Day 7 – John 17
Effective Prayer Podcast, by Colin Dye
John 17 follows straight after the Last Supper. Jesus had taught at the Last Supper a great deal both about the Holy Spirit and prayer, and in John 17 He moves into what people have called the “high priestly prayer of Jesus.” And I understand why they say that, because it is characteristic of Jesus’ intercession; however, strictly speaking, the high priestly ministry of Jesus didn’t begin until Jesus ascended to heaven. He is the heavenly high priest.
Now we also looked at the prayer of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6, which is the Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer, and if Matthew 6 and the Lord’s Prayer is our model prayer, then John 17 must be for us model intercession.
Now there are really, in John chapter 17, three prayers which are recorded there, rather than just one prayer. In verses 1 to 8, Jesus is praying for Himself; verses 9 to 19, Jesus is praying for the eleven disciples; and then verses 20 to 26, Jesus is praying for us, for all who would believe following those early days.
And I want to point out, as we study this prayer and we are digging deep into this prayer and in all this material so we can draw the principles for our own praying, and this whole Sword of the Spirit series is in-depth teaching. I am really concerned to pack these sessions full of teaching so that you can have a lot of teaching, which will help you and release you. I am not pausing for many anecdotes and illustrations and trying to make this a kind of light, frothy experience. No, we are seriously focusing on the Word of God, and we are now in the prayer life of Jesus, and we see in John 17, each of these three prayers that Jesus prays gives us, I think, about five common features which help us when we learn to pray ourselves.
Each prayer begins with a precise statement showing for whom Jesus is praying. He makes it clear who He is praying for. Number #2, each prayer has glory as a main theme. You can find this in each of the verses, but for the moment we are just heading for the principles. Each prayer has glory as a main theme. Number #3, each prayer is addressed to the Father. Number #4, each prayer mentions the people given to Jesus by the Father. And then number #5, each prayer contains the theme of Jesus’ proclamation about the Father, so there is a revelation element here.
So those are principles that will help us as we learn to pray. Let’s see how they worked out in each of these particular prayers. First of all, Jesus praying for Himself. In this section of the John 17 prayer, the great cry was that the Son should be glorified so that He could effectively glorify the Father. Now glory is the visible manifestation of majesty through acts of power. That’s the definition: A visible manifestation of majesty through acts of power. And if we follow this pattern, we, when we pray, are going to cry out for the Father to glorify the Son in us.
And if we look a John’s Gospel, chapter 16 verses 13 to 14, we will see that this is exactly the role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak of His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak, and He will tell you of things to come. He will glorify me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.”
So when we are praying along the theme of glory, to see the Father glorified in the Son, and if we pray like that, we are inviting the Holy Spirit to come and be part of what we are doing. Now we know that what Jesus…what happened to Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection was God’s answer to this prayer: “Father, glorify Me with the glory I had with You before the foundation of the world.”
Glorify me. And how did that happen? It happened at the cross. That was the hour of His glory. That was the visible manifestation of God’s glory, because God’s love and power and grace and forgiveness were revealed there, but beyond that, we have what we commonly associate with the glory of Jesus, the resurrection and the glorious transformation that took place as He was resurrected.
Now we know that when we ask God for the glory of God to come into our lives, it will come through a cross as well. It will come through a cross. Yes, it will, but on the other side of the cross there will be a resurrection, so be encouraged. If you say, “Lord, glorify Yourself in me, let Your name be honored in me,” you can be sure He will take you by the path of the cross. There is no shortcut to glory, my friends. It always happens through the cross.
Now Jesus had revealed the Father’s name to His twelve disciples, and in John’s Gospel there is very special emphasis on revealing Jesus as the divine Son of God, and the name of God that is associated with that, and so it is a very important theme here in this prayer, and it seems that John the Apostle understood this name to be Ego Emi, in the Greek, which is the Greek equivalent of the divine name Yahweh, or “I am that I am,” found in Exodus chapter 3.
And so when Jesus prays here as He does here for Him to be glorified, He says quite specifically,
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you. As you have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory that I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.”
And so the great theme is the manifestation of the name of God. Jesus has revealed His name, the Father’s name, and so as Jesus prays now, He is concerned, of course, that we would learn that the whole point about bringing God glory is that His name might be manifested, His authority might be seen. So here we have a very rich field from which we can draw so much for our own intercessory prayer life.
Now today Jesus is known by His name—Jesus. Of course, He has many other names: the Word of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords—and in the Book of Revelation it is revealed that there is another name by which we don’t yet know Him, but it shall be revealed. There are many, many names, together with the 300 other biblical names and titles of God. This is what we hint at when we pray “in the name of Jesus Christ.” All the power and authority, every name of God is summarized in the name of Jesus. What a very powerful thing.
Also, when we pray in His name, we are anticipating the end of this age. If you have a look in Deuteronomy chapter 12:5, it’s a time at the end of the age where we anticipate that God is going to fully reveal His name and fully reveal His glory, “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses out of all the twelve tribes to put His name for His dwelling place, and there you shall go.” Deuteronomy 12:5.
And so there is coming a time when the name of the Lord shall be fully revealed. Psalm 9:7-10,
But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” It shows us that as we proclaim and reveal the name of God, we are anticipating the time in history when God will come and fully manifest His name, and this is what is behind the prayer of Jesus for himself.
Now the next section of the prayer of Jesus in John 17 is His prayer for the eleven disciples, and it is, again, an extension of this prayer for glorification, and here it is through the perseverance and witness of the disciples that the name of God will be glorified, and we know that throughout this prayer Jesus is preparing Himself to go to the cross, and it is not surprising, therefore, that the theme of opposition to the kingdom of God, the theme of opposition and conflict will be prevalent in this prayer. And here Jesus is saying to His disciples through this prayer and in praying this prayer for them to be kept in the midst of this opposition in the world, preparing them for what they are going to face.
It is, again, something that modern charismatic Christians want to forget. We want to think of glory and forget the suffering. We want to see victory, but we want to forget about the conflict. We want to have a happy hallelujah time, but we don’t realize that great triumphs can only come out of great testings, that great victories can only come out of great battles, and great acts of conquering and overcoming can only come out of conflict and confrontation. So we have to appreciate that when we are praying, we are going to need faith to rise up and meet the challenges that we are facing in the world.
Now in verse 11 of John 17 Jesus prays, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me.” The Good News Bible translates this as, “Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave Me.” In other words, the name that Jesus carried is upon us and the Father will keep us safe. It is interesting that Jesus did not pray that somehow in the situation that the hostility would cease and the world would suddenly become friendly. No, He prays, rather, for the disciples’ safety and for their perseverance.
Now we know time and again in Old Testament times that the name of the Lord is a place of safety and refuge. Psalm 91:14 says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” Proverbs 18:10 is another Scripture that says this, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Now when we are praying today we often pray for easy options, but the Holy Spirit wants to reveal the love of God in the midst of adversity. Isn’t that a puzzling thing at times? Wherever do we get this message from, this idea that being and becoming a Christian is about having an easy life, that it is about having all of your needs met and living a comfortable life and being, as it were, wrapped in cotton wool? It isn’t the case. How many people here today would testify to the fact that in one way or another that that is not the case? Lift your hand and see. Lift your hand and see. Look at these people—keep your hands lifted up—everybody, virtually everybody is lifting their hand because we acknowledge that it is not an easy life, so when we pray like this, the Holy Spirit is there to empower us, to make us stand strong.
Jesus did not pray that they would have a safe time. He just prayed that they would be kept strong in the midst of it all. But Jesus did pray something positive. He prayed that they would be set apart and consecrated for service. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the great theme that is on the heart of Jesus and on the mind of Jesus, because He is sanctifying Himself, setting Himself apart for His great purpose on this earth, which was to die on the cross. He says, “I sanctify Myself for this for their sake, that I might be ready for the Father’s will.”
Now if He prayed that for Himself, how much more does He pray that for us, that we should be sanctified? Of course, He is referring to the original eleven disciples, but we need exactly that same sanctification, setting apart by the Spirit of truth in the Holy Spirit for service. John 15:26-27 says,
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
So we are set apart by the Holy Spirit through the prayer of Jesus for service. Now this suggests to us that when we pray, we should pray that God will set aside the believers that we are praying for, set them aside for consecration by the Spirit for action. And so this is how we can pray effectively for evangelism. We don’t just pray, “Lord God, bless so-and-so, please let this lady be saved.” In fact, you are hard pushed to find any example of that prayer anywhere in the Scriptures. More accurately, and more to the point, we should be praying for one another and for ourselves that we rise up with the spirit of praise, with a spirit of testimony and glory to manifest His name, to manifest the name of the Father as we go out proclaiming the gospel and living the gospel, being good news, just as Jesus did. In this context, Jesus says, “I am sending you out, just as the Father sent Me.”
And then the final section of this prayer is Jesus’ prayer for us. It is very interesting: He offers two prayers for us in this last section of John 17. First, He prayed that we should be one. He prayed, “I pray that they might be one.” The Trinity is the model for this unity, “Just as We are one,” Jesus prays. So it is unity which has its origin in divine action, not human action. It seems that much of the work towards unity is superficial, and it is human-based. It is more institutional unity, and it is unity through compromise, not unity in the truth, not unity that is birthed by the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, we are still called to be one, and Jesus prays that we might be one as He and the Father are one. In other words, it is rooted in the revelation of the Trinity. This unity can only come by the action of the Holy Spirit.
But also it is a visible unity. It’s not like saying, “Well, yes, we are one with every other believer, hallelujah, there is only one church, it’s the true church of Jesus Christ, of which He is the head on this earth, made up of true believers all over the world—those on the earth and those who are already in heaven.” That kind of unity is impossible to be seen visibly. We won’t see that until Jesus returns and when we’re all gathered together in a great, big company of the redeemed.
But before that day, God wants to be visible expressions of our unity on the earth, so it’s not just saying, “Well, we’re going to enjoy just a few friends here on earth,” or we’re not just saying that this means we have a few joint meetings—the Baptists and the Methodists and the Pentecostals have a few picnics together. That’s not that kind of unity. By all means, have fellowship like that, but it’s talking about a deep expression that the world will notice and say, “There is something in this. We must recognize that this is a work of God,” and we would challenge the world as we move together in our unity.
It also suggests to us that if the world will believe and the glory of God is going to come through this that our unity is to be our evangelistic activity together. It’s not just that the world is going to believe if we actually get friends with one another in the Body of Christ. That’s a good start, but the world will believe when the church unites in her task of worldwide mission and evangelism.
And so alongside that we can see that signs and wonders are intertwined with unity. We want signs and wonders, and we pray for unity, and we don’t understand that God is calling us to reveal His glory and manifest His glory in that unity, which must mean a visible demonstration of His glory, just a Jesus demonstrated the glory of the name of the Father on the earth through His miracles.
Now when we read these Scriptures we’ll see how vital and how important unity is, but I want to come to the second part of this prayer of Jesus for those who would believe following the testimony of those early disciples. The first one is for unity; the second prayer is that we would be with Him forever, “I pray that they would be with Me forever.” That’s what He wanted.
Now here is a very important prayer line that we are going to have to learn. By a prayer line I mean a thrust or spirit in prayer. We can hardly hear even echoes of this kind of praying today, but I prophesy to you and predict that we are going to be hearing a lot of this kind of praying from here on, because it is how the Holy Spirit is mobilizing us in our day and generation.
Revelation 22:17 gives us the clue, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Can you see that? “And the Spirit and the bride say. ‘Come.’” The Spirit is mobilizing the bride of Christ, which is the church, to pray a prayer, and that is the end-time church in particular, and the prayer is “Come, Lord Jesus.” In Aramaic, the prayer was “Maranatha!” You see that in the Scripture. “Even so, come. Come Lord Jesus. Maranatha.”
That’s one of the great prayers that the Holy Spirit gives us, though several of them are quoted in Aramaic. Abba is one of them. Maranatha is another one. Amen is another one. These are prayers of the Holy Spirit inspiring us to pray, and the Holy Spirit in this day and age is calling God’s people to get back to praying for the return of Jesus Christ. Do you know that Jesus will not return until the whole church cries “Maranatha”? And I confidently say from a knowledge of the Bible that it will happen. It will happen one way or another. It will happen as the Body of Christ falls more in love with Jesus, and as we so desire to see Him that our waking prayer every moment of the day, our heart’s desire, will be “Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” because we want to meet with Him.
At the moment, people are praying, “Don’t come yet. I haven’t got married, I haven’t made my fortune. I haven’t done my ministry yet.” Well, I know, my friends, the feeling behind that, but there is coming a time when we are going to long for Jesus’ presence back on Planet Earth more than anything else. It will happen as we fall in love with Jesus again and as the Spirit of God stirs the bride up to say, “I’m ready for my wedding day. Come, Lord Jesus.”
But also, it can happen in other ways. In places where the church is heavily persecuted—we know nothing about persecution really in this country—but in different places, the former Soviet Union, former Eastern European countries, and many other nations of the world, they are praying for the Lord’s return. They are praying daily. They are praying moment-by-moment because it will be, for them, a relief out of the persecution and suffering.
I find it predicted in the Scriptures for the end-time church. I find a persecuted church. A glorious church, yes, but the more glorious you become, the more persecuted you are. Nobody was more persecuted than Jesus, and He said, “If they hated Me, they’re going to hate you. If they did this to Me, they are going to do this to you,” especially if the glory of the Lord comes.
And you know how the Apostle Paul prayed, don’t you, in the Book of Philippians chapter 3? I’d like you to turn to that, please. Philippians chapter 3. Here we have the Apostle Paul praying a great deal about his life and his ministry. He prays about the fact that he has lost everything and he says in verse 8,
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him…
Now here is the point—listen carefully, verse 10, “that I may know Him,” listen carefully to the word order that follows now, “and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Did you notice an unusual word order? He mentioned resurrection before the cross. Normally it’s the cross and resurrection, and if you die you’re going to be resurrected. If you die daily you’re going to be resurrected.
And so there is a very unusual reason why he would change the word order here, but he says, “I want to be found in Him, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,” and then immediately realizes what is coming next. The moment you move into the glory of God, the moment you move into the power of His resurrection, when the anointing touches your life and you rise up in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, you become a threat to the powers of darkness, and persecution is coming your way; opposition is coming you way.
So the Apostle Paul says, “I want the power of His resurrection, and yes, I know what is going to happen as a result of that. The crucifixion is coming my way. I’m going to be persecuted and opposed, but I am willing to go the whole way because I want to see the glory of God in my life and I want Jesus Christ to be glorified.”
Do you have that same vision? Do you have the same concern? Do you want to see the glory of God working in your life just like that?