Summary: God glorifies Jesus for the ultimate good of all things.
When teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus began by saying, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name….” Christians usually call that section of Scripture in Matthew 6 “The Lord’s Prayer.” In a sense, it is Jesus’ prayer – the model he gave his followers. A more accurate title, however, might be: “The Prayer of Jesus’ Disciples,” since he said to them, “You pray in this manner.”
To hear what is really “The Lord’s Prayer,” (the Lord Jesus praying) we turn to John 17, to the example of prayer par excellence. We do not rank Bible passages, because all Scripture is breathed out by God as the Holy Spirit spoke through his apostles. And yet, many believers throughout the history of the church have sensed they were entering a holy place and time as they listen to Jesus pray.
A. W. Pink says that John Knox had this chapter read to him every day during his final illness, so comforting are the words and the theology. The highly regarded Puritan, Thomas Manton, preached 45 sermons on John 17. Philip Melanchthon, one of the intellectual and theological leaders of the Reformation, said of this passage: “There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son of God himself.”
The chapter divides easily into three sections. In verses 1-5, Jesus prays for himself and in 6-19, for his disciples; then he finishes the chapter by praying for those who would follow, the church throughout the history of the world. “He begins with his own glorification, as the foundation of all things; then he seeks the welfare of the Apostles, as the means to the expansion of the Kingdom; and he ends by asking for the comfort of future believers” (Manton, 109, modernized). May our hearts be thrilled as we hear the Son speak with his Father about his glory.
[Read John 17.1-5. Pray.]
In late October, the leaves begin to fall from many of our trees. By December, the ground is covered. But some will remain attached to the end of the limb where they once were so full of life, until, in the spring, a new leaf emerges and pushes the dead one off the tree.
That is an apt picture of what Thomas Chalmers termed “the expulsive power of a new affection.” He said, “The love of God, and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity…. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate changeability of its own, to cast the world away…. The heart is not so constituted, and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”
Henry Scougal observed something similar: “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love…. A noble and well-placed affection advances and improves the spirit into a conformity with the perfections which it loves.”
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Corinth: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2Corinthians 3.18). As we gaze intently on the glory of Christ, as fill our minds with knowledge of God and our hearts with love for God, these expel sordid passions and love for the things of the world.
I have heard the criticism that a person can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. If what is being criticized is a professed love for God and a knowledge of doctrine which does not change our lives, then we might agree. But a true love of God and a proper readiness for heaven is, in fact, the best training for usefulness on earth.
The central theme of the Lord’s prayer is his glory. That which we most need from God is not greater gifts, but a greater gaze upon “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Corinthians 4.6). That is precisely why the Psalmist sings to God: “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” (Psalm 70.4).
John Piper, God is the Gospel, 17: “The world needs nothing more than to see the worth of Christ in the work and words of his God-besotted people. This will come to pass when the church awakens to the truth that the saving love of God is the gift of himself, and that God himself is the gospel.”