Many times in the gospels it is recorded that Jesus spent time in prayer. When asked by the disciples how to pray, He gave an example of the sort of things that should be prayed for, and the manner in which to pray. He prayed at the tomb of Lazarus in a way which allowed those around Him to hear what He was praying for and to be encouraged by the resurrection which followed. He prayed for forgiveness for those who had crucified Him, and to His Father just before He released His spirit.
But for most of His ministry, we are not told what Jesus prayed for during the long hours He spent in prayer to His Father. So it is significant that the prayers He prayed at the end of His time on earth were recorded. Praying in the knowledge that it was the eve of His last day on earth, these prayers reflected His strongest desires and concerns.
During our time on earth, we pray many prayers. Some of these prayers are in accord with the will of God, and some are not. Some are answered visibly, and some appear not to be. For many of us, effective prayer is a work in progress, and an area in which we continue to journey and to learn.
But the prayers recorded in John 17 are Jesus’ prayers! They were most certainly in accord with the will of God, because He was God, in earthly form. And considering who was praying them, it is 100% certain that these prayers would most definitely be answered!
So what did Jesus pray in this most crucial time? Most of His prayers were for us!
He fixed His focus on His Heavenly Father, and asked for seven things:
1) That He might be glorified as His Father’s Son, so that He could in turn glorify His Father (v1).
2) For the restoration of the glory which He had had with His Father before the world had even begun (v5).
Paul expands on the fulfilment of these two requests in Philippians 2:5-11:
“… Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth, And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
3) For the safety of believers from:
a. The world (v11); and
b. The evil one (v15).
4) For the sanctification (setting apart for a holy purpose) of believers (v17);
5) That the believers would be one (v21).
This is not that they would be “one” in the usual worldly sense of simply being unified in a common cause, or all being part of one organisation, or that they would all the same as each other. Instead, Jesus went on to define the “oneness” in v21-23 as being a connected part of the spiritual life-flow passing between Him, His Father and the believers:
“That they all may be one: as you, Father, are in me, and I in you that they also may be one IN US: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I IN THEM AND YOU IN ME, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world might know that you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”
6) That the world might believe when they saw this (v21).
7) That believers might be with Him in heaven and to behold His glory (v24).
As well as praying these prayers, Jesus was also bequeathing gifts to the believers:
1) Eternal life (v2).
2) The Father’s name (vs 6, 26).
3) The Father’s words (vs 8, 14).
4) His own joy (v13).
5) His own glory (v22).
Caring for the believers
Earlier in John 10:27-30, Jesus spoke of the partnership between Himself and His Father in caring about those who believed in Him:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all: and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
We are the Father's gift
In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, He spoke again seven times of believers as having been given to Him by the Father – twice in vs 2 and 6, and in vs 9, 11, 12 and 24. Just as Jesus is God’s loving gift to the world (John 3:16), we as believers are the Father’s loving gift to His Son!
Jesus then committed the believers to the Father for safe-keeping. This means that our eternal security rests not only upon the Father’s love, but also upon His faithfulness to His Son, Jesus Christ our saviour.