One of the most encouraging experiences as a Christian is to be prayed for by someone else.
• When someone prays for you, especially in your presence, something special happens in your heart - you feel cared for and encouraged.
• I believe for those of you having exams this week, and knowing that we are praying for you, you’ll feel encouraged and comforted.
There’s a sense of intimacy, both between you and the other person, and between you and God.
• It’s like you’re knocking on heaven’s doors together.
• It is one of the best ways to build relationships between Christians – it binds our hearts together
And it’s one of the surest ways of ensuring unity in the church.
• It’s pretty hard for division to exist and take hold when people are praying together.
We need to pray not only FOR one another, we need to pray WITH one another.
Robert McCheyne once said this:
“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
The Bible tells us Jesus is praying for us today.
Heb 7:25 “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
Rom 8:34 “Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Let’s read a prayer Jesus uttered for us – John 17:1, 9-19
The prayer of Jesus serves as a fitting conclusion to the upper room discourse of chapters 14-16.
• In 17:1 John informs us that this prayer is to be understood as a kind of conclusion to the Lord’s teaching in chap. 14-16, “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed…”
• This prayer, the longest of Jesus’ recorded prayers, was intended to be overheard by His disciples.
• I think one purpose of this prayer was to bring comfort and hope to the troubled hearts of the disciples.
• And to allow us, believers in the generations to come, to understand the Lord’s concern for us.
This prayer may have been more effective at the moment than all the teaching of chapters 14-16.
• While the disciples may be assured from the words of Jesus (chap.14-16), I believe they are much more comforted and strengthened in faith through the prayer.
• Sermons can bring us encouragement in times of our need, but I’m sure very often it is the prayers of fellow bros/sis that brought greater comfort and assurance.
• That’s why we need to pray WITH one another, to hear others praying for and with you.
• This prayer must have done much to calm the troubled hearts of the disciples.
The verses we’ve just read highlight Jesus’ concern for his disciples – their protection.
This is our experience today:
ALL ALONG IN THE JUNGLE
The early Native Indians had a unique practice of training young men. On the night of a boy’s 13th birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test.
He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away.
When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce.
After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path.
Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long.
The first concern of Jesus is our protection.
• As a mother hen watches over and protects her own, Jesus has protected each and every one of his disciples, except the one doomed to destruction according to the Scriptures.
• 3 times in our passage Christ speaks of protection. “Holy Father, protect (keep, guard, watch over) them by the power of your name…” (v.11); “I protected them” (v.12); “protect them from the evil one.” (v.15).
This protection was done by the Lord while He was with His disciples (v.12).
He is returning to the Father but the protection continues.
• So the Lord prays that God will continue to watch over them.
• And protect us in these 4 aspects – the disciples will remain faithful, joyful in a world that is against them, unscathed against the evil one, and sanctified always.
(1) That they will REMAIN FAITHFUL to God (17:9)
The Lord who saves us is the Lord who will keep us safe. We are saved by grace, and will be kept by His grace.
The disciples’ future does not rest upon the strength of their faith, but upon God.
• They will face persecution and their faith will be tested, but God will be with them.
• Judas was not an exception to the rule. Jesus did not fail to keep him.
• He was the ‘one doomed to destruction’ (v.12). ‘son of perdition’
• He was never saved (John 13:10-11).
• So he was not lost out of the protecting hand of God.
• His destruction was the result of his own choice, and a fulfillment of prophesy, according to the Scriptures.
Jesus is doing the same today - Heb 7:25 “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
• It is by His grace, not by our own efforts that we remain faithful today.
• Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) wrote:
Safe in Jehovah’s keeping, safe in temptation’s hour.
Safe in the midst of perils; kept by Almighty power.
Safe when the tempest rages, safe though the night be long;
E’en when my sky is darkest; God is my strength and song.
If Jesus prays for us this way, shouldn’t we be praying for one another this way?
(2) That they will REMAIN JOYFUL in Christ (17:13-14)
They were not of the world, just as the Savior was not.
• Consequently, the world would hate them and oppose them.
• The Father’s protection keeps that joy intact – full measure of His joy in our hearts.
As a 3rd-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians - and I am one of them."
Today In The Word, June, 1988, p. 18.
This joy is not of the world, obviously. It is there despite the world’s conditions.
• Only God can fill our heart with joy and only He can keep that joy there.
• Pray if you do not have joy. Don’t seek it in the world. They do not have it.
(3) That they will REMAIN UNSCATHED (17:15)
To be protected against the attacks of Satan
• The Lord did not guarantee us that we will be kept from Satan’s attacks.
• We are told to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph 6:11)
• But we will be preserved in times of satanic oppositions.
• God does not promise that we will have no testing in life but that we will overcome them.
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917):
“The devil is a bully, but when we stand in the armor of God he cannot harm us; if we tackle him in our own strength, we are soon done for; but if we stand with the strength and courage of God, he cannot gain one inch of way at all.”
Prayer puts the shield of divine protection around you!
• I believe that’s why Jesus, when He taught us how to pray, included this line in the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matt 6:13). This is a constant need for such a prayer.
• Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matt 26:42)
• Eugene H. Peterson’s version (The Message): Jesus said, ‘Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire’ (Matt 26:41 TM).
Someone puts it this way: “The most lethal weapon the enemy has against you is – you!”
• That’s right! Your old sin nature must be taken to the cross and crucified, daily!
• The place of prayer is where you do that!
• Unless you acknowledge the propensity toward sin that’s within you, you won’t pray against it; therefore you’ll always be vulnerable to the enemy’s attack.
• When your prayer life goes, so does your protection.
(4) That they will REMAIN SANCTIFIED (17:17)
To remain effective witnesses, we must remain untarnished by the world. Again we need God’s help in this.
Jesus prays, “God, sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
• Literally it means to set apart for sacred use, or make holy.
• We do not want to be influenced by the world nor end up flowing with the world.
Note the number of times the word ‘world’ is mentioned.
• Obviously this is not the physical world He is referring – not the trees, mountains, rivers. It refers to the sinful ways and values of the world.
• We are to pray that we remain set apart from these – not from the physical world but the sinful ways of the world.
Jesus did not just save us; He wants us to grow to be perfectly like Him.
• Matt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
• We are to be the light for the world to see. The lamp cannot be put under a bowl. It must be put on its stand and shine for everyone in the house. (Mt 5:14-15)
• Matt 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
And this is NOT the Pharisees’ way of separation – touch no unclean things, do not work on the Sabbath, wash your hands…
• Not a physical separation from the world. Not to stay in church and be holy. Do only church works and nothing else.
• It’s a spiritual separation – a separation of the heart – No longer loving “the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15-16)
• We are to “purify your hearts” (James 4:8). This is our prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23-24).
Jesus said this prayer while on earth. And He must be praying similar prayers today, standing at the right hand of the Father.
• Isn’t that wonderful to know? We cannot do it on our own.
• We need to pray for God to watch over us, so that we’ll continue to remain faithful, remain joyful, remain unscathed and remain sanctified for His glory.
• The psalmist says (Psa 1:6): “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
If this I was what Jesus prayed, don’t you think we should be praying the same for one another?