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I think the best way to understand this prayer is to join Jesus and to pray it along with him. In this article I am going to give you some ideas of how you can make this prayer your own prayer. As we do, I hope we will be able to value the prayer more and discover why it is such an important prayer.
Theme: Trust in God’s Name and God’s Word
John 17.6-8 – “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
God’s name and God’s glory is of the highest importance to Jesus. It was Jesus’ main concern in his life and teaching, and in this prayer. God’s name is actually his character and his glory is the revelation of who God actually is.
J. B. Phillips wrote a small book entitled, “Your God is Too Small.” God has something to say to people who have a too small view of him.
“Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols. (Isaiah 42.5-8)
When people recognize that their “too small” God is actually great and greatly to be praised, two things will happen. They will turn away from the idols they serve and become God’s servant. In turn, God will use these people to open the eyes of the blind and give them the ability to bring out prisoners from the dungeon of their own self-will.
Theme: God’s Word
Jesus also emphasized in his prayer the word that he gave to his disciples and the fact that they obeyed it. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28.18-20), Jesus told us we are to “[teach] them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28.20).
Why do great spiritual leaders emphasize the daily reading and re-reading the Gospels to their students? We simply can’t obey everything Jesus taught us unless we know what he taught us. If Jesus prayed about this, so should we.
Praying with Jesus
Imagine Jesus kneeling in prayer. You kneel by his side and pray along with him.
Dear Jesus, just as you have made the character of the Father known, I pray that I will do it too. I also pray that our church will demonstrate your nature, because we faithfully serve you. I pray that you open my mind and heart to receive your words today. I also pray that (name people you are praying for) will open their minds to receive your words, too. May all of us live in faith today.
Theme: Glorified by People Like Us
John 17.9-12 – I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
Jesus does not expect to be glorified by the world’s system. Remember, Jesus knows the world is a system that rules this present age and it is under the control of the “ruler of this world,” Satan (John 14.30).
Jesus does pray for people who are living in a relationship with him. He prays that our behavior will reveal his nature and character. He also prays that we will be guarded and protected.
Jesus told us, “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 31.34).
Just as Jesus prays for us, we have the opportunity to use prayer to guard and protect our relationship with him. What is at stake here? If we stumble and fall, people close to us will probably get the wrong impression of who Jesus is.
Praying with Jesus
Once again, let’s use Jesus’ prayer as our model for our prayer.
Dear Jesus, thank you for praying for me. Please protect me and guard my heart, so I may show the world what you are like in a powerful way. I pray for (name people you pray for regularly) that you will guard them and protect them, so they may display your character to the world. Please guard and protect our church family, too. For my friends who do not have a relationship with you, I pray for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to be at work in their lives (John 16.8-11), drawing them to you.
Theme: Complete Joy and Sanctification in Truth
John 17.13-19 – “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
Jesus prays for his followers, because he knows that the world’s system will oppose us. We are a threat to the present way the world is run, because as members of God’s kingdom we live out the values of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6-8). A regular reading of this sermon will help us grasp Jesus’ values that we will incorporate into our lives as we live in a close relationship with him.
Jesus’ joy is different from happiness. With happiness, something “happens” to us and makes us feel good. Jesus’ joy is an inside condition that is present because His Spirit is present within. Jesus’ joy can be like the eye of a hurricane. Everything outside can be blowing great gusts of trouble and chaos, but inside we are at peace. Powerful inner joy is Jesus’ prayer for us.
We are sanctified. That means, we are set apart for God’s purposes. Jesus’ words, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain . . .” (John 15.16) captures the essence of what it means to be sanctified.
We are sanctified in truth, according to Jesus. Here is the truth about your life and mine. We have been chosen by Jesus to produce fruit, to reveal God’s character and nature to people where we live, work and play.
Praying with Jesus
If you choose to pray like Jesus, try doing it this way.
Again, Jesus thank you for praying for people like me. Jesus, I want to know your joy in the midst of the storm of everyday life. I also want to know and to live out what you value most, so I can be a light in a dark world. Thank you that you chose me to be one of the people who shows the world what you are like. Please give me the power to live in such a way that the world glorifies you.
Dear Jesus, as I pray this for myself, I also pray it for (name people for whom you are praying) and for the people at our church.
Thank you for guiding my prayer, for hearing me, and for praying for me.