Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Mar 18, 2018

“THE Prayer” 3-18-18

John 17
March 18, 2018

As we read the gospels we discover that Jesus was a man who prayed often and long.  We find him praying with small groups of Apostles, or praying while groups of Apostles watched from a distance.  Some of these prayers seem to have been long and may have taken all night.  We also find him praying in public.  But his public prayers do not seem to be long, as we experience each Sunday, the Lord’s Prayer is a rather short prayer.  What we have before us this morning is the longest prayer of Jesus that is recorded.
John tells us that this prayer was prayed before and with the 11 Apostles on the evening he had his last supper with them.  Judas had already left the room.
In this prayer there are obviously 3 sections, as Jesus prays for three different groups of people. 
The first group is a group of one, Himself.  As Jesus was facing a night of trials and a day of dying he prayed for himself. 
He prayed for glory or glorification.  He mentions that he had glorified God by completing the work that the Father had given Him to do.  The obedient work of the son brought Glory to the Father. 
And so it is, even with us.  When we are obedient to God and do what he wants us to do, The father receives Glory.
But what was the Glory that Jesus was praying for?  It is a hard truth, but one that even non-Christians recognize, that there is glory to be found in dying for the right reason.  Jesus in praying to be glorified on the night before his death was asking the Father to be with him and assist him in carrying out his grim task.
He also mentions the purpose or goal of his death, to give eternal life to all whom the Father had entrusted to Him.
In asking to be glorified, Jesus was also praying beyond his death, he prayed for the glory that he had with the father before the world existed, or before the son came to be the man Jesus on earth.
But if I understand other sayings of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles correctly, The new glory of Jesus after his resurrection and ascension is not exactly like that which the Son had before.  The glory of the Son before was the natural glory of God.  The glory He has now includes that glory, but there is also the glory that he has received because of his faithfulness to the father in completing his mission to bring eternal life to those whom the Father had chosen.
Over the years in my career as a pastor, I have been surprised a few times.
One of the things that have surprised me has been when Christians tell me that they do not pray for anything for themselves.  They just trust that God will give them what they need.  Based on this prayer and other things in our Scriptures, I am convinced that those folks have been wrong, and I have told them so.  Jesus prayed that the Father would give him the power to obey, and carry out his task, even though it involved death.
You see, our lives are more than just 100 years or less of a human being surviving on earth.  Our lives, when we are obedient, when we have faith, when we are faithful, bring glory to ourselves and to the Father, who created us.  The way you live your life, the way you treat others, the way you speak of and live out your faith in God are important to the future of the kingdom and they bring Glory to God.
The second group of folks Jesus prayed for were in the room with him, listening to his prayer.  John in chapter 13 had recorded the departure of Judas from the room, so there were 12 left, Jesus and the 11 Apostles.  Jesus now prayed for them.
Note that Jesus says that he has been glorified in them.  Their faith in him and acceptance of the truth he gave them brought Glory to Jesus.
He prayed that the Father would protect them.  He specifically does not ask that they be taken out of the world, as He will be, but that God will protect them from the Evil one. 
He does not ask that they be protected from persecution or even suffering and eventual death, but that the Evil one cannot steal or hamper their faith, their witness, and their work.  In the book of Acts we see how God answered this prayer.  The Apostles lived long enough and were faithful enough that the words they taught about Jesus were planted firmly in the Gentile world and started to grow and spread while they were still alive.  Because God answered this prayer of Jesus.
Jesus also prayed that they would be one, as he and the Father were one.  His prayer was that they would firmly remain bound to each other, even as they would travel into different parts of the world, they were all a part of the kingdom of God and of each other, and they would all teach the same truths.
And he prayed that they would have His Joy.  The joy of laboring to bring others into the kingdom.  The joy of knowing that they were serving God and that their faithful service would bring Glory to God and cause God to be glorified by others.
This is to happen even in the context of being hated by the world in which they will live.
We Christians are to have a sense of well-being, and a sense of Joy that transcends the conditions of our lives and the minority status that we might have because of our faith in God.
Jesus also asked that the father would Sanctify the 11 or make them Holy in the truth, which is His word.  The word of God, if we read it and live by and in it will bring us closer to God and more holy.  We never attain complete holiness, but we ought to be on a journey toward complete holiness, which will only come when we are completely in His kingdom.
Then Jesus prayed for that third group, and you might find this important, because you are in this group.
He prayed for those who would believe in Him through the words of the Apostles.  The Gospels and Epistles and the book of Revelation are the words of the Apostles.  They contain the gospels that they preached, the things they taught about Jesus.  So, the legitimate teachings of the church, all churches, are the words of the Apostles.  We have believed in Jesus because of those words.  In church-talk we speak of it as the word of God handed down from the Apostles.
Now as we approach what Jesus prayed about this third group, I need to correct a wrong impression that is given by our English Translations. 
As we look at this prayer in our English translations, our translators have given us nice clean paragraphs.  So as we look at chapter 17 it appears that in verses 1-5 Jesus prays for himself, in 6-19 he prays for the 11 Apostles, and in 20-26 he prays for those who will believe after the Apostles. 
And that is partly true.  Jesus does pray for himself in verses 1-6 and then switch over to the Apostles in vs 7.
The problem is with the transition from the Apostles to those who believe their words.  That transition is written in such a way that I am pretty sure that what he has already prayed about the Apostles is now added to this group.  And then he adds a few other things to this group.
So, if you want to know what Jesus prayed for you on the night before his death, you need to begin at vs 11.  He prayed that the Father will protect you from the evil one; He prayed that you would have the Joy of Jesus in you, and that you would be made Holier in and by His Word.
And in verses 20 – 24 he reiterates one thing and adds another. 
The thing that he repeats and elaborates on is oneness.  He had prayed that the Apostles would be one in order to reflect the unity or oneness of God in and between both Father and Son.
I am not at all sure that the post-reformation church has understood and appreciated this part of Jesus’ prayer.  And to completely understand it we need to go back to the Old Testament.  From the beginning, God is taught to be the One who existed before creation.  He is the One in whom all things have their origins.  He is one, and his word, his messages, all have a unity.  God, who is one, desires that in him, all will be one.  We, who proclaim to be his, need to recognize and understand that we are united to all others who believe in him.  We together are parts on one body, one force, and one kingdom.  And it is of the utmost importance that the world sees us as One, as being united.  A fractured church cannot adequately represent a God who although is 3 persons, is one.
As we think of Jesus’ prayer on that night, we need to think about and work toward ways that we can express our unity and one-ness in God with each other and with Christians around the world and across denominational divides.  We need to be seen as one, as being united, by the people of this world.
And, Jesus prayed that those who believe in Him would ultimately be with Him, in person.  Some of us have gone to be with him in heaven, but this prayer will not be completely answered until that day when Jesus returns and his Kingdom is established in its final form.  One of Jesus’ last prayers on earth was that You will be with him forever.
He ended his prayer for us by repeating the petition that the love of the Father and Son would always be in us.
And then he went out to the garden, to be betrayed, and arrested.  From there he was put on trial, killed, resurrected, and Ascended.  Some of his last thoughts in his human life were of the Apostles, and You.
May his prayers for us all come true, and may they be our prayers for ourselves also,

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906