One of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible is found in John 17. It is the longest recorded and only prolonged prayer of Jesus as He pours out His heart to the One He always glorified, God the Father. This prayer, prayed before His arrest and betrayal by Judas, begins and ends with the glory of God.
It was through Jesus’ death on the cross that He was glorified, receiving the adoration, worship and love of millions of people whose sins he bore. It was also through His death that He was once again, exalted to the Father. The goal was achieved as the Father was glorified for His plan of redemption in the Son. What is so impressive about this wonderful High-Priestly intercessory prayer is that it begins with a petition for the glory of the Father and the Son, each one through the other. “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You,” (John 17: 1).
There are three distinct prayers in John 17. Jesus prayed for Himself, for those who belong to Him and for the world.
Jesus prays for Himself - Personal
The Fatherhood of God fills most of the New Testament prayers. In John 17: 1-8, Jesus speaks to His Father about Himself. He calls God Father, Holy Father and Righteous Father. Father is a term Jesus used when He was only twelve years old, "And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" (Luke 2:49). Jesus also uttered the name Father as He drew His last breath on the cross, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," (Luke 23:46).
Jesus knew from experience the power of prayer. It has been said that prayer was Jesus' life and His life was a prayer, This prayer marks the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of His intercessory ministry, (Hebrews 7:25).
During His brief, but blessed ministry on earth, Jesus, not making any assumptions, spoke the following four "I have" statements:
• "I have brought glory to You on earth" (verse 4)
• "I have finished the work You gave me to do" (verse 4)
• "I have revealed You to those whom you gave me out of the world" (verse 6)
• "I have given them the words you gave me" (verse 8)
Having completed His work (verse 4), Jesus looked past the cross and asked to return to the glory that He shared with the Father before the world began. Jesus also speaks of those who believed in Him and were given to Him by the Father and affirms the genuine saving faith of His disciples.
Jesus prays for His own - Particular
This central part of the prayer (John 17: 9-19) has an exclusion. “I pray for them,” that is, for those given Him of the Father. Jesus’ intercession was focused on all those redeemed by His blood. He viewed His sacrificial work as being already accomplished. “I have finished the work you gave me to do.” “It is finished.” Jesus prayed that His own might experience the fullness of joy (John 17:13). He pleads that they should be left in the world to witness (John 17: 14, 15, 18) and that they might be sanctified (John 17: 15-17, 19). Jesus offered these petitions for His own while He was in the world, but when He ascended to heaven, He did not stop praying for His people. Believers are assured that, “He ever lives to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7: 24-28; Romans 8:34).
Believers in Jesus Christ are doubly blessed when it comes to the provision of divine intercessions. We not only have the Lord Jesus as our prevailing intercessor in heaven, but the Holy Spirit of God as the continuous intercessor in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is our intercession within that we might not sin, and the Savior is our Intercessor above to plead His blood when we do sin.
In John 17: 9-19, Jesus prays for His Church. He prayed then and He prays today that the Church, the body of Christ, will be kept from the evil one and be sanctified through the truth of the Word. He prays for the Church's preservation and sanctification, of which there is a great need, even to this day.
Jesus prays for the world - General
At the conclusion of His prayer, Jesus looks down through the ages and prays for all those who will listen to His preached word. He intercedes on their behalf that "the world may believe." Jesus prays for the great multitude, so many that they can not be counted, being won for Him through the life and witness of those redeemed by His blood. The godless of the world must come to know that they are loved by the Father (John 17:23).
What an all-embracing and awesome prayer this is! It is a perfect model of intercessory prayer which encompasses Jesus praying about Himself, about His church, and about His world. “Them also which shall believe” is a phrase that demonstrates that Jesus was making “intercession for the transgressors,” even as He did when He died for their salvation at Calvary (Isaiah 53: 8, 12). Jesus' prayers are for believers and non-believers alike, for all men. Seeing how Jesus prayed while on earth and continues to pray from heaven, should we not all cry out to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray?"