Summary: What is on Jesus’ heart when he prays for himself, and for you? How could this change your prayers?
When someone communicates to us a need in their life, we as Christians have an automatic response. We say, “I’m praying for you.” Now that is a fine response if we actually do it. Many times what we really mean is “I’d like to pray for you, lifting you up to the Father, but in reality I’m going to walk away from here and forget we even had this conversation.”
Now, I am as guilty of that as the next person. Yes, we need to follow up and really pray for them. I’d encourage us to, instead of saying we will pray, to stop right then and there and say “can we pray now?” Or how about those emails we get? I know some very special people who respond to email troubles not with a nice sounding platitude but with a heartfelt prayer, put down in bits and bytes.
We have two basic problems with prayer: format and will. It takes an act of the will to determine to pray for someone. It is a decision not to do something else or think something else. Our problem is that we think that we need to rev up to prayer, like warming up your car before you drive away on a winter’s morning. We expect our prayers to be fully formed flowery language as they spoke in 1615 England. We think that God will understand us better if we pray more eloquently.
Prayer should be instant and conversational. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Never stop praying but never start with thinking your fancy language is impressive to God. Remember that it is your heart praying, not your words.
Prayer was so important to Jesus. The synoptic gospels give us several occasions when Jesus went away to pray, or spent all night praying (Matt 14:23, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:28, Matt 26:36). But other than the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9) which was really Jesus teaching us to pray, and the prayer outside of the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:41) we don’t see many examples of Jesus praying.
But here in chapter 17, the entire thing is Jesus praying. It teaches us about what is important to Jesus, and what is important to Him about us! Though it is not a script for how all prayers should be said, it provides us with a blueprint for that conversation with God.
Chapter 17 is broken up into three parts: 1-5 Jesus prayer for himself, 6-19 prayer for the disciples, 20-26 prayer for all believers present and future
1 - 5 Prayer for Himself
Accomplish Your goal of showing who you are to the universe (1)
Jesus did that by His death, burial, and then resurrection
Accomplish Your goal of giving life to a dead world (2)
Jesus central purpose was to glorify God by imparting life to humans
Eternity isn’t a time or place, it’s a person (3)
Eternal life is not just existing forever and it’s not just going to heaven. It is a relationship with a Person that lasts forever. We all exist forever; only those that rely on Jesus and love him will “live” forever in God’s presence. Life without God is not life—it is death.
Nothing can stop God’s work (4)
Jesus has not gone to the cross yet, but it is a foregone conclusion that this last step will be accomplished. Jesus speaks of the work of salvation as if it has already been done. And if you belong to Him His work through you is a foregone conclusion too.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
There is glory beyond the struggle (5)
Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus gave up a tremendous amount to come be with us on earth. He is looking forward to returning to that place of extraordinary glory with the Father. For us, there is one glory here, another in heaven—and going through the struggle here is worth it for the joy set before us there.
6 - 19 Prayer for the disciples
Belief that Jesus really is from the Father (6 – 8)
Have you ever heard the term “chain of evidence”? It’s a legal concept. When police collect evidence at a crime scene they have to catalog exactly where it goes and who has it to make sure it hasn’t gotten tainted along the way. You get a feeling by this part of the prayer that there is a “chain of ownership” that passes from the Father to Jesus. The chain is communicated through the words of Jesus. As we “receive” them we become part of that chain flowing from the Father to Jesus to us and then back to the Father.