Summary: Jesus intercedes for us. He offers prayer for the protection, sanctification, and unity of his followers and for those who will believe their message.
“Jesus’ Prayer for Us”
1. One of the most encouraging experiences as a Christian is to be prayed for by someone else – and not only prayed for but prayed with. When someone prays for you in your presence, something special happens in your heart: you feel warmed and encouraged. 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 and 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. Have you had that experience? While we do have to pray for one another, I believe firmly that we ought to pray with one another more.
2. It is one thing for us to pray for and with one another – to bring our brothers and sisters in Christ before the Lord in prayer – but it is quite another to realize that in Jesus we have someone interceding on our behalf. Do you know that Jesus prays for you? Do you know that he goes to the Father on your behalf and on our behalf? Listen to these words from Hebrews 7: 25: “Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Romans 8: 34 says something very similar: “It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”
3. 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.” If you have had the experience of someone praying with you – of having someone right next to you, sitting beside you, bringing your concerns and needs before God, I invite you now to imagine Jesus doing exactly that. I want you to close your eyes and to picture yourself sitting with Jesus. I want to you picture him praying for you. As you picture Jesus praying for you, eyes closed, I’m going to read our Scripture passage. Listen to Jesus, as he prays these words. Read John 17.
4. In this passage, which is Jesus’ final moments with his disciples before being arrested, Jesus prays for his disciples. Knowing that he will be leaving them, praying for them is the best way to prepare them. Jesus prays for three things on our behalf: protection, sanctification, and oneness.
Jesus’ Prayer for Protection
1. The early Native Indians had a unique practice of training young men. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth 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.
2. Jesus’ first prayer for us is a prayer for protection. Of course, unlike that young boy, we have the benefit of knowing in advance that our Father is there to protect us; although just like the young boy, we don’t always see our Father guarding us. Jesus asks the Father to “protect” us. He prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” A little later he prays, “I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” Eugene Peterson translates the word “protect” as “guard,” and this is a helpful way of seeing it, especially when we think of that father watching over his son while the son was in the woods and thought he was alone.
3. Against what are we being protected? Jesus asks that we receive protection from the evil one, that we would be protected when faced with temptation, opposition, persecution, etc. He takes as inevitable that we will face such things.