One of my favorite passages in the Bible is John 17, the High Priestly Prayer. Here, Jesus is praying for an extended time before He is crucified and leaves earth. This is his last prayer with his disciples before he is arrested and crucified.
I’m going to reference a few key verses, but before or even after you read this post, I encourage you to read John 17 in its entirety.
This prayer is remarkable to me in so many ways! I’m always encouraged to know that Jesus prayed, and he teaches us to pray by his example. We see in the very first verse that ‘he lifted up his eyes to heaven,’ and spoke to His heavenly Father, God. His focus is on God alone, and he is praying with absolute dependence on God.
Jesus also teaches us about the overall structure of prayer – he prays first for himself, then for believers, and then for those who don’t know God.
I want to look at a few verses in the middle of the prayer where Jesus prays for us believers:
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth (Jn. 17:11-19 emphasis added).
I want to point out what exactly Jesus prays for ‘them’ (the believers, which includes us today), as he is about to depart from the world. He prays to ‘keep them in your name,’ that they might be preserved from denying Christ. He also says He ‘guarded them’ or protected from wandering away from their convictions of who God is. Jesus cares for the perseverance of our relationship with God to be sustained.
As Jesus’ approaching death and departure from the world is immanent, he gives the believers the promise of a few things affirmed through His life on earth. Jesus has ‘given them [God’s] Word.’ We see here that the ‘Word’ is Jesus’ life lived out as a fulfillment of the Old Testament scripture. Jesus embodied the epitome of God’s love, through His life on earth and His death and resurrection – to die and bear our sin, and rise again conquering death.
He also petitions to God to ‘sanctify them in the truth,’ or to shape our lives to become more like God. This means that we are to be refined through God’s moral and spiritual truth in our lives.
One of the most powerful prayers in this passage is Jesus’ commission for believers. He ‘sent them’ to stay in the world and carry out his mission. Just as Jesus was sent into the world to live and demonstrate God’s love, we are sent to demonstrate those same things to the world through our lives. Jesus prays for our strength to do this, to keep us from temptation, and to be sustained in our relationship with God.
Jesus’ prayer is not only an example to us of how to pray, but also an affirmation of His love for us. His desire is for us to be protected and sustained in a world that rejects us. I love this prayer because it reveals Christ’s humanity, that he is able to relate to all the same things we deal with, but also His authority because of His fulfillment of Scripture through His life on earth.