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Listening to Jesus Pray for Us

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: John 17

Jesus’ prayer in John 17 shows us how important purity and unity are to the church. There can be no true unity apart from purity in life and purity in doctrine. As we all strive for such purity by the Spirit’s power, we will experience unity and the answer to Christ’s prayer.


In our Wisdom Journey we are now going to slip inside the prayer closet of the Lord Jesus and listen in as God the Son talks to God the Father. He prays a prayer, recorded here in John chapter 17, that is so filled with great truths that we can, one author wrote, “grasp only fragments of them.”[1]

At this point, the cross is only hours away. Now, if you knew you were going to die in less than twenty-four hours, what would you pray about? As we listen in on Jesus’ prayer to the Father, we are going to discover something amazing, moving, and humbling—Jesus is praying for you and me. He is about to make four special requests for His disciples—then and now.

The first request is that we experience a close relationship with our heavenly Father. Here is what He prays in verses 1-3:

“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.”

I must tell you, there is something special about hearing someone pray for you. For many years, my missionary father would call me early on Sunday morning to pray for me. I used to tease him that he only wanted to make sure I was out of bed. He would ask me about my sermon for that morning, and then he would pray—and it was always an encouraging prayer.

Well, as special as that was for me, we discover in John 17 that Jesus is praying for all of us! You can take your pencil and write in your name every place in this chapter where He mentions His followers. And what is His first request for you? He is praying that you will know the only true God.

That key word “know” means to know by personal experience or relationship. It is the word used for intimate knowledge like that between a husband and wife. It is a word that refers to knowledge by close association and deep friendship.

Jesus declares here that this relationship defines eternal life. He says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God.”

The second prayer request concerns the security of our salvation. Listen to the Lord’s prayer in verses 9-10:

“I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”

He cannot pray this for the unbelieving world because they do not belong to Him. Keep in mind that only moments earlier, Judas had left the upper room.

Jesus now prays about the tragedy of Judas’s unbelief:

“While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (verse 12)

The Lord makes it clear that Judas was never a believer. He was a pretender.

No one who truly belongs to Jesus Christ will be lost in the end. Somebody might say, “Okay, someone cannot lose the gift of salvation, but what if that person wants to give it back?” Well, let me tell you, if someone does not want the Lord, that person never had the Lord. Would a blind person who has been given the gift of sight decide he wants to be blind again?

Beloved, you cannot lose your salvation, but you can reveal to the world that you never had it to begin with. True believers, Paul writes in Ephesians 1:13, have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, sealing them. Literally God puts His seal on them, pledging to bring them safely home.

Now some people don’t like the idea of eternal security because they believe it will give people the right to go sin and live for the devil. Well, that is like telling people that if they purchase a health insurance policy, they can drink poison and play with loaded guns. Eternal security does not make a Christian want to live in sin any more than buying car insurance makes you want to drive off a bridge. Eternal security does not lead to license; it leads to liberty. You are secure in Christ, not because you are sinless, but because Christ satisfied your sin-debt forever.

In fact, the next prayer request relates to holy living. Jesus’ third request on our behalf is for purity in the world.

Verses 15-17:

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

“Sanctify” here in verse 17, means “to set apart for holy service.” It cannot mean sinless perfection; otherwise, Jesus would not say in verse 19 that He has sanctified Himself.

The point is, just as Jesus was separated for His unique service, so you and I are separated for our unique service—whatever God has in store for us. Jesus is praying that we will have contact with the world without being contaminated by the world.

Beloved, one of the primary reasons we are not winning the world to Christ is because we are not living that differently from the world. As my old professor, Howard Hendricks, used to say in class, “The more like the world you become, the less you will impact it for Jesus Christ.”

Finally, Jesus presents to the Father a fourth prayer request—for unity in the church. Verses 20-21:

“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.”

Jesus is praying for the church, which will soon be formed on the Day of Pentecost. This prayer is for the unity of the church. And throughout the New Testament, our unity is not based on personality but theology. The unity Jesus is praying about is based on the truth of His deity, His resurrection, His inspired Word, His return, and a future, literal heaven and hell. Sadly, not every local church gathering believes even these foundational doctrines.

In fact, today, much of the church believes unity is not based on truth but is based on love. Let me tell you, love without truth is just sentimental emotion; truth without love is unkind legalism. We are to love one another, and the church is to be built on the truths of Scripture.

Jesus does makes one more unifying request in verse 24, and it might come as a surprise to you. Jesus prays, “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.”

We often pray to stay here on earth; Jesus wants us to be in heaven with Him! I often think about the fact that every time a believer dies, one of the Lord’s prayers just got answered.

Well, we have to slip out of this sacred prayer chamber now. We have been privileged to hear the Savior whisper His deepest desires to the Father as He has prayed for us. His prayer requests happen to be our privileges today. What are they?

  • A close personal relationship with our heavenly Father
  • The eternal security of our salvation
  • A testimony of purity and integrity in our world
  • And unity in our churches, based on the foundation of biblical truth and accompanied by love

[1] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol. 2 (St. Andrew’s Press, 1963), 243.

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