When Jesus Prays for You
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If you’re looking for the perfect pastor, you came to the right place this morning. No, it’s not me, it’s Jesus. Jesus is at his most pastoral in John 17. This is the final chapter in the Farewell Discourse in which Jesus is speaking to his disciples alone. Now he turns to the Father. This is the only gospel in which Jesus' final prayer is said in front of the disciples and not while he’s alone. Jesus knows that he is moments away from the beginning of the end. The first chapters in John are taking place across three years, but when we get to chapter 13, time slows down. Jesus and his disciples are at a dinner table, eating and talking. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and then he begins speaking to them. We read that he loved his disciples and loved them until the end. This is the end. Last week we looked at his invitation to the disciples to abide in him. When Jesus finishes talking with his disciples, he turns toward heaven and prays to his Father, his final act is prayer. He prays for the ones he has been given, for his inner circle, and he prays for the ones who will believe because of their testimony. That’s us! Jesus prayed for you and me and thanks to John, we get to listen in on that prayer. This is a prayer about eternal life. This is a prayer about Christ being glorified in us. And it’s a prayer that the church would have unity.
This prayer tells us what Jesus wants for his people. Some people have said that this prayer doesn’t seem Jesus-like, because he should be praying for the world, not his disciples. It’s an interesting thought, but we know that Jesus loves the world. And the best thing he can do for the world, aside from the cross, is to pray for his disciples. The best thing that Jesus can do for the world is to make sure that when he has gone back to heaven to be with the Father, that the world still has his presence. What does that tell you about the role of Jesus’ disciples in the world? About our role in the world? It tells me that Jesus has a lot of faith in us.
During this sermon, I’m going to leave space for you to pray. I don’t want to just talk about prayer without actually engaging in praying. Whether you struggle to find time to pray or you just came from a hardcore prayer session, I know that this time can be helpful to you. So, I want you to think of something that you need to talk with God about. I want it to be something that is personal, for yourself and not for someone else or for the world. The world needs our prayers, it’s true, but more than that, the world needs the people of God to be in tune with God. The writer Andrew Murray writes in his book that “Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, only how to pray”. And we see here that Jesus’ final meal with his disciples was not spent preaching but praying. Engaging in prayer is the most powerful thing that we can do as Christians. So, I want you to pray for yourself this morning. If something that you need to address comes to mind then great and if not, then I’m going to ask you to pray about your role in the kingdom. If you have a pen and paper, jot down what you will be praying about as we go through the Lord’s prayer (the real one) and listen to how Jesus prayed, and then we will pray in the same way.
Pray with intimacy
Jesus prays with intimacy. We rarely get to know what Jesus is praying when he goes off to speak with the Father, but here it is laid out for us. He starts by praying with celebration and with a request. He celebrates what God has done through him during his time on earth. And He requests that God would glorify him in what is about to take place – that is, in his death and resurrection. And then he turns his prayer attention to the disciples. He describes them as the people God gave him out of the world. His prayer is an act of committal. Just as God gave them to him, he is now giving them back to God.
This brings to mind the story of Hannah and Samuel. She prayed for a child in the temple and after years of barrenness, God granted her a son. We read in 1 Samuel that when he was weaned, Hannah took him to the temple and “lent him to the Lord” for as long as he lived. This is what Jesus is doing here. He has been with his disciples for three years. They have been nurtured by him like a mother nurtures and cares for her child, and now, they are ready to serve.
I mentioned earlier that as Jesus prays, it seems he is sitting around a table with his disciples. They are sharing a meal which is really one of the most intimate things you can do. So, take some time now to follow in this example of intimacy. Lift your eyes up to heaven and speak to the Father; your Father who nurtures and cares for you. Start with a celebration and then bring whatever request is on your mind to God.
Jesus is confident in his prayers. It’s not a struggle and there’s no hint of fear in his words. He knows that the disciples are ready for what is coming and is confident that God will care for them. And that is how we should pray – with confidence. Where does that confidence come from? Relationship. It comes from the fact that you are God’s own. 1 Peter 2:9 says that you are God’s special possession. You are not a mistake, you didn’t slip into his fold unnoticed. No, God sees you, he knows you and he loves you. You are his treasure.
In Jesus’ prayer, he talks about having made the Father known to his disciples. He was the revelation of God to them. The disciples had spent time with God, and because of that, they knew him. Do we know God? In all his majesty and splendour and power, God chooses to make himself known to us. Think for a moment about how God has made himself known to you. I’m not talking about what you’ve learned about God from others, but in your life, in the time you’ve spent with God, how has he made himself known to you? What characteristics of God have been revealed?
This might be a hard question to answer if you treat God like a Facebook friend. You know, you scroll through his news feed every now and then to see what he’s up to. You hit ‘like’ occasionally so he knows you’re paying attention. You see, there’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. And this is what eternal life is. We tend to think of eternal life as what we enter into after we die. But in the gospel of John, eternal life is defined as knowing God and Jesus, the Saviour. Knowing God in the gospel of John is being in a relationship with him. And not entering into that relationship is sin. But the moment we do make that decision to follow Christ, we enter into eternal life.
For those of us who have made that step to know God, we come to prayer confident in our relationship with the God who hears and the God who sees and the God who knows. And this is what faith is: it’s not blind trust, but trust that is based on what we know about God. Here’s what I know about God.
I know that when I suffer God holds me in his hands.
I know that when I speak, God listens.
I know that when I fear, God reassures.
I know that when I’m on shaky ground, God is my solid foundation.
And I know that when I am stuck between bad and worse, God steps in and delivers.
This is where my faith and my confidence come from; from knowing God.
Let’s take some time now to come with confidence to our Father. Come with confidence to the God who has upheld throughout your life. Come with the confidence that what Jesus did on the cross opened up a whole new way for you to know God and to enter into eternal life right here and right now.
Pray in the Spirit
We pray intimately. We pray with confidence. And we pray in the Spirit. Jesus gives witness to the disciples. He testifies about what they have done. He then asks the Father to protect them and sanctify them, and in that protection, they will have unity.
The word sanctification means that a person or object has been set aside for it’s intended use by the designer. In other words, you are doing what you were created to do. Jesus came to earth to glorify God and we read the words of Jesus in verse 4: I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. Jesus has been sanctified and he is now putting out the call for all his disciples to be sanctified, to do what they were created to do. This sanctification is required for going out, for sharing the message of the gospel and the love of Christ but we can’t do that if we don’t know what we were created for. So, what were we created for?
We know that humans are created to glorify God, but what does that look like on an individual basis? As you sit there in your living room or wherever you are, how can you glorify God? In order to answer that, you need to know what it is that God created you for. And this comes back to thinking about our different roles that we play in the kingdom of God. If you don’t know your role then I encourage you to visit our website and check out the blog as I’ve been writing about the 5 roles that are outlined for believers in Ephesians 4. Knowing how you glorify God can take some investigation but it’s often very obvious to other people around you. If you are with someone right now, ask them, “How do you see me glorifying God?”. And if you’re alone, get in touch with me or Pastor David and we will help you figure it out. I can’t give you the specifics, but I can tell you that glorify God when you do what you were created to do. So in addition to the role that you are given to play in the church, there are things that you love to do, things that give pure joy and this is what you were created for. It might be making music or dancing, it might be learning or teaching or making art. It might be caring for God’s creation, whether plants or animals. When we do what we were created to do, we glorify God.
Once we know our purpose, then we join in with the rest of the body and we work together. We go out into the world together and we build up the church together. Jesus in his prayer is praying for unity. Unity like the unity he has with Father and unity that can only come from the Holy Spirit. It’s his Prayer of God’s People before he leaves the building.
Here’s the thing, Jesus did his part already. It was a part that only he could play and it was his intended purpose. After he fulfilled his purpose, after he died and rose again making God known to us, Jesus ascended. He went up to be with the Father. But we are not alone here, because he sent the Holy Spirit. So, what if the promises of the resurrection are ours to fulfill? What if the answer to the question “God, why aren’t you doing something about this…?” is met with a response by God saying to us “Well I could ask you the same question.” We have a role to play in making new life accessible and tangible for the rest of the world. In John 14:12 Jesus says “the one who believes in me will do the works that I do and in fact will do greater works than these…”
No matter what you think about yourself, Jesus has faith in you. He has faith that with the unity of the Church and by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will do greater things than Jesus did when he was on earth. And he leaves us with a prayer for protection and for unity. Why do we need protection? Well, we need it because the world is under the power of evil. This evil has a way of creeping into our homes and into the church and destroying our God-given unity. We see this all the time with denominations splitting and people walking away from churches with unresolved conflicts and people staying in churches with unresolved conflicts.
We have to watch out for this because this runs counter to our evangelistic message. In this prayer, we see that for Jesus, the unity of believers is God’s message of evangelism. The unity of believers will 1) lead the world to believe that God sent Jesus and 2) will lead the world to know that God loves them as he loved Jesus. The world should see this love of each other happening within the church, but sadly, that’s not always the case. But if we can get it right, if we can sacrifice our own desires and ambitions to maintain unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are being the “I AM” in the world. Loving God isn’t just about loving God and it’s not just about loving those outside our walls. It’s also about loving the community of God.
So, let’s finish by praying as Jesus prayed, by the power of the Spirit that the Church would have unity. And pray that God will bring to mind anything that might be hindering this unity in your life.
I trust the time you spent in the presence of Jesus this morning was fruitful. I hope that as you go forward in your prayer life, you do so with intimacy and confidence and in the unity of the Holy Spirit. If you had trouble entering in a space of prayer, that’s okay. Know that God loves you like a mother loves her newborn child. He proved it by giving up his Son so that you could enter into eternal life. So come, come to the table and sit with Jesus. Listen as he prays for you. And may the love with which the Father loved Christ be in us, as Christ is in us. Amen.