It was a moment of profound transition.
Jesus had just finished commanding them to prayer to the Father, for God loved them with a deep affection just as they loved Jesus, God the Son, with deep affection. They believed Jesus had come from God, and God noted their faith.
They had resoundingly agreed! With great rejoicing in their hearts, they affirmed Jesus in who he was, that he perceived and knew all things. It should have been the high point of their evening together, but it was not. Jesus had shaken them from their moment of joy, saying,
Behold, the hour is coming, and -has- come, that you all will have scattered, each into your own separate [place]; and likewise you all would forsake and leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have said these things to you in order that in me you will have peace.Jesus to his disciples, John 16:32-33
Then, as soon as Jesus said these things, their mouths hanging open in stunned dismay, Jesus lifted his head and hands to heaven, and began to pray.
Jesus was facing the crisis to which he had been born.
His hour had come.
So, how was he going to prepare for the ordeal in front of him?
Many commentaries place this prayer in the upper room where they were having their final meal together, while others say Jesus paused along their walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Considering its intimacy, depth, and breadth, it makes sense to me that wherever Jesus prayed, it must have been a quiet space, where all the disciples could clearly hear Jesus, and be drawn into prayer with him.
Jesus’s prayer has three distinct sections to it,
John 17:1-5, Jesus prayed for himself
John 17:6-19, Jesus prayed for his disciples
John 17:20-26, Jesus prayed for all believers
The Lord’s Prayer
Now if I were to ask what the Lord’s prayer is, how would you respond?
My guess is, your mind would leap to the prayer Jesus taught during his Sermon on the Mount (which is also recorded in Luke’s Gospel).
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,Jesus, Matthew 6:9-13 (NRSV)
but rescue us from the evil one.
But, if we were really going to be accurate, we would call that the Disciple’s Prayer, because Jesus’ disciples had come to him asking for some instruction on how to pray. What Jesus gave them was a template to follow when praying to God.
This chapter, here in John, is the real Lord’s Prayer, the purest and most extensive example in the whole Bible of two Persons of the Godhead communicating within God. Jesus, God the Son, speaks with God the Father as an equal Person in the Godhead. You and I are invited into that fellowship, that communion, of the trinity as we read.
We get to see into the very heart of God.
Holy of Holies
Some have called John chapter 17 Christ’s High Priestly Prayer or the Holy of Holies in the Bible because Jesus spent most of the time interceding for an exclusive group of people,
Concerning them [Jesus’ close followers, disciples] I entreat you, not concerning the world, but rather concerning those whom you have given to me, because they are yours.Jesus, John 17:9
But not concerning these alone am I entreating, but rather also concerning those faithful who are believing through their [those who will evangelize] word [logos]. [In other words, through the testimony of Jesus’ followers]Jesus, John 17:9
Though Jesus loved the world so much he was about to willingly give up his life to reconcile people with God, Jesus was not praying for the world in this moment.
This prayer is for believers, a prayer that has as much power today as it did two thousand years ago.
As the writer of Hebrews assures us, the Lord Jesus Christ is even now in heaven, living day and night to intercede for you and me who have put our faith in him.
Consequently, [Jesus] is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:25 (NRSV)
Communion With God
As Jesus prayed freely and openly before his disciples, his example showed them, and us today, how integral prayer is to our oneness with God, and corporate prayer in fellowship with each other.
Prayer is usually thought of as making petitions to God, but prayer in the Bible is often much more. Prayer is conversation with God. The more honest and heartfelt you and I are, the deeper the communion with God will be.
Though God’s people are commanded to pray throughout scripture, this is really the Lord’s invitation to intimacy. God wants prayer in order to satisfy us, to nourish, restore, heal, and transform us, and to include us in God’s plans for creation.
Our prayers to God
- You and I talk with God through our voices and our thoughts.
- Sometimes we commune with God simply by being in God’s presence, experiencing the nearness and beauty of God within and without.
- There are times when words fail us, and we can only offer up overwhelming feeling.
God’s word to us
- The Lord speaks through God’s revelation and word in the Bible.
- God’s actions in our real lives, God’s provision, encouragement, sometimes discipline and correction, God’s blessing and guidance through circumstances are only a few of the many ways God interacts with us in our physical world.
- God’s inward presence, illumination, discernment, comfort, and so much more through the seal of the Holy Spirit within us is another way God communes with you and me.
Be Loved by God
Prayer is about making ourselves available to God to be loved, spoken to, and claimed by God. As we set aside our guarded, self-protective ways before the Lord, we open ourselves to the infilling of God’s presence.
And as such, prayer is meant to involve the whole person: will, mind, and emotion.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.Jesus, Matthew 22:36-37 (NRSV)
God’s wisdom and knowledge are immense and rich.
- To worship God opens our minds to the Lord’s, purifying and expanding of our thoughts.
- Worship helps us to get our heads straight.
- God’s judgements and ways are far beyond our ability to comprehend, to acknowledge that brings us back to our rightful place of humble acceptance.
- To worship God’s infinite superiority, to remember that the Lord alone is God, is to bring our mental and emotional lives back into balance.
God uses prayer to teach us to depend on God and to tune our desires and wishes to God’s will.