THE LORD’S PRAYER, PART 3
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 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 because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
— John 17:20-26, ESV
I had a brush with the Lord one summer when I was a kid. My baseball coach felt sorry for me, since I was from a badly broken home. He started bringing me to church with his family and I enjoyed it, for a season. But school started back, baseball gave way to football, the Air Force transferred the family, and I forgot about church, for almost a decade.
When the Lord saved me as a college student, I went back to that church. I had forgotten about them, but they had not forgotten about me. Person after person I met remembered me as a child, and said they had been praying for me, for all those years.
God is sovereign, but one of the means of grace He uses to bring people to Christ, and keep people in Christ, is prayer. Great things happen when godly people pray. Just imagine how great it would be if God prayed for you Himself.
He did! Finishing His ministry and facing the cross, Jesus took time to pray the most beautiful prayer, which now encompassed in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John. In this true Lord’s prayer, the Lord started by praying for Himself, that His life and death and legacy would glorify God (vs. 1-5). It does! After praying for Himself, He prays that His immediate eleven disciples who were Apostles, would be kept and used by God to spread the gospel worldwide (vs. 6-19). They did! Finally, the Lord prayed for you and me, any and every person who would ever become a Christian (vs. 20-26).
Jesus Prayed for Believers
This third and final section of the Lord’s prayer is for all who receive the apostolic preaching of the cross, trust in Christ alone for salvation, and live a life of obedience to the word of God given in the New Testament. This is what it means to “believe.”
John uses “believe” about a hundred times in this Gospel, which means it is something important. He always writes it as a verb, which means it is something active in a person’s life, their new life in Christ. Furthermore, he puts it grammatically in the present tense, active voice, and indicative mood, which precisely describes a belief that keeps on believing, a trust that keeps on trusting, and obedience that keeps on obeying.
Saving faith does not have to be perfect, but it has to be persistent. But such is the power of the gift of God, the grace of faith, in a true Christian. We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ because we choose to believe. We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ because God chose us to believe before we chose to believe in Him. And, we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ because the Lord Jesus prayed that we would believe, in the Lord’s prayer.
Jesus, being God, knew who all the believers in the world would be before they believed. So, there is no doubt in my mind that His prayer will continue to be answered until the last believer comes to believe. I also believe the other aspects of the Lord’s prayer for believers will be answered, too, which is how we can tell who the true believers are, and are not. For true believers are answers to Jesus’ prayer regarding unity, evangelism, peace, and love.
Jesus Prayed for Unity
Jesus identifies who He is praying for in vs. 21, then prays for them in vs. 22-26. The first thing He prays for is unity, that Christians “may all be one,” one with Christ, and one with one another. The oneness of unity is a two-way street.
True believers are one with Christ. This speaks of our personal relationship with God. We believe Jesus is who He says He is, we give Him control of our lives, and He is Lord. We believe Jesus did what the Gospels say He did, we accept his atonement for our sin and receive His imputed righteousness, and He is Savior. He prays and promises to never let us go. We pray and promise to never let go. We are one with Christ, forever, and we are one with the body of Christ while on earth.
True believers are one with one another. This speaks of our corporate relationship with God’s people, the church. Christianity is not a solo endeavor, it is a team sport. The only way we can accomplish God’s goals of worthy worship and world evangelism is by banding together with our church. Now Christ is perfect, unlike the church, but to turn one’s back on the church is to ignore the prayer and abandon the purpose of Christ.
I am so proud of my grandson, Jared. He got the final and finest individual award at his basketball banquet this year, his senior season. Only, he didn’t play much, in spite of being the school’s leader from third grade until high school. Injuries and competition kept him on the bench most of the time. But he never complained, pushed hard in practice, and made the most of the time he got on the court. It was very clear that he was far more concerned about the team than himself, and they made it all the way to the state championship. His individual award? Team Player of the year!
That serves as a parable to this part of the Lord’s prayer. Strive to see it answered in your life. Be a close individual follower of Jesus Christ, the best you can be. But be a team player, too, in the church, for it makes us all better, and it makes the gospel shine brighter in the world.
Jesus Prayed for Evangelism
The giving of the gospel is the next thing Jesus prays for His believing church. If we truly believe, and if we behave with unity in the church, then, as Jesus prays, “the world may believe” and “the world may know” the Lord Jesus Christ.
Like the Lord’s prayer for unity, the prayer for outreach is paved with at least two lanes. When I was in seminary, two evangelism classes were required: personal evangelism and church evangelism. Jesus prayed for our success in both, for how will people in the world believe if believers do not bring the gospel to the world?
What does this look like personally? It looks like one person talking to another person about the most important person in his or her life. Do you talk to others about your spouse, your children, even better, your grandchildren? It is easy, in most cases, because of your love for them and your pride in them. How do you feel about Jesus, about what He has done for you, about what He means to you? Tell somebody, and try to bring them with you to worship with the church.
What does this look like corporately? When unbelievers venture into the gathered worship of the church, they should, in the words of Henry Blackaby, experience God. God can be experienced through the means He has ordained, especially the reading and preaching of His word, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and the sound of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Lost people do not need to be entertained with pep bands and pep talks, or with mind-boggling multi-media and machines that make smoke. They need to observe God’s people speaking and listening to God, with reverence and awe.
Jesus Prayed for Peace
“Desire” is a strong word in any language, and as the Lord nears the end of His prayer He declares a longing for all believers “be with Me where I am, to see My glory.” He was not speaking about His present location and the eleven disciples. He was speaking of His permanent, eternal home and all of His followers.
People who are blessed financially and plan wisely do not have to worry about the future. They use money wisely and put enough aside to sustain them in retirement. One Christian guru of such matters calls it financial peace.
God gives an even better peace. The doctrine of eternal security tells us that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ on earth will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Jesus has already promised Christians, in John’s Gospel, that no one nor nothing can take us away from Him. Jesus’ prayer, here, guarantees the same. Now, that’s peace, a peace won by God’s great love.
Jesus Prayed for Love
The last word in the Lord’s prayer is love. He prayed specifically “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them.”
There are many ways to define love, but at its core is a willingness to do anything requested by or in promotion of the one you love. The Son did all the Father ordained, and did it in such a complete and outstanding way that the Father was glorified. Shortly after, or maybe in conjunction with this prayer, Jesus laid it all on the line by praying, “Not My will buy Yours be done.” That’s love, agape love, sacrificial love, for God and God’s people. Jesus prayed it and Jesus proved it over and over.
We must strive to prove Jesus’ prayer aright in our own lives, given for the lives of others. We cannot all preach, or sing, or give great donations to the church. But, we can all love, because Jesus prayed that we would, and I know Jesus’ prayers get answers.
So let us climb this mountain of prayer with Jesus and prepare to walk with Him to the next hill called Calvary. Let us believe in Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Let us be unified in our efforts to worship God rightly and witness the gospel to the world. Let us enjoy the peace that comes from knowing Christ as Lord and Savior, and let us love Him and one another as He commanded, and as He prayed. Love is a good place to end the Lord’s prayer, and begin anew our service for Him.