Just before the events of the following chapters what do we find Jesus doing? He is praying. Prayer was a constant part of His earthly ministry (Luke 3:21; 5:15; 6:12-13; 9:18; 9:28-29; 10:21; 22:31-32; 23:34; 24:30; 24:50-51). When it comes to our Lord and prayer, there are two important things to consider: He is the Master of Prayer and He has a Ministry of Prayer.
The Master of Prayer
No one in all of history prayed like the Lord Jesus Christ. He truly was the Master of prayer. We learn that He often withdrew from the crowds and privately prayed in a secluded place (Luke 5:16). Before appointing the twelve disciples He continued all night in prayer to the Father (Luke 6:12). Prayer was a priority in His ministry. He even gave His disciples instructions in how they should pray (Matt. 6).
The Ministry of Prayer
Jesus prayed often in His earthly ministry. But even now as He is seated at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb.7:25; 1 John 2:1). He is our Great High Priest in Heaven interceding for His children.
As we come to John 17 we are entering a very special portion of Scripture. This chapter contains the longest recorded prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this message we will consider the Son of God’s prayer, priority and purpose.
1. THE SON OF GOD’S PRAYER
Verse 1 begins, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father…’” (17:1a). Here we are introduced to the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I already pointed out, prayer was a normal and ongoing part of our Lord’s ministry. As we introduce this prayer I would like to point out three important truths concerning this prayer.
Firstly, He prayed to the Father. Three times in this prayer He simply says, “Father” (17:1, 21, 24). He also says “Holy Father” (17:11) and “Righteous Father” (17:25). This reveals His intimacy with the Father.
The second thing to notice about this prayer is that He prayed for Himself. This is what the first 5 verses focus on, and we will consider this closely in the just a moment.
The third thing to notices about this prayer is that He prayed for His people. In verses 6-19 Jesus prays specifically for His disciples and then in verses 20-26 He prays for those who will believe (this includes us and all who believed after the apostles). In praying for His people there are three main things He prays for: Their protection (17:11-16), sanctification (17:17-19) and unification (17:20-23). This prayer this stands today, and He are to be grateful for the way the Lord continues to work these things into the lives of His people.
What do we take away from this first point? Firstly, if our Lord Jesus Christ prayed we most certainly should pray. As a start, we should pray for our protection, sanctification and unity. Secondly, we learn that our Saviour loves us and prayed for us. No matter what is happening in this world, let us know that our Saviour is in the Heavens and He is seated at the right hand of the Father praying for us.
2. THE SON OF GOD’S PRIORITY
The second thing we learn about our Saviour in this prayer is His priority. He prayed by saying, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (17:1b). When it comes to life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ many people will say that He leaves us with a good example to be moral. His teachings are simply viewed as moral lessons on how to get along. Despite such a low view of Jesus, we need to understand that everything in His life was leading to a particular event. Jesus describes it as “the hour”. His miraculous entry into the world, His teaching, His miracles and His perfect conduct were all pointing to and leading to a particular hour. This “hour” refers to the cross, burial, resurrection and ascension tot eh glory of Heaven.
3. THE SON OF GOD’S PURPOSE
The third thing we learn about our Saviour in this passage is His purpose. Why did He come to bring glory to the Father? The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world with a Divine mission and that was to give eternal life to those that the Father had given Him before the foundation of the world. He prayed,
“since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (17:2-5).
The question in one way or another has been asked many times, “If God is sovereign, why should I pray?” This question is asked because many struggle with the fact that when we say God is sovereign, we are affirming that He in His eternal counsel has determined all things that will come to pass. This means that nothing comes to pass without His Divine purpose. Knowing that what God has determined will transpire, why pray? This is a very practical and common question.
The Christian ought to confidently pray for the following reasons. First, we pray because we are commanded to. Prayer is not an option for a Christian. The question, “to pray or not to pray” ought not to be asked. Repeatedly throughout Scripture the believer is commend to pray (Luke 18:1; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). In-fact, when we neglect prayer we are committing sin (1 Sam. 12:23). We ought to pray because God wants us to pray. That in and of itself is a sufficient reason why we ought to pray. However, there are more reasons.
Second, we pray because prayer deepens our fellowship with the Lord and helps us depend on Him more (John 15:4-5). We need the Lord so as to receive grace and mercy in our time of need. Prayer is important because it is a personal way in which we depend on the Lord by worshiping Him, confessing our sins to Him, and making requests.
Thirdly, we pray because prayer is a means that God has ordained in accomplishing His purposes. Yes, God is sovereign and has determined the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). But this does not mean the Christian steps back and says, “I have no need to pray”. In God’s sovereign plan, He has determined the means to the end. One of the means used in accomplishing God’s purposes is prayer. This means, in an amazing way prayer accomplish things. We don’t have to worry about how to work all this out. Instead, we must recognise that our Lord is sovereign (Psalm 115:3) and we are responsible to be obedient to what He requires of us.
As the people of God we must pray. When we do neglect prayer it is to our own determinant. Be reminded that our Lord is the Almighty. For this reason, let us come before His throne in faithful, fervent and bold prayer (cf. Heb. 4:16). Why? He wants us to!
If our Lord Jesus Christ who is the sovereign Lord prayed, so should we! But also remember, that as we struggle through life the Lord Jesus Christ is Heaven and He is praying for His people.