After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 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. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 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. 12 While 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.
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. 14 I 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. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I 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.
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.
25 Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I 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.”
In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray, and this model prayer is known all over the world as the Lord’s Prayer. Technically though, we should call it the Disciples’ Prayer, because the prayer of Jesus we find in John 17 is the real “Lord’s Prayer.” It has also been called the High Priestly Prayer – an amazing record of the greatest prayer ever prayed.
What is it about this prayer that makes it so great? Well, there are many reasons, and today we’ll take a brief look at just 4 of them.
1. Firstly, it is a great prayer because of who prayed it.
The opening verses of John’s Gospel say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
This is the all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful God of the Universe, in prayer. He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the promised Messiah, the Bread of Life, the Light of the world, the Great “I Am”, the Good Shepherd, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the Resurrection and the Life… I could go on, but I hope you get the point. When Jesus prays and we are given the privilege of knowing the heart of God as He prays, and we would do well to examine it and learn from it. This is the greatest prayer ever prayed because of the person who prayed it.
2. Secondly, it is a great prayer because of the context – the time and place in which it was prayed.
Throughout history significant and famous people have made statements or speeches to mark special occasions, and these statements make the occasions all the more memorable. Think for instance of Winston Churchill and his speeches. Occasions provide weight to words.
Neil Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” If he’d said that as a 5 year old playing hopscotch with his friends, it would have meant nothing, but saying it on the surface of the moon has made it the most famous sentence ever spoken by a human being.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17, as significant as it was, is made all the more important by the occasion surrounding His prayer.
“Father, the time has come.” Other translations say the hour has come. What hour is that? Earlier that evening Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples. He had washed their feet, Judas had fled the scene, and in chapter 18 Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The hour He spoke about in verse 1 was His appointment with the cross. Jesus was about to experience betrayal, separation, suffering, crucifixion and death. This was the hour in which God’s eternal purpose is about to be carried out. We must remember that the Cross of Calvary was not God’s plan B, put into place only when human beings sinned. He has known for all of eternity that we would use our freedom of choice badly. And the plan of salvation by the cross is His eternal plan. 1 Peter 1:18-20 says, “it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
And now that hour has come. The Saviour of the world is about to bear the sins of the world on the cross.
We’ve all seen timeline diagrams. It’s basically a long line with a starting and ending point depicting someone’s life or a period of history with significant events and dates spread across to try and give us some understanding of how things unfolded and happened over time. Now, if you can, try and picture in your mind God’s timeline – a timeline with no beginning and no end. Somewhere on that timeline we find the six days of creation. And somewhere further along that line (we’re not sure exactly where) is the second coming of Jesus and the end of this world. In between are all the major events of world history, and the major events that are yet to come, plus the lives of the rich and famous. Your own birth and death are also recorded on that timeline. But there is one event that stands out above all others. It is marked by a cross. It is the moment in space and time when the Saviour gave His life for you and for me. This is the hour that Jesus prayed about, and this adds tremendous significance and weight to the greatest prayer ever prayed.
3. Thirdly, it is a great prayer because of the content of the prayer.
It takes us backwards and forwards along God’s eternal timeline. Verse 5 takes us back to eternity past: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Verse 24 takes us forward into the future glory in heaven: “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.”
It is a great prayer because it speaks of God’s glory.
The glory of the Father and the Son in verse 1: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” In verse 10 Jesus prays that the disciples would glorify Him: “Glory has come to me through them.” Amazingly in verse 22 Jesus prays that He would give His disciples glory: “I have given them the glory that you gave me.” And in verse 24 He prays that we would see His glory: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory.” All of these requests will ultimately be granted in eternity when we will be glorified forever.
It is also a love prayer, which reminds us of God’s love for us and for His Son in verses 23 and 24: “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. 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.”
In this prayer there are three distinct divisions. Jesus begins by praying for Himself in the first 5 verses as He prepares to go to the cross. This whole idea of Him being fully man but fully God at the same time confuses us. At no point did Jesus give up His deity – His ‘Godness’ – only to take it back when He returned to heaven, but He retained His very nature of holiness at the same time. The apostle Paul probably explains it best in Philippians 2: “Being in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
In His humanity Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, including the anguish of having to face the cross. In fact, as God He knew exactly what was coming, and that made it all the harder for Him as He prayed for Himself in John 17 and later on that evening in Gethsemane.
In the second part of the prayer from verses 6 to 19 He prays for His disciples. They were about to have a huge responsibility thrust upon them. Later on the charge given to them by Jesus immediately before His ascension was to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” These men were the ones who would take the first steps as the Christian Church once Jesus had risen from the grave and returned to heaven. The Church has always faced persecution, simply because we proclaim the absolute truth in a world that is offended by the truth, but those first few decades were among the most critical. It would have been so easy for them to go back to the obscurity of their previous lives, but God’s Spirit empowered the early Church to do the work He commissioned it for, and He still does today. Jesus prayed that God would protect and strengthen His disciples at this vital point in human history.
And then we come to the part of Jesus’ prayer where He prays for the generations of Christians to follow. If you are a born again follower of Jesus Christ, then I have some amazing news for you. All those years ago, just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed for you…
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I 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. 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. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I 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.”
As I wrote in the bulletin this morning, it is such a blessing when someone prays for you, but to know that Jesus – God Himself prayed for you is just the most amazing thing to try and grasp.
And not only that but do you know what Jesus is doing right now? Hebrews 7:25-25 has the answer: “Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” He continues to pray for us today, and we cannot over-emphasise the significance of His ongoing prayers for us.
He is interceding for us while satan, whose name means ‘accuser’ is accusing us, pointing out our sins and frailties to God. But those accusations fall on deaf ears, because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid our sin debt in full, so God always sees in us the perfect righteousness of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, His righteousness and perfect holiness was imputed to us, while our sin was imputed to Him at His death. This imputation or exchange is what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” This exchange took away forever our sinful state before God, so God can accept us as blameless. And Jesus continues to pray for this.
4. The fourth reason this is the greatest prayer ever prayed because of the victory it proclaims.
You can sense the deep concern Jesus has for us in this prayer as He prays for us to be protected in this dark and lost world. We all know from personal experience just how easy it is to be drawn away from God by the things of this world, and He is desperate for us to be shielded from those things.
The American evangelist Rueben Torrey once said, “There is more joy in Jesus in 24 hours than there is in the world in 365 days. I have tried them both.” Jesus prays that we would learn that lesson too. We live in a world of deep deception. satan has fooled the world. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” satan is a liar and a thief, and Jesus prays that we would be constantly on our guard against the deception we see all around us. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Any alternative to the truth of Christ, no matter how flowery or wonderful it may seem, is a lie from the very pit of hell.
In his first letter the apostle John puts alternative religions and belief systems squarely in the spotlight when he writes, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist - denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us - eternal life.” (1 John 2:20-25)
There is this weird idea that all religions lead to God, and it doesn’t matter what or who you believe, just so long as you are sincere. God never said that, and it is Jesus’ earnest prayer that we would be protected from believing that lie.
In Him and Him alone we have the victory, and He prays for that truth to embolden and sustain us. In the previous chapter Jesus tells His disciples that He has already overcome the world. The victory is already His: “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.”
In His High Priestly Prayer the victory in Jesus is revealed and proclaimed. The world may be deceived, but Jesus has shown us the truth by revealing the one true God.
The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is the greatest prayer ever prayed, because of who prayed it, the context of the prayer, the content of the prayer, and finally because of the ultimate victory it proclaims.
The same John who recorded this wonderful prayer was given a vision of some of the wonderful promises that await us in eternity. We know it as the book of Revelation, and this is how he begins the final chapter in the Bible: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)
That is what Jesus prays for and promises us as He continues to pray for you and I today.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read John 17
This prayer of Jesus is also known as the High Priestly Prayer and the real Lord’s Prayer, instead of the prayer He taught us in Matthew 6.
Many have called it the greatest prayer ever prayed.
On Sunday we considered 4 points that make it such a great prayer.
They are 1) because of who prayed it, 2) the context of the prayer, 3) the content of the prayer and 4) because of the victory it promises and proclaims.
Discuss each of these points in your group.
What other aspects of this prayer of Jesus make it so significant?
Pay particular attention to the 3 distinct divisions of the prayer.
In verses 1-5 He prays for Himself, in 6-19 He prays for His disciples, and in the remainder of the prayer He prays for the future Church.
What are we able to learn about our own prayers in this model prayer of Jesus?
How does this prayer challenge you to deepen your prayer life?
Read verses 15-19 again.
What do these words teach us about being in the world but not of the world?
The exclusivity of the gospel – the doctrine that Jesus is the only means of salvation is emphasised throughout this prayer.
How does this challenge modern thinking?
How does it challenge you?
Close by praying for the Church, using the final section of Jesus’ prayer from verse 20 as a model for your closing prayer.