Have you ever sent out a request for prayer by email, text or Facebook and wondered if the recipient prayed in return? Sadly, numerous times in my life, I have neglected to pray when asked. (I have now gotten into the practice of praying immediately upon receipt of requests— I do not trust my aging memory!) Perhaps my own forgetfulness is one of the reasons I have found comfort in the knowledge that Jesus has prayed and continues to pray for me. He never forgets.
The longest recorded prayer of Jesus is in John 17. Sadly, it is an often overlooked passage in Scripture. But for me, the setting makes it most remarkable, taking place the night before Jesus will go to the cross—His hour has come. And He knows that! The Son of God is about to be persecuted, mocked, flogged and hung on a cross, and He chooses to pray for His disciples and for all future believers. He prays for me. He prays for you.
Long ago, an author and pastor wrote this in describing the prayer:
“The heart of the world’s life is its literature. The heart of all literature is this sacred Book of God. The heart of this Book is the Gospels. The heart of these four Gospels is John’s. The heart of John’s is this exquisite bit, chapters 13 to 17. And there’s yet an inner heart here. It is this bit, the 17th chapter, where the inner side of Jesus’ prayer life lies open to us.” Samuel Dickey, 1919
Here lies the heart of Jesus for us. I have included it below in the New Living Translation. I would encourage you to read it this week during Lent—not just once, but over and over again. As you read, note what Jesus did not pray for. He did not pray that we wouldn’t suffer in this world. He did not pray that we would have wealth and riches. He prays, however, that we will be filled with joy.
I have struggled to comprehend the full significance of the prayer, and yet I have had to settle on the realization that I can apprehend some of its elements, but not fully comprehend its depth and breadth. After all, can we fully comprehend how God protects and guards us from evil? Can we fully comprehend the process by which we are being made holy? Can we fully comprehend that one day we will “see all the glory” given to Jesus from the Father? We can believe, and we can apprehend these truths, but we cannot fully comprehend them. He is God, and we are not. We can find comfort in that. Jesus is praying for us.
The High Priestly Prayer
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.
“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” John 17