Summary: Jesus prayer in John 17 closes with a powerful request for us who believe through the message of his first disciples. We are called to be one!
Opening story... Robert Putman, a Professor at Harvard, wrote a book called Bowling Alone.
In it he documents the decline in community life over the last four decades. He got his title from this “trivial yet telling example”: the percentage of adults who belong to a bowling league today is only about ¼ of what it was in the 1960’s. That statistic alone might just be saying something about bowling. But here are other statistics:
The percentage of people who volunteer in a political campaign-stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, going door to door- is today about 1/2 what it was in the late 1960’s. The percentage of active membership in local clubs & organizations, like PTA is 1/2 what it was in the 1970’s. People are visiting one another less frequently, having friends over less frequently. In short, every objective measurement of participation in community is declining. Why? Some blame TV. Others blame dual career families. There are probably a number of factors involved.
The point is there are forces in our society which are pulling people apart and isolating them and making it more difficult to come together in community. Those forces affect Christians as well as non Christians. Our society is becoming more and more fragmented. Could it be that we are getting farther and farther from God? We are a people in need of prayer! (1)
John 17 is, indeed, the Lord’s prayer. It is not a model prayer for us to learn, it is his own, a prayer Jesus himself prayed. And this is the longest recorded prayer of anyone in the New Testament.
There are three clearly defined sections, and that’s not just a preacher’s observation.
Jesus prays for himself in verses 1-5
He prays for his disciples who are with him in verses 6-19
Finally, he prays for future disciples who will believe in him through their message, in verses 20-26
Let’s remember that this is the very end of Jesus’ ministry and his final words to the eleven disciples who remained with him. He has emphasized over and over again a singular command for them to keep throughout chapters 13-16, and that is that they love one another. He has promised that after he goes away, he will send them the Holy Spirit to be with them and guide them into all truth. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He will empower them to speak the words of God when they face persecution and even death for Jesus’ sake. Jesus promises that he and the Father will come to dwell in them and that through the Holy Spirit they will do even greater things than he did. (14:11-14). Jesus promises his disciples that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for us and that he will come again and receive us to himself that where he is there we may be also. Then, after his instructions to them, Jesus prays this prayer recorded for us in John 17.
Now, I don’t know what you think about God’s power in your prayers, but if ANYONE has powerful effectiveness in prayer, it is Jesus. Hebrews 5:7 says that he was heard because of his reverent submission, or piety. In John 11 we saw that Jesus prayed just before he raised Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, to life again. If I could get anyone I wanted to pray for me, I’d choose Jesus, wouldn’t you? Well, John gives us some really good news here. Jesus Christ, the Son of God has prayed specific things for you and me if we are Christians today. These are things we can rest assured God will answer and grant us. There’s no question about it. By the way, not only did Jesus pray for us here, he is still praying for us even now. Romans 8:34 says that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. In fact, Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit is also interceding for us according to the will of God! As a Christian, a member of the family of God, we are on the Lord’s side and he takes care of his own! Do you believe that?
If you don’t then I have to wonder if you are truly a disciple.
But notice something else. There is a down side to this prayer in John 17 that we must realize. Notice who Jesus does not pray for... Jesus did NOT pray for ANYONE who will not believe in him. Did you get that? JESUS DID NOT PRAY FOR ANYONE WHO WILL NOT BELIEVE IN HIM. That needs to sink in. Judas was among the disciples of Jesus, but he was lost. Jesus even mentions this in his prayer. He was the son of destruction. Judas may have looked like a true disciple, but ultimately he did not believe. He did not keep the faith, if he ever had it in the first place. 1 Cor. 15:1-2 tells us