There are some great prayers in the Bible. I love the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, right in the middle of a huge list of names the Bible recalls that Jabez cried out to God and he was heard. I like the bullet prayer of Nehemiah when he’s under immense pressure (Nehemiah 2:4). I love the fact that when Manasseh, one of the most evil men in the Bible, prayed in distress, God heard him and was merciful (2 Chronicles 33:12-13). But was there ever a greater prayer than this, the longest recorded prayer of Jesus?
The prayer divides neatly into three sections;
He prayed for himself. Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify him and that he would glorify the Father. The next two verses explain how the glorification would be achieved; Father and Son are glorified by giving eternal life to sinful human beings. The life is not a possession, it’s a relationship; “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Life is found in knowing God through Jesus. Throughout this Gospel we have seen that Jesus was working to a timetable; we have read that there were a number of occasions when his time had not come but now it is the time; “Father the time has come.” With all that he was about to face it’s strange that Jesus would say he had completed the work he had been given (17:4). It reveals that the decision had already been made. Of course he could have chosen not to go to his death but he was resolved and committed to the way of the cross. It was the only way.
He prayed for his disciples. I think if I had been about to face a terrible, painful death, my prayer would have been very different. If I’m honest, it would be a little like some the prayers we thought about at the beginning of today’s notes; crying out to God for help but focused on my personal needs. Jesus is different, hallelujah! He spent far more time praying for his disciples than he did praying for himself. He prayed that they would be protected not by removing them from the world but protected by the Father in the world. He prayed that they would know joy (17:13), again, it isn’t that they would be pulled out of the world to know this joy or even have their troubles taken away. They would know joy in the world. Jesus prayed that they would be sanctified (set apart for service) just as he was sanctified. They were being sent into the world with the good news of Jesus.
He prayed for all believers. We can see here that Jesus knew the disciples would achieve the purpose to which they were called; there would be many other believers after Jesus returned to heaven. This, in spite of the fact they were all about to fail him. It shows us that it would be through God’s power and not the perseverance of a handful of men. Since Jesus had said so much about believers loving one another, it isn’t that surprising that he prayed for unity. He didn’t pray that we would all be exactly the same, the Father and the Son are one but perform different functions, but we should be united. I’ve heard testimonies from persecuted Christians who have said that in persecution, it’s a lot easier to be united with others, when the opposition is obvious and Christians have far more that would unite them than divide. I can’t help feeling that the church could do better in this area. He prayed that believers share his glory, the glory of redeeming sinners. That is surely something that can unite us.
‘Bind us together, Lord, Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord,
Bind us together,
Bind us together with love.’ (Bob Gillman)