Here is a masterful prayer. There is no doubt that we could learn much from it. But I want to focus on just four things: that the requests are specific and definite; that His prayers are purposeful; that they are reflective; and that, over all, they are conversational.
Jesus’ prayers were always specific and definite. He had no time for generalities and vagueness. In two places in this prayer, where Jesus thought that there might be some perceived vagueness, He took the time to explain exactly how He meant to pray. In verse nine, when He said, “I pray for them,” He went on to explain in His prayer who “them” was. He said, “I pray not for the world, but for those whom You have given Me.” Then in verse fifteen He makes definite another part of His prayer that could be confusing; when praying for His disciple’s safety, He prays, “I do not pray that You should keep them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
Jesus’ prayers were purposeful. Everything He prayed for had a correct motive or purpose. In this prayer, when He prayed for His own glory—“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son…”—the motive ultimately was so that His Father would be glorified; for He prayed, “…that Your Son also may glorify You.” It follows, therefore, that if He was honored in His death by giving eternal life to as many as the Father gave Him (v. 2), that would honor the Father.
Likewise, when Jesus prayed, “Keep them [His disciples] in thy name,” the reason was so that they would eventually be one, as He and the Father were one (vv. 11-12).
Also, when He prayed (in verse 24), that “they [all believers] may be with Me where I am,” the reason here was so that they (we) would behold His glory. And I believe “behold” means more than just to see and observe. I think it means to participate in and enjoy. Yes, the reason He wants us to be with Him, and the reason He prayed for us to be with Him, was so that we can see and also participate in and enjoy His glory and honor.
His prayers here are also reflective; that is, they are dependent on certain works that have been done. Hence, throughout this prayer He makes mention of His and His Father’s work. Here are a few clippings from the prayer: “You have given Him [the Son] authority over all flesh” (v. 2); “I have glorified You on the earth; I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (v. 4); “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world” (v. 6); “I have given to them the words which You have given Me” (v. 8). And so it goes throughout the prayer.
The mention of these works is so important because it forms a basis for what He is praying, and it gives Him a reason why He can expect to receive an answer. For example, in verse four, when He said, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do,” that work was the basis for which He could pray, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…”
Accordingly, in our prayers, we must also mention the works of Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and how we have done works in Jesus name—so that our prayers become valid, with a sound foundation. For if there are not past works, we can’t really pray with any claims, hence, with any hope or confidence. Therefore, at the mention of past works in our prayers, especially the works of God, we bring power, hence, confidence and faith to our prayers.
Lastly, this prayer (and all of Jesus’ prayers) was conversational. He not only made requests to His Father, but He made conversation. He prayed as one would talk to another—to a friend. Therefore, in between His requests were statements of fact made to flesh out a conversation, such as, “Father, the hour has come” (v. 1), and, “and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” (v. 3). And so it seems that whatever He was thinking He prayed in words. Let that be your style of prayer also, for God wants to hear what you’re thinking, not just a list of what you want.
These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, 2 even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. 4 “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. 5 “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. 6 “I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. 7 “Now they have come to know that everything Thou hast given Me is from Thee; 8 for the words which Thou gavest Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me. 9 “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine; 10 and all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 “And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are. 12 “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 “I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. 18 “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. 22 “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me. 24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. 25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee; and these have known that Thou didst send Me; 26 and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them. “
Thanks, Stephen. This is a very insightful, helpful, practical review of our Lord’s prayer in John chapter 17. This is what should be taught in Bible colleges and seminaries — rather than church marketing techniques and fund-raising tricks. Isaiah 55:10-11 gives us an idea of how God is employing your worthy website for the spreading of God’s truth to those who have eyes to see.
Thanks for those Isaiah verses. I don’t always realize how God is using this website.
It is actually a nice and useful piece of information. I’m
glad that you shared this helpful info with us.
Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.