples early in his ministry about how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer). Now he demonstrates the way to pray, also revealing the heart of God in the process. Our prayers reflect our values and what is truly in our hearts. As Jesus offers his petitions to the Father, let’s notice what they are, and so, align our own hearts with the heart of God.

First Petition: Glorify God

Jesus prayed that he himself would be glorified, so that then he might turn right around and glorify the Father in heaven. This is a great lesson for all who pray – that we seek to receive in order to give.

All of life is dependent upon rhythms of receiving and giving. We breathe in and breathe out in a consistent flow. If that doesn’t happen, we have major health issues. Jesus promised that he would send the Spirit of God to help us breathe spiritually.

And so, it’s important that we routinely inhale the Holy Spirit so that we may exhale the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control for the benefit of the church and the blessing of the world.

Please never forget that we are stewards of the grace given to us by God. That means our purpose is not for avarice (to hoard the spiritual resources so generously given to us) but to receive, so that we can give. And God’s grace is inexhaustible; we shall never run out of offering peace and reconciliation to the world. That, my friends, is how we glorify God and show God’s Name as holy. (Matthew 6:9)

Two Groups and Three Givings

            Jesus mentions two groups: The Father and Son; and the World and Church. And he prays that the Father will give in three distinct ways:

  1. The Father gave the Son authority over all humanity. Jesus truly has the whole world in his hands. And when the Son has a hold of people, there’s no snatching them out. Jesus is not a hired hand; he is the hand of God. Since Jesus is in charge, we can be fully confident that every single member of the human race will be treated with respect in this life and with fairness on Judgment Day.
  2. The Father has given Jesus a second group of people out of the whole of humanity: the Church. Both the World and the Church are in Christ’s hands. Jesus has other sheep who are not yet in the fold. He is presently, by means of the Holy Spirit, gathering them into his divine sheep pen. There are two groups and three givings; but there is only One Shepherd and one Flock. And this one Flock of Christ is to be a kingdom of priests to serve the interests of the entire world. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
  3. The Church has been given the gift of Jesus by the Father. The Flock has received life – abundant and everlasting life. This by no means implies that we are in some sort of holding pattern until Christ returns to take us to be with him. Rather, now we are to be busy giving the world the gift of grace we ourselves have received. Life – real life, true life – is to know the Father and the Son.

God is glorified when we take up the mission given to us by Jesus:

  • We are called by God for a reason: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8)
  • We are given a purpose of bearing witness to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus (Acts 1:8)
  • We are commissioned to make disciples from all nations, all ethnicities, and every sort of people (Matthew 28:19)
  • We are commanded to do it all through love of God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-31)

Second Petition: Protect the Church

Why does Jesus pray for our protection? So that we might be one as the Father and Son are one – and will not fragment and be scattered without any relation to each other.

Here are a couple of simple observations: this prayer of Jesus is not yet answered; and if Jesus can have unanswered prayer for two thousand years, maybe we ought to cut ourselves (and others!) a bit of slack on not getting our own prayers answered.

When we consider the Church throughout the world, we see that various Christian traditions just plain don’t like each other, and even accuse one another of not being Christians at all! And, what’s more, a chunk of the Church seems to be abusive.

Whether it’s Roman Catholicism and the sad story of the priest sexual abuse, or the steady stream of stories about Protestant Evangelical pastors who do the same and use their authority for personal and selfish advantage, there is plenty of awful crud out there.

And what the world sees, far too often, is a profound lack of grace – which brings us back to what we need to be doing to begin with: receiving grace so that we can give it to others. If this is not at the heart of our prayers (and apparently isn’t for many Christians) then we ought not be surprised whenever the world wants nothing to do with Christianity.

Unity is important to Jesus; it ought to be important to us. We need to work at it and work toward it. As God is One, so are God’s people to be one.

Unity does not mean:

  • one cultural expression (i.e. American)
  • the same personality (i.e. extroverted)
  • Christendom (i.e. the Church holding political power)

Unity does involve:

  1. being one in our basic mindset (humble, merciful, holy, peaceful)
  2. being one in purpose (glorifying God)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5, NIV)

The Church, the people of God, are to be protected and kept safe from fragmenting into mere special interest groups who only care about their particular pet convictions or projects. Instead, we are to take a step back and see the big forest of Christianity and appreciate all the various trees within it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is preserved and secured whenever we keep this unity of Christ in the middle of everything, and let go of everything else as being a test of Christian unity (e.g. personal convictions, church dogma and confessional statements).

Conclusion

So, what does this all mean for us? Pray. Talk to God. And talk to God about the same things that Jesus prayed about while he was here on this earth. We might discover that many of the issues we care about will resolve themselves if we simply pray as Jesus has modeled for us.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace to set aside and let go of all dissension and division in Christ’s Church. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and everything that hinders us from unity and harmony.

As there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all; so may all your people be of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, and of faith and love, with one mind and one mouth glorifying you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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