Jesus Prays for Believers
Posted May 28, 2023
Lesson 13 Spring Quarter
Lesson Text: John 17:6-21
Golden Text: John 17:21
This week’s lesson is the last lesson of the quarter. In this quarter we have seen the works that Christ did and taught and how He gave His life for us so that we can be in fellowship with Christ and have eternal life. In our lesson today, we take a look at Jesus’ prayer for believers. Why did Jesus pray for believers and what did He pray about? Who did Jesus pray to if He is God in the flesh?
Jesus Pray for His Disciples
Throughout scripture, we find where Jesus prays to the Father. Most of us know the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:5-13); when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. Of course we will remember Jesus’ prayer in the garden where Jesus prayed about the bitter cup. Even when Jesus hung on the cross, we will recall that Jesus spoke to and prayed to the Father for the forgiving of those that mocked and scoffed Him.
The prayer recorded in John 17 is certainly Jesus’ longest prayer. This prayer, though it was one of Jesus’ final prayers, is different from the prayer in the garden. In this prayer, we will see where Jesus first prayed for Himself. Jesus prayed to be glorified with the Father because His hour had come (John 17:1-5); we don’t see a mention of the bitter cup.
Prayer for protection and harmony
After praying for Himself, we will see where Jesus turns His attention to His closest followers. Jesus speaks to having given them the Word and how because they had believed, they were no longer of the world (vss.6-8). This information sets up why Jesus moved to pray for His disciples.
Because the disciples were no longer of the world because of their faith in Christ, Jesus knew that what He went through, His disciples would share in going through. Let us remember what Jesus said to the disciples about the world’s hatred. Jesus said to the disciples, “because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:19).”
The disciples would face persecution because of their faith in Christ. The disciples, like Peter and John, would be arrested for preaching and teaching the Word of God after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The religious leaders also greatly despised them and desired to shut them down so they sent people like Saul, who would later go by Paul, to persecute them as well. So, the disciples definitely stood in the need of prayer!
Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are (v.11).” There are two things that we see being prayed for at this moment: Jesus prayed that the Father keep – or protect – the disciples from the world; He also prayed that the disciples would be as one as He and the Father are.
Some of us may ask, what did Jesus mean when He asked the Father for the disciples to be as one as He and the Father were? We should understand that the Father and Son worked in harmony – in fellowship – with one another. As Jesus would often say, “the Father and I are one.” So, Jesus was praying to the Father that the disciples would work together in harmony rather than divided.
The apostles, I would say, worked in harmony, for the most part, when it came to sharing the good news. There were moments of debate between the apostles, for example, when Paul disagreed with how Peter treated the Gentile believers when in the presence of Jews (Gal. 2:11-14). Disagreements and rebukes like that should be commonplace to keep each on the right trace.
Something we see happening today is that there are many divisions when it comes to the ministering of the gospel. The problem with the many divisions within the faith is that it can cause a great amount of confusion over the Word when there should be no confusion. When we work in harmony with each other, all of the confusion would go away which would be helpful for those who are of little faith.
Prayer for joy
With the prayer for protection and harmony, we will see that Jesus prayed so that His joy would be fulfilled in the disciples (v.13). Again, the disciples, because they would be ministering the good news, would face much adversity from the world. When we face adversity, it can dampen us in our soul which would be harmful to us ministering the good news.
Many of us, if we are hurt and depressed in our soul, won’t move. In fact, a few weeks ago, I preached about how we should be testifying of the Lord and letting the world know that He is good. However, many shy away from testifying of God because of the world’s persecution.
Jesus, again, understood very well what the disciples would face in ministering the Word of God because He faced it Himself. The antagonizing and the hatred that Jesus faced from the religious leaders was vicious and it would have crushed others, but Jesus, in His joy, was not defeated. So, praying for us to have His joy, is essentially praying for us to be strengthened to keep moving forward.
Prayer for sanctification
We will then see Jesus pray to the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth (v.17).” The truth, Jesus said, is the Father’s word. Let us remember, we are not supposed to live by bread alone (the riches of the world), but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).
The world, I want you to understand, has a word of its own and it will preach its doctrine. As we preach our gospel to convince those who are of the world to follow Christ, the world will preach its doctrine to convince those to live in its way. You should understand that you aren’t exempt from the convincing of the world as it will also try to convince you to live in its way. What this means is that the world will try to corrupt you and move you away from the Lord.
So, in this prayer for sanctification by the truth, we see Jesus praying for us to remain separated from the world. As Paul said, when we are of faith we become new creatures. As new creatures, Paul said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2).”
You see, it is hard for many of us to remain separated from the world’s doctrine because we are constantly hounded and tempted. Now, we know that we should not give in to temptation but some who are weak of faith do give in. So, I would tell you all that this prayer of sanctification by the truth is another prayer for strengthening and uplifting while we are trying to live by faith in the world.
Praying for us as well
As our lesson comes to a close, we will see that Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 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 (vss.20-21).”
So, let’s be clear, as you have heard me say before, all of us who genuinely believe today are also Jesus’ disciples. How so? Well, a disciple is one who closely follows another’s teachings (doctrine). The twelve, or it would have been eleven by that point, certainly followed Jesus and His teachings closely. The eleven would eventually be known as the apostles because they were personally taught and trained by Christ to go out and minister the good news.
That said, this prayer was not just for Jesus’ closest disciples but also for us as well. Though we may have not been personally taught and trained by Christ, all of us who adhere to His doctrine are His disciples. We live in this world as His followers and we end up being persecuted by Satan and the world because we have believed. So, Jesus’ prayer for protection, harmony, sanctification, and joy is also for all of us believers today, and I tell you, His prayer for us is greatly needed.
Some often wonder why Jesus would pray if He was/is God in the flesh. To answer that question, I want to speak to something we haven’t spoken about since earlier in this quarter. Jesus dwelt in this world just as we do; He lived in the flesh and it was a means to connect the Lord with us. We will also recall that the Holy Spirit rested upon Christ as well which was another means of connecting Christ with all of us who are of faith.
We often say that Jesus prayed because it would set the example for us in how we should pray. Yet, at the same time, we must remember that with the Holy Spirit resting upon Him, Christ was driven to pray. Let us remember that God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, in essence, with Jesus praying, it was like a son going into his dad’s room to talk to him; the Son was communicating with the Father.
Did Jesus need to pray? No. Was just like us and felt the need to pray? Absolutely. The human nature in Christ felt the need to talk to the Father for us and for our comfort. So, yes, Jesus prayed for all of us that believe and we should be very thankful that He prayed for us.