Prayer is the great mystery of man.
How can God hear the words of any one of us when there are nearly seven billion people on the earth? How can God answer all prayers when so many are coming to Him every day? The reason that we find these things difficult to understand is because we do not comprehend who God is and the great power that He has. The Bible describes God as knowing all things. There is nothing that He must learn. All prayers are simply known to God because He has knowledge of all things. There is no effort that is required for God to hear us or respond. He knows, hears, cares, and responds to every prayer.
This chapter is dedicated to an understanding what prayer is; why it is so important, and how Jesus displayed the effective use of prayer.
The prophet Zechariah describes the voracious prayer life of the Messiah, who will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of supplication (prayer).
Zechariah 12:10b “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
New Testament Fulfillment:
Matthew 21:13 And He said to them, “It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
Mark 11:17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
Luke 19:46 saying to them, “It is written, “My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
The effective prayer life of Jesus
As the Messiah, Jesus defined the true meaning and intent of prayer in a way that none of us had know previous to His great example of prayer. It is certain that a large part of Jesus ministry was empowered by His voracious prayer life. When all others were fast asleep, Jesus was on His knees before the Father, interceding for us.
The model for effective prayer is found in the habit and method of Jesus as He demonstrated how, and to whom we should pray.
The Pharisees were known for their pretentious public prayers that they conducted before the people. The fact that the religious leaders felt it necessary to allow the public to observe their prayers, gives us an indication of where their true motives resided. Jesus defined those who pray in this manner as hypocrites. He said that they conducted their prayers in public so that they would be seen by others, not so that they might obtain fellowship with God. Jesus contrasted how the true servant of the Lord should pray; go into your room and pray to the Father in a secret place. Secondly, when we speak to the Father, we talk to Him as if He is an intelligent being, who hears us the first time we speak. We do not need to conduct our prayers in repetition, as is the practice of the pagan nations who do not know God.
Matthew 6:5-7 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
The so called, “Lord’s Prayer” from Matthew chapter 6, is not the Lord’s prayer at all. It is intended as a model for our prayers. Jesus never desired that the words to this example of prayer from Matthew 6:5-7 should be recited or repetitiously repeated. The purpose of the words that Jesus spoke, were to show us a correct format for how we should pray.
Matthew 6:9-13 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Notice the words; “in this manner”. Jesus did not say, “pray this prayer.” The Lord made it clear that this is the way that we should pray. The following is the format for how we should pray, as illustrated by Jesus in Matthew 6:5-7:
First: “Our Father in heaven.” We address all of our prayers to the Father. Not to Mary, the Saints, or any other created being. Prayer is only directed to God the Father, in the name of the Son.
John 15:16 …whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
John 16:23 ...Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.
Second: “Hallowed be Your name”. The name of the Lord is Holy. In our opening prayer to the Lord, we should acknowledge that He alone is Holy and worthy of our prayers.
Third: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” Our purpose in our prayers, is to ask the Lord to bring His kingdom to the earth. How many of our problems could instantly be solved if Jesus were to return to the earth immediately. All of the injustice, evil, and rebellion of the world would suddenly be eliminated. Our every need would be provided. People all over the world would begin to care for one another, instead of selfishly seeking their own benefit.
Fourth: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We bring our personal needs for today before the Lord. He already knows what those needs are; and He promised to meet our daily needs, not necessarily our wants.
Fifth: “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” If we will ask the Lord to forgive our sins, we must be willing to forgive the sins that others have committed against us. We cannot expect God to forgive our many sins if we are not willing to forgive the people who have sinned against us. He will not, if we do not.
Sixth: “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” A prayer of protection from God to lead us away from all temptations—which originate in our lusts for the things of this world, to fulfill the desires of our flesh, as well as temptations from the devil.
Seventh: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” An acknowledgement that this world, this universe, and all the kingdoms of man; are under the sovereign control of our God. We should remember this every day when things do not work out as we had planned. It is not our world we are living in; it is our Father’s world. He can do whatever He pleases. Thank the Lord that He is such a good, merciful, and kind God who cannot do anything evil, and who loves us infinitely.
This is a very simple, and easy to understand prayer format. Jesus did not say that we should recite this prayer word for word, over and over, as some sort of mantra to attract the Lord’s attention and gain His favor. Jesus taught us to just speak to the Father as we would any person here on earth—personally, honestly, and with sincerity. Jesus left us the correct format for what our prayers should contain. The actual words for these prayers should come from our own heart—spoken to God in sincerity, with a desire to know Him and have fellowship with Him.
The true Lord’s prayer
John records the true “Lord’s prayer” in chapter 17 of his gospel and gives us a firsthand view of the intimacy that Jesus had with the Father in His prayers.
I debated whether to include the entire text of Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17, because it is long and the inclusion of such a lengthy Biblical reference may not be read anyway. I decided to include the entire text because I felt that it was extremely important to see Jesus’ prayer in its entirety—if we are to genuinely grasp the meaning of this prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. If we will understand the importance of prayer in our life, we must closely examine our Savior’s most important prayer. If you are a sincere student of the Bible and are profoundly interested in the subject of Bible prophecy, then there will be no part of the prophetic word that will be boring to you. For the diligent and sincere seeker of God, I include the complete text of John 17 for your study and meditation.
Though it is 26 verses in length, Jesus’ entire prayer can be read in less than three minutes.
John 17:1-26 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 6 I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. 9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
In order to understand what God’s intention for prayer is, we should carefully consider everything that Jesus has said to the Father in this text. We are extremely privileged to overhear this intimate conversation between the agents of all creation; in their desire to bless us with an incredible gift. This is a chapter from the Bible that each one of us should devote ourselves to. I believe that there is more here in Chapter 17 of John’s gospel than we could ever realize. It is possible that these words contain a revelation of God and His nature, that is not available from any other source.
Jesus’ prayer can be divided into three parts:
Verses 1-5: Jesus prays for Himself.
Verses 6-19: Jesus prays for His disciples.
Verses 20-26: Jesus prays for all believers, present and future.
Jesus spoke the words to this prayer, most likely, just after the gathering of the last supper with His disciples; or while in the Garden of Gethsemane—which was Jesus’ preferred place to commune with the Father.
Jesus prays for Himself:
John 17, verses 1-2: Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
When Jesus begins His prayer, as was a common custom of that time, He lifted up His eyes to look up towards God. Jesus says, “The time has come.” The Lord was always considerate of the timing for everything that He said or did; regarding the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. When Mary asked the Lord to intervene with His power at the wedding in Cana, Jesus told His mother that it was not the appropriate time to reveal His true identity. Jesus would wait until Nissan 10, 32 A.D. This was the date calculated by Daniel Chapter 9—the prophecy given by the angel Gabriel to Daniel, describing the precise day the Messiah would come to Jerusalem in fulfillment of God’s promise.
When the disciples pressed Jesus to go to Jerusalem and publicly identify Himself as the Messiah, He refused, stating: “My time has not yet come” (John 7:8). When Jesus’ enemies tried to put Him to death, they were unsuccessful because it was not yet the time appointed for Him to die (John 7:30, 8:20).
We can see by Jesus’ prayer life that He was deeply committed to fulfilling all of the Old Testament prophecies that would confirm Him as the Messiah. The reason that this was so important to the Lord was due to His overwhelming zeal to see the Father glorified. When each prediction that God had made came to pass, being fulfilled by Jesus—the Father was glorified. Jesus considered this task of the utmost importance, to make sure that every word of God’s promises were fulfilled perfectly.
Jesus speaks of “Glory” and “Glorify,” in reference to the fulfillment of all God’s word. If we should ever consider prophecy as unimportant, we should study this prayer of Jesus. He makes it clear that doing the will of the Father, by fulfilling all of His prophetic word, was the most important objective that He came to accomplish.
Verses 2-3: “as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Jesus’ prayer gives us some idea of the power that He has over life and death, and the fact that the Father gave to the Son, the power to raise—all those who will place their complete trust in Him. Here Jesus reveals what it is to obtain eternal life: to know Him as God, in a deep and personal way. Not simply to know about Him or to believe that God exists, but to know Him—intimately, by having a relationship with God.
Verses 4-5: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
Jesus states that the tasks the Father had given Him to accomplish while He was here on earth, were finished. All that was required at this point when Jesus was in prayer to the Father, was to go to the cross and make our redemption complete. The way that Jesus would be glorified would be by His resurrection from the dead. At His resurrection, death would be forever abolished; and the curse of all mankind—removed for eternity.
Jesus prays for His disciples:
As is always true of Jesus, He is immensely more concerned for others than He is for Himself. Jesus is the most others-oriented person who has ever lived. There was nothing that He would hold on to, in pouring out His life to redeem us all. If we examine the lives of the men that Jesus chose to be His disciples and lead the church, we would be shocked to learn that they were all a bunch of misfits. Each man had serious problems with certain sins in their life, and they were not really the kind of leadership material that we might think that Jesus would choose to lead His kingdom.
- Peter was impetuous and quick tempered, impulsively changing his mind, often.
- Simon was materialistic; his concerns were centered around money and property.
- James was seemingly insignificant to most men, called “the younger.”
- Andrew was very insecure, the brother of Peter, a loner, dependent on his family.
- John was prideful, called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy those who opposed him.
- Phillip was a perfectionist, a bit of a control freak; calculating and inquisitive.
- Nathaniel was a skeptic and opinionated. When he was told that they had found the Messiah, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Nathaniel said: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
- Thomas, known as the “doubter,” was a skeptic and quite cynical. A man very suspicious of the things people said, wanting proof before he would believe what someone had claimed.
- James, the elder, stubborn and unwilling to change.
- Matthew was hated by most people because he was formerly a Roman tax collector.
- Thaddeus was a man who was constantly wavering between his beliefs and often had ulterior motives for what he did.
- Judas betrayed Jesus, though he pretended to love Him and be His friend.
- Paul was a former murderer of Christians, a wealthy and influential, intellectual.
Knowing these men well, and understanding their frame; that they were all imperfect and capable of failure at any time, Jesus brings each one before the Father. Not long after Jesus intercedes on behalf of these men—who were defined as “Apostles,” Jesus would be arrested, forced to endure six unjust trials throughout the night; finally beaten, tortured, humiliated; and crucified.
These are the men that Jesus chose to lead His church and make it possible for the whole world to know the Messiah and be saved. How amazing!
For this reason, Jesus prayed fervently for these dear men. Not focussing on who they were, at that point—with all of their imperfections; but instead, looking forward to who they were going to be, once the “promise of the Father” came—the Holy Spirit. This promise was fulfilled in the Book of Acts Chapter 2, as all these weak and imperfect men were filled with the Holy Spirit and became the mighty men of God, who changed the whole world by the message of Jesus’ cross. See Exegetical Principles for an example of the power that these disciples exhibited as drastically changed men, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Verses 6-8: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”
As we consider the shortcomings of all the disciples, we should remember that these were the men that the Father chose for Jesus. As the Lord called each one, though they were weak and inadequate; they left their old lives and began to follow Jesus—in spite of their inadequacies. When each man realized who Jesus was, they received Him as their Messiah, without hesitation. We should remember that Jesus chose each of these men before they were actually saved. It was in the process of their relationship with Jesus that they came to know who He was, and accept Him as their Savior. Jesus loved each man, even while they were sinners; full of inadequacies, past failures, and present struggles with sin. Jesus took each man as they were, and made them into the men that He needed them to be. This was all accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who lives within the heart of every person who calls on the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Verse 9: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”
In verse 9, Jesus’ focus is on the eleven men who were still with Him. Judas has revealed himself as a traitor and has been lost due to his unwillingness to sincerely repent and return to Jesus. Judas was not lost because he sinned; he was lost because he would not return and be saved. The Lord never gives up on us, and He will patiently wait for our entire life in order to give us the opportunity to confess our sins and be saved.
Verse 10: “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”
We should not miss Jesus’ statement in verse 10: “All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine…” By these words, Jesus is declaring, in His prayer to the Father; that He is equal to God the Father. In the construction of this phrase, we see that Jesus (Mine) and the Father (Yours) have the same importance and authority.
Verse 11: “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”
Recognizing all of the pitfalls of this life, Jesus fervently prays for the Father to protect each of the disciples in the years ahead. Jesus uses an important phrase in describing the Father—Holy Father—recognizing the eternal perfection and righteousness that God has in making all the things that Jesus has petitioned Him for, to take place. Jesus’ requests to the Father, on behalf of the disciples, is based on the goodness and perfection of God; not on the imperfection and sinfulness of men. This world is full of evil and corruption that is observable every day. We wonder how the Lord could permit such evil to go on for so long. The answer is: He is waiting for sinners to repent and turn to Him so that He can save them. Secondly, He will not permit evil and rebellion for much longer. There is a day fast approaching when it will be too late and no one can be saved. Thankfully, that day has not arrived yet, and there is still a brief moment of time when all those who will come, can be saved.
Jesus asks the Father to keep those who keep the commandments of God (the Greek word is tereo, which is normally used to define obedience) (John 8:51, 52, 55, 14:15). The idea that Jesus seems to imply here, by His use of tereo, is to ask the Father to preserve each of these men, as their defender.
Jesus asks the Father to manifest the protection of these men “through His name.” It is the name of God that holds the infinite power of the universe. A person’s name is a representation of who he is as a person. When someone speaks our name to another, we are known by the things that we do. Our name become synonymous with our actions. Here, the name of God is synonymous with His righteous acts, which are always good.
Verse 12: “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
On the final night of Jesus’ life here on earth, He was thinking of these eleven men—and Paul who would join them in a few years, who would be left on this immensely difficult planet. While Jesus was with them, He was able to guide and protect these men, provide all their needs, and teach them. Now that Jesus was going to be crucified and then raised to life three days later, the disciples would be left on the earth to continue what Jesus began.
The word “kept” here is different from “keep” in verse 11 (tereo). This Greek word for keep, as used by Jesus, is phylasso (to guard or protect). The purpose of this word is to define Jesus intent for the disciples while He was still here on earth; He would guard these men against external attacks from satan. Now that Jesus will be departing for heaven, He is trusting the Holy Spirit to take over the role of protection for those who have committed their lives to Him.
Jesus refers to Judas as “the son of perdition,” a term used only one other place in the New Testament: 2 Thessalonians 2:3, speaking of the antichrist. For this reason, some commentators have stated that Judas and the antichrist may be one and the same person. Others have stated that the term “son of perdition” is a title given to someone who is given to evil. It is certain that no words found in the Bible are there by accident; and that if both Judas and the antichrist are called by the same name, there is a significance to this usage. If it were simply a term for evil in a generic form, then we would expect to see other uses of this term in the New Testament scriptures. We should understand that Judas was greatly loved by Jesus. He was given the place of highest honor during the Last Supper—at Jesus’ right hand. Judas had the opportunity to repent and be saved, up until the final moment when he decided, of his own free will, to choose evil and betray Jesus. Though the Lord did not want Judas to be lost, He would not move with His great power, to prevent Judas nor anyone else from expressing their own will in choosing to be saved or to be lost. Once Judas made his decision, it became impossible for him to repent and turn back; for his heart was seared and past feeling, unable to repent. This is a solemn reminder that should we continue to reject Jesus over and over again, we may reach a point where our conscience is also seared, and it will be impossible for us to repent and receive Jesus. See Betrayed by a Friend, the Messiah will be betrayed by a close friend for thirty pieces of silver.
Verse 13: “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”
A very touching and heartfelt petition from Jesus to the Father on behalf of the disciples: In the midst of all of their difficulties, Jesus prays that they might experience joy. Our present circumstances should never dictate whether or not we have true joy. The emotion of Joy comes from inside, where nothing external can touch. Our joy comes from the fact that we are immensely loved by God and the object of all His affections. All of our sins are forgiven, and heaven is our home. We only have a few more remaining years here on earth and then we will finally be home with our Lord, forever. There is nothing that anyone or anything can do to take this Joy from us. Whether we live or die, we do so to the Lord and give Him our very best while we have a few more years to serve Him and make Him known to this world.
Verse 14: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
All those who truly belong to Jesus no longer belong to this world. We know this, and we feel this truth everyday that we are alive. The things that people in the world say, should not be the words that come from our mouths. The actions of the world are not our actions. The things that the world loves are nothing more than objects that will soon pass away in a fervent heat that will envelope this earth someday. We feel home sick on most days, longing for our dearly missed friends and loved ones who have gone on ahead of us to heaven. We ache in our hearts to see Jesus face to face and gaze into His glorious eyes. We yearn for righteousness and the absence of sin, and eagerly watch each new morning for the coming of our Lord as he comes for us in the clouds. The world hated the disciples, and Jesus knew this. He knows it perfectly because the world hated Him before it hated any of us. If we went along with all the things that the world loves, they would also love us. Since we oppose this world at every turn, they hate us—because we will not follow them into destruction and instead love Jesus and follow Him.
Verses 15-16: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
It would seem that once Jesus had accomplished His great sacrifice for our sins, He would immediately take us all with Him to go home and end our trials here on the earth. This is not the plan of God. For in our trials and the continuing struggles of this life, we are increasingly sanctified for Jesus—being set apart to a greater and greater degree every day that we endure hardship here on the earth. I have often desired that Jesus had not spoken this prayer, asking the Father to not take us out of the world. I want to go home so desperately; yet, I also desire to remain here and do as much as I can to make Jesus known, while I have been given the opportunity to do so.
Thankfully, as the disciples had to remain and complete the race that the Lord set before them, we also have a life of our own to finish and finish well.
While we are here, Jesus prays that the Father would protect us from the evil one, who would utterly destroy us if he were allowed by God. It is only by the sovereign hand of the Lord that we live another day. As we look into Job’s life, we read that satan had limited access to Job, only as God allowed. We can have confidence that as we continue to serve Jesus, the Father will protect us from the evil one. We need not have any fear of what the enemy can do to us. We are powerless ourselves to fight him, and we do not need to. Our protection comes from the Father who watches over us night and day.
Verse 17: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
It is the word of God and our exposure to the “Son” that lights our way and warms our hearts. As we give more and more of ourselves—over to the control of Jesus; we will become set-apart in greater measure, to be used by Him. How much we are used by the Lord in making Him known to this world, depends upon us, and to what degree we are willing to surrender ourselves to Him. By the process of sanctification, where we move farther away from the world and closer to Jesus; our lives become increasingly pure of sin. The less we choose sin, the greater that God is able to use us.
There is a possible implied meaning to Jesus’ use of word and truth. Both of these terms are used to describe the Lord. Jesus is called the Word of God by John in his gospel, and Jesus referred to Himself as The Truth, in John 14:6. If we earnestly desire more and more of Jesus—the Word and the Truth—in our life, then we will get what we asked for. God will always give greater revelation of His word and greater ability to apply His truth to our life, if we earnestly ask Him for these things.
Verse 18: “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
This verse defines the authority and mission of these twelve men (including Paul), above all other men who will be born on the earth. There are only twelve Apostles. There are no living Apostles today, nor had God planned for there to be any Apostles beyond these first twelve men.
When Jesus “sent” them into the world, He did so with the same power that He had exercised while still here on the earth. They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and build the church. The authority that Jesus gave these 12 men was intended as a “sign” to everyone whom they met or spoke to, that their authority came from Jesus—directly. The Bible had not been assembled at that time. There were no Old and New Testament scriptures in one book to show the people the doctrines that they were teaching. The Apostles had the power and authority of Jesus, and it was a visible and real part of their ministry.
Any person today who claims to be an “Apostle of Jesus” is a liar and a fraud. We should remember that in order for one of these twelve men to be qualified as an Apostle, they must have personally seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion. No one today can make this claim; therefore, no one can rightly assert that they are an Apostle.
Verse 19: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
In some measure, for the sake of these twelve uniquely called and gifted men, Jesus set Himself apart in their presence as an example for them to follow. There was no need for Jesus to try and sanctify Himself to any greater degree, for He was already fully set apart to do the will of the Father. Here, by Jesus’ example, we see the importance of leading a truly righteous life in the presence of others so that they will have an example to follow. The disciples were sanctified to a greater degree, as they set themselves apart in trying to be as much like Jesus, in all their behavior, as possible.
Jesus prays for all believers, present and future.
Verse 20: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word…”
If you are reading this verse, then you should understand that Jesus is speaking of you. Either you have already come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, by the teaching of the word from another person; or you will soon believe in the Lord, as you understand the need to surrender your life to Jesus. For those who feel that you will never receive Jesus no matter how much evidence is presented to you, this verse is a prayer from two thousand years ago, that you will open your heart and receive the love of the truth and be saved.
Consider the fact that this book was written by someone who was changed by coming into a relationship with Jesus in 1975, as some evidence of the power of the gospel. There are Billions of people who have lived their lives on the earth, heard the message about Jesus, believed upon Him, and were saved. Most of these dearly departed are walking the streets of heaven right now, as you read these words. There are millions of lives today who have been radically changed by the power of knowing Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They are a fulfillment of this prayer by Jesus: “Those who will believe in Me through their word…” These people have read the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament, or they have heard through others, what Jesus has done for them; and they responded—becoming new creatures—destined for heaven.
Perhaps, you will read this book and discover how wonderful Jesus is, and feel the need to give your life to the Lord. There may be many thousands of people in heaven someday, who will be there because you responded today and began to tell others about Jesus. Imagine that!
Verse 21: “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
There is a very good reason that Jesus prayed for all of us to live together in unity. Though we are saved by Jesus and all of our sins are forgiven, we still live our lives in the process of being set-apart. While we are in this process, over the course of our entire lifetime; we are going to be very selfish, self-willed, and self-consumed. One of the things that I learned as the pastor of two churches at the same time, 35 miles apart, was that people are often very difficult to get along with—even Christians. I have seldom met an individual who was more interested in finding agreement with other Christians than finding differences. What is sadly and most often the case, is that people want their own way; and in order to get what they want, they find ways to divide the body of Christ.
I knew a man who was an elder in a church, who was a dear friend, who became convinced of certain things that he believed were true. Although I was certain that they were not true and tried to reason with this friend, he was persistent in telling as many people as he came across how certain he was that these things must be true. In the process of doing this, he divided the church to the point where no one wanted to attend any longer. The church closed its doors and no longer exists.
This is not an isolated case. Disunity in the body of Christ is a plague.
In the world, people are free to say just about anything that we want to say. As followers of Jesus, in order to fulfill the Lord’s prayer here in John Chapter 17 verse 21, we must not say anything publicly that would disparage or malign a fellow believer in Jesus. To do so is a grievous sin and not at all pleasing to the Lord. In any public setting where other people may see or hear our comments, we must always be very graceful and merciful in all our speech towards all other believers. If we have an opinion about a particular book that has been written by a Christian author who is trying to serve Jesus the best way that he can, we should send a private message to the author—not post them online where others may see us creating division. As Christians, we have no right to say anything negative or critical about another Christian—anywhere, particularly in places where others may hear or see what we have stated. When people in the world see Christians tearing each other apart, they are repelled from Christ and will not seek Him. Why would anyone want to follow Jesus if all of His followers cannot even love each other?
If we disagree with this premise, we might consider reading Jesus’ words again, as He prayed to the Father for all of us: “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.”
The only way that the world can practically know, by experience, the love that Jesus has for us; is when they see it exhibited between those who claim to know Jesus. If they see hatred, unkind remarks, attacks, and criticism, they will be offended by Jesus because of what they see in His followers.
Verses 22-23: “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
The “Glory” that Jesus has given to each one of us who believe in Him, is the task of telling people about Jesus, and how they can have their sins forgiven and gain eternal life. All those who have committed their lives to Jesus have a future glory in heaven that is impossible to describe in human words.
Some of the words used to describe the term Glory are: Renown, Fame, Prestige, Honor, Distinction.
Those who inherit eternal life are destined for an existence that is impossible to imagine. We have the supreme privilege of offering people the one thing that everyone is searching for, but often are not aware of. What our soul longs for is our Creator. As our bodies crave pure, clean water—our souls desire the pure and clean refreshment of our eternal God. Instead, people stuff all kinds of things into their life and are never fully satisfied. When someone meets Jesus and comes into a genuine relationship with Him, they discover the purpose for their existence and the joy and satisfaction they have longed for, all of their life.
The glory which the Father gave the Son; the privilege of offering us eternal life, Jesus has given to each one of us, who have heard the message and carry it to others.
What is the message?
“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
Jesus is living in us from the moment we receive Him. He goes with us every place we go. He hears every word that we say and understands all of our thoughts before we know them. It is Jesus who speaks through us to other people, as if He Himself were there before each thirsty soul. Jesus is pleading with every person to come to Him so that He might impart the forgiveness of sins and the glory that is ahead; a life eternal in the heavens, dwelling in the glory and magnificence of the Lord.
Verse 24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
This is the section of Jesus’ prayer to the Father that is my personal favorite. He is asking that you and I be permitted to be with Him where He is; whether in heaven or any other place in the universe that the Lord might go. His desire is that we might be able to see His glory in its full brilliance and splendor.
Jesus is light that is incomprehensible. His radiance is brighter and more intense than the Sun. To stand for a microsecond in His presence, in our present bodies, would instantly vaporize us. Only in an eternal, sinless, and perfect body will we be able to sustain our existence when we are in His presence. We are going to see Him the way that He is; in the full measure of His resplendent beauty, and we will be captivated.
When Jesus came to earth in the form of a man, His glory was veiled or covered for our protection. In the movie “Cocoon,” the beings who come to earth are returning, to retrieve one of their friends who was not able to leave with them, thousands of years before. When a human being by the name of “Jack” discovers that they are beings from a world, millions of light years from earth—these beings take off their outer human covering and reveal their true form, shrouded in brilliant light. When Jesus was here on earth, completing the sacrifice that He had determined to make for all people of the earth, He was covered with a veil of human flesh that did not allow us to see Him in His full glory. Here, Jesus expresses His desire to the Father—that each one of us who have been “Born Again” by the Spirit of God; might behold Him in all of His glory.
Jesus expresses the Love that He and the Father have known for all of eternity, even before the creation of the heavens and the earth. In this, Jesus confirms His true identity as the Son of God, the Eternal Creator of all that exists (Colossians 1:17).
Verses 25-26: “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
In these final two verses of Jesus’ amazing prayer to the Father, we observe the intimate knowledge of the Father that Jesus alone possesses. Jesus calls Him “Righteous Father,” as He also describes Him as “Holy Father,” in verse 11 of this prayer. There is no other place in the entire Bible where these two terms are found together. Jesus alone has the right to refer to the Father in this way, for only He knows the Father with such intimate knowledge that He can reveal Him to us.
Jesus’ entire purpose in coming to earth was to reveal who God is, to all human beings. The knowledge that mankind has of God is completely false, apart from the truth that is revealed of Him in the Holy Scriptures of the Bible. Unless God reveals Himself to us, we cannot know Him by any other means. Jesus came to show us the Father, to reveal what God is really like. When we hear Jesus speak, we are hearing the words of God. The actions that Jesus carried out while here on earth are the actions of the Eternal and Living God. If we want to know what God is like, all that we must do is study the life of Jesus Christ. He reveals the Father to us.
Jesus also came to reveal the great love that God has for each one of us. You are greatly beloved by God and the reason why Jesus was permitted to come and die such a horrible and vicious death. It was the love of God that propelled Jesus to the earth, to make payment in full for our sins; so that we would no longer be under the threat of judgement, at any time. Jesus has paid for your sins, and you can appropriate this payment into your account by simply asking the Father for salvation “in Jesus’ name.”
Zechariah’s prediction of the Messiah in his prophecy, describes Him as pouring out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the spirit of supplication (intense prayer). It is interesting that Zechariah chose the term “supplication” instead of simply “prayer.” Supplication is a form of prayer that is deeply sincere, humble, and fervent. The Messiah will not simply “pray”; He will do so with great passion and intensity.
As we examine the examples of prayer given to us in the application of this prophecy, we see that Jesus fulfilled the meaning and intent of this prophecy, perfectly. Jesus’ example of supplication before the Father is an incredible pattern for all of us to follow, in all of our petitions before the Father.
- Prayer For America: For Such A Time As This
- Prayer: How, Why, and When We Should Pray
- The Parables, Prophecies, and Prayers of Jesus
- Examples Of Prayer In The Bible
 Division of this prayer from the Expositors’s Bible Commentary on John chapter 17, excerpts from this commentary.
 John 20:18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took Paul and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.