John 17 (NLT)
The Prayer of Jesus
1 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. 6 “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me. 9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. 13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! 25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
This is known as the High-Priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus. In this prayer, He made intercession for His own. It is a picture of His present ministry in heaven where He prays for His people. Marcus Rainsford puts it well:
The whole prayer is a beautiful illustration of our blessed Lord’s intercession at the right hand of God. Not a word against His people; no reference to their failings, or their shortcomings…. No. He speaks of them only as they were in the Father’s purpose, as in association with Himself, and as the recipients of the fullness He came down from heaven to bestow upon them…. All the Lord’s particular petitions for His people relate to spiritual things; all have reference to heavenly blessings. The Lord does not ask riches for them, or honours, or worldly influence, or great preferments, but He does most earnestly pray that they may be kept from evil, separated from the world, qualified for duty, and brought home safely to heaven.
As a result of His work of redemption at the cross, God has given His Son authority over all mankind. This authority entitled Him to give eternal life to those whom the Father had given Him. God offers salvation to anyone who will receive Jesus Christ. There is no one who cannot be saved by trusting the Savior.
Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be united (one) v11,” refers to unity of Christian character. As the Father and Son are One in moral likeness, so believers should be united in this respect—that they are like the Lord Jesus.
“Make them holy” v17, means to “sanctify or to set apart”. The Word of God has a sanctifying effect on believers. As they read it and obey it, they are set apart as vessels suitable for the Master’s use. That is exactly what the Lord Jesus was praying for here. He wanted a people who were set apart to God from the world, and usable by God.
Now the High Priest extended His prayer beyond the disciples. He prayed for generations yet unborn. In fact, every believer reading this verse can say, “Jesus prayed for me over 1900 years ago.”
“They will all be one”, v21. The present tense of the verb “to be” indicates that Jesus was praying for the unity that takes place through the sanctification of believers. This is what Jesus was commanding in John 13:34, 35: His followers had to love each other so that the world may believe in the reality of Jesus’ love. The loving relationship of believers to each other is the greatest witness to Jesus Christ.