When someone says that they’re praying for you, doesn’t it make you feel good? It’s nice to know that someone cares enough about your needs to lift them up to the throne of God. In the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus does that for us by praying for the church.
In Christ’s prayer, we’re given a glimpse into His concerns for the church.
In Christ’s prayer, we’re given a glimpse into His concerns for the church. It’s His last night before He’s betrayed, convicted, and killed. Soon His disciples will be responsible for continuing to spread Jesus’ message of redemption. By taking a look at this priestly prayer, we can begin to understand what Jesus desperately wants for His body of believers.
Here are 7 things we can learn from Jesus’ prayer for His church.
1. Jesus Prayed That We Would Have Eternal Life
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 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.”—John 17:1–3
Jesus sums up eternal life here: it’s not knowing about God—it’s about knowing God intimately through Jesus Christ. The church needs to continue leading people into a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus Prayed for the Disciples’ Unity
”All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”—John 17:10–11
The initial part of Jesus’ prayer is specifically about the disciples, but the truths are applicable to us.
It’s interesting to note how much of Jesus’ prayer revolves around the relationship that exists within the Trinity with statements like:
- Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. (vs. 1)
- I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. (vs. 4)
- Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. (vs 6–7)
- All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (vs. 10)
- While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. (vs. 12)
Jesus states earlier in John’s gospel that He and the Father are one. He uses similar language when He prays for the church.
He doesn’t just pray that we be aligned, or that we all just get along. He prays for our oneness. He wants us to be spiritually united and working toward the same motives and goals.
3. Jesus Prayed For Our Safety From the Evil One
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. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. —John 17:14–15
Jesus recognizes that the world is set against the kingdom. There are no illusions that the disciples will be able to avoid hardship and persecution. He doesn’t pray that they’ll be taken out of the world and removed from these struggles. Instead, He prays that they would be protected from the evil that would tear down or undermine their gospel ministry.
4. Jesus Prayed That We Would Be Sanctified in the Truth
They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.—John 17:16–19
Again, Jesus doesn’t pray for their immediate well-being. He prays that they would be sanctified or made holy—that they would be kept pure and set apart for God’s use. Where evil promotes itself through error and deception, Jesus prays that the disciples will be purified by the truth.
5. Jesus Prayed That All Christians Would Be Unified
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.—John 17:20–23
Here’s where Jesus begins to pray for us specifically. He calls us “those who will believe in me through their word.” Here He prays virtually the same prayer that He prayed for His immediate followers—that we would be one in the same way that Jesus and the Father are one.
He reiterates twice that our unity has a function. It enables a fractured world to see the truth in the gospel. Without unity, our message and mission are compromised.
6. Jesus Prayed That the Church Would See His Glory
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.—John 17:24
This verse gives a glimpse into the Trinity’s eternal nature. Before the world was formed, the Godhead existed in perfect unity. Jesus’ prayer for the church is that we would experience His glory.
From Scripture we learn that:
- God’s glory was given to Jesus and revealed in His incarnation and life:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.—John 1:14
- Jesus gives His glory to His followers so they can bear His likeness:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.—2 Corinthians 3:18
- This glory can only be fully grasped through divine intervention and probably not perfectly on this side of eternity (John 17:24).
7. Jesus Will Continue to Make God’s Name Known
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.—John 17:26
The prayer wraps up with Jesus’ reiterating the same desire for His church to be known by their incarnational unity. When we really see how much of this prayer is focused on the importance of a church unified in mission and love, it changes our perspective.
The church is the world’s hope of discovering the redemptive love of Christ. Our solidarity helps to confirm the truth of the good news we share. We see in Jesus’ priestly prayer His concern that this unity be protected and preserved. Surely we should be doing everything we can to help His prayer come to fruition.
WE BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH
At CDF Capital, we’re committed to helping churches grow—both spiritually and financially. Jesus prayed on behalf of the church, and we want to follow His example by showering churches in prayer.
You can join us: sign up to be part of the Spiritual Capital Prayer Network and help us pray for churches as they grow.