How many of you have had someone recently ask you, “How can I pray for you?” Or maybe that is a question you ask of others. It is the kind of gift Christians understand, a gift of fellowship with the Lord, a gift of solidarity, a gesture of compassion and sense of kinship in this life together with the Lord.
How often have we gone through the mental inventory: everybody’s healthy, we have food and shelter, our work is steady . . . cannot think of anything we might need prayer for, we are doing fine! Does that sound familiar? Often, when we think about prayer, we are thinking on the material, physical plane, for healing, for solutions to problems, for work or safety, or success.
But when Jesus prayed, he asked for none of those things.
As you and I go through this chapter we are going to see that every one of Jesus’ requests were for something spiritual.
For whom Jesus prayed
Jesus was praying specifically for the ones to whom he had revealed the Father’s name, God’s very nature
I made your name visible—rendered your name apparent—to the people whom you gave to me out of the world.Jesus to the Father, John 17:6
God had revealed God’s nature and person in the Hebrew scriptures first as the one God, the God who sees and provides, who protects and blesses, and then as YHWH, the great I AM. Jesus took this sacred name of God and made it meaningful to his disciples by revealing himself through the name of God:
I AM the bread of life (John 6:35)
I AM the light of the world (John 8:12)
I AM the door (John 10:7)
I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11‑14)
I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
I AM the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
I AM the true vine (John 15:1, 5)
Gradually, through his words and his miracles, Jesus revealed to his followers the nature of God, the meaning and depth of the Father’s name by showing them who God is and teaching them that God is everything they had ever longed for and needed.
There was also something of great value about these people to whom Jesus had revealed these mysteries.
They were yours and you gave them to me.Jesus to the Father, John 17:6
This phrase is repeated eight times, those you gave to me. If God had said it once, you and I might have missed it.
But Jesus repeated this eight times, so the meaning would not be missed.
Throughout scripture it is clear that God had each person in mind even before the creation of the cosmos. God planned you and me and chose us, personally, before the world began. Scripture describes God as knitting each of us together with great care, our personalities, the circumstances of our lives, our bodies . . . everything. You and I are handpicked.
The question is, why?
The only answer we will ever get from the scriptures is that God loves us and has a particular story for each of us. There is something waiting for me that only I can live out (and for you that only you can live out). God designed us for this very purpose. It could be something big. Or small. Something splashy. Or hidden. It could be someone you or I will influence. It could be one dramatic event, or it could be a long series of events.
Whatever it is, it will be profoundly important to the life of this world, as well as fulfilling to us.
This is not necessarily about realizing our dreams.
My dream and God’s destiny for me may not be the same thing. But God knows the deepest desires of our hearts. The Lord knows what will give us the most profound happiness, for God designed each of us, both who we are and what God has in mind for us. So as you and I dream and hope and plan, remember that God has had a story for each of us since before the beginning of time.
Each of us learns what God has planned as we take steps of faith. The process of trusting God, persevering in faith, taking risks as God guides will shape us and make us ready for what lies ahead. Destiny comes into focus as God molds you and me into the people we need to be to fulfill what the Lord has written for us.
When you and I can think of ourselves in this way, as ones whom God treasures, whom God has created especially as gifts to the Lord, someone whom God both loves and has planned for, you and I will begin to see situations differently.
- During difficult confrontations, I might ask “What is God’s will for me in this? How will I glorify God and influence this person for good?”
- During unsettling circumstances I might ask “What is God’s mission for me in this? How can I give praise to God’s mighty power, goodness, and love?”
- For situations that feel tedious or boring I might ask “What important thing has God hidden here for me, as I fulfill the Lord’s purposes?”
- When my spirits are low, and all joy has drained away, I might ask, “How will God be seen in me as I live through this, what work is the Spirit doing for my good and God’s glory?”
It is far healthier, spiritually and emotionally, for you and I to see ourselves in this light, chosen and cherished by God, rather than comparing ourselves to someone else.
The Lord Jesus revealed the very nature of God to his disciples and followers, he loved them as God’s precious possessions, carefully selected as gifts to Jesus, and as he taught them God’s word, they kept it.
And your word they have kept.Jesus to the Father, John 17:6
Jesus’ close followers—the disciples, as well as those who supported Jesus, the women and men who formed the inner one hundred and twenty—made time to listen to, learn and live out Jesus’ words, to meditate on them and apply them to their lives.
They knew Jesus was not simply a man, a human teacher, but that who he was and what he had was uniquely from God,
Now they have come to know everything that you have given to me is from you,Jesus to the Father, John 17:7
. . . and they received the gospel completely, putting their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
for the words which you gave to me I have given to them, then they took hold of and perceived truly that I came from you, and they believe that you sent me.Jesus to the Father, John 17:8
Jesus was not going to pray for the whole world on this night.
I myself beseech you concerning them—not concerning the world do I beseech, but rather concerning those whom you have given me, for they are yours.Jesus to the Father, John 17:9
Jesus did have a concern for the world. But he knew that he was leaving these beloved friends, his talmidim, behind and was concerned for them. He knew what lay ahead and was commending them into the Father’s care.
Jesus continually intercedes for his own
Jesus prayed for the ones in whom he was glorified.
All those who are mine are yours, and those who are yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them.Jesus to the Father, John 17:10
You and I glorify Jesus when what we do and say shows that Jesus’ work was not in vain, but rather he is reaping the good harvest of what he is sowing into your life and mine.