Jesus and Abundant Life
A Bible Study of the Gospel of John
Jesus’ Personally: The Helper – Part 4 -
Jesus Prays - John 17
We are looking at the part of John’s gospel which shows us the personal side of Jesus. In John twelve we saw the stable side of Jesus who remained steadfast to truth in triumph as well as trials. In John 13 we saw Jesus humility in service and His exhortation to disciples to live by a new commandment; to love as He loved. In John 14 Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit, the Helper who would come alongside and eventually indwell disciples to help them when their heart was troubled and to implement all that Jesus had taught them. In John 15 we saw how the Helper helps us with our relationships: with Jesus; with other disciples; with those in the world. In John 16 we saw how the Holy Spirit is our Helper who helps us to walk steady and not stumble all the way to the end of either our lives or to the return of Christ. John 17, the last chapter in this segment on showing us Jesus in a personal way, fittingly ends with Jesus in prayer.
Of all that Jesus did there was only one thing His disciples asked Him to teach them about, His prayer life. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1ff.). The disciples didn’t ask Jesus how to teach or clue them in on the finer aspects of hermeneutics. They didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how they could do miracles or walk on water. They didn’t ask Jesus how to defend the faith. No, they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. There was something extraordinary and attention getting about Jesus’ prayer life. Of all that Jesus did, and all they could have asked Him to teach them, they chose to ask Him to teach them to pray. Wouldn’t you want to pray like Jesus?
We need to continue to keep in mind as we enter this chapter that the context is Jesus’ definitive teaching on the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to understand this chapter and to apply it to our lives. When Jesus responded to His disciples request to teach them how to pray, His teaching culminated with saying, “If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). If you aren’t sure you are born again or have the Holy Spirit, our Helper, indwelling you right now, then by all means pause right now and prayerfully ask God the Father in Jesus’ name to forgive your sins and give you spiritual life by indwelling you with the Holy Spirit. And if you do know the Lord and have been born again but feel dry and distant from God, you ask the Father in Jesus’ name to refresh you in the Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to help us pray. Wouldn’t you want the Holy Spirit to teach you and help you to pray?
In the book of Romans, chapter 8 is the pinnacle of that book and perhaps the entire Bible. At the heart of that great chapter of the Bible Paul teaches us that it is the Holy Spirit who will help us in our prayer lives. He says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercessions for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). We need to the Holy Spirit to help us to pray.
The best way to learn something is to allow a disciple to see you doing it. Jesus demonstrated this to us throughout the gospels as He called His disciples to “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 16:24; 19:21, 28; Mark 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23, 59; 18:22; John 1:43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19, 22). It is one thing to tell someone how to do something. It is another thing to show them how it’s done. That is what Jesus does here in John 17. Here we see Jesus praying personally. Jesus said He was giving the disciples an example to follow when He washed their feet (John 13:15). Can we think He is doing anything less as He prays in the presence of His men? John the apostle said we should walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). Peter said we are to follow in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21). Both John and Peter were there when Jesus prayed the prayer in John 17. This prayer is recorded in Holy inspired Scripture for us to see and imitate. Jesus John 17 prayer is a n example of how to follow our Savior Jesus in our own personal prayer lives.
Haven’t you ever wondered how Jesus prayed? Haven’t you ever wondered how Jesus approached His Father in prayer? Well if you have, John 17 is an open window into the prayer life of Jesus. Here we will see Jesus, God in the flesh, the Word made flesh, the Creator of the universe, our Savior and Lord, pray. It is with this great expectation that we approach this incredible chapter.
John 17 (NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven,
Jesus prays with His focus on the Father. Don’t miss this. John is giving us a personal recollection of how Jesus prayed. Jesus has spoken to His disciples about the Father. Now He turns to talk in prayer to the Father.
We often focus on our position in prayer; kneeling; standing; head bowed; hands clasped. But Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven” when He prayed. This is significant but not because we see a physical position of Jesus. It’s important because when Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven we see He is focused on His Father in heaven. His looking to heaven communicates “I’m looking to You. I’m focused on You Father.” That is more a position of the heart than a position of our body. Remember that, our prayers should begin with our focus needing to be on the Lord.
When we pray we should direct our prayers to the Father in the name of Jesus as directed by the Holy Spirit.
and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,
Jesus prays with an objective to glorify God. Yes, Jesus prays and asks the Father to glorify Him and in so doing we understand He is speaking about fulfilling His heaven sent purpose of paying the death penalty for the sins of the world; paying the price of redemption for sin on the cross. But Jesus transcendent objective is to bring glory to the Father. It is the Father who is giving His Son. It is the Son Jesus who is giving Himself. And it is the Holy Spirit who is enfolding and unfolding this grand glorious God ordained plan of redemption for humankind.
Someone has said, “Prayer is not the way to get God to do our will in heaven. Prayer is the way to get man to do God’s will on earth.”  That’s how Jesus prayed; to get man to do God’s will on earth. That’s how we should pray; to get man, including ourselves, to do God’s will on earth. If we do that, we will glorify God.
2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
Jesus prays in the authority given Him by the Father. Just as Jesus operated in the authority of the Father, we operate in the authority Jesus gives us. Jesus emptied Himself when He came to earth so that He would give us an example of how men might live (e.g. Philippians 2:1-11). And now Jesus has commanded us to go and complete the “greater works than these” to fulfill the heavenly mission (John 14:12-13). Jesus has commanded us to go into all the world in His name or in His authority, and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). He has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to do that (e.g. Acts 1 and 2). When we pray we pray in the authority of Jesus; we pray in His name.
3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Jesus prays for the eternal life of others. That eternal life is described by Jesus as a personal relationship with God. “That they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life is not just forgiveness for sins so that a person can get into heaven. That is a necessary part of it. But there is a greater broader deeper definition of eternal life and that is knowing God and Jesus. “Know” (Greek ginosko) means to have an awareness of, to feel, to perceive, to understand, to be sure, to speak to, to have knowledge of and/or be conscious of. This is a word that implies an experience and relationship with someone. You are aware they are present, you feel for them, you perceive their feelings, you understand what they are about, you interact and speak with them, you are conscious them. Do you know God and Christ? That is what eternal life is. That is what our objective should be for ourselves and for others in our prayers.
4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
Jesus prayed from a point of completion of His mission. Jesus prayed from a point where He finished the work He was assigned. A lot of times we start out with a commitment to God but then don’t finish it. Jesus finished what He came to do. He came to go to the cross and to the cross He went. He came to rise from the dead and from the dead He rose. Have you finished those things you’ve set out to do for the Lord? Have you finished what God has called you to do? (cf. Ecclesiastes 5).
Have you completely dealt with an area of sin in your life that the Lord has been talking to you about? Or have you done only a haphazard incomplete job of dealing with it; putting it to death? In the Old Testament King Saul was instructed by the LORD to wipe out the Amalekites. He disobeyed and let some live. It was an Amalekite that killed him in the end (1 Samuel 30). It was an Amalekite that almost annihilated Israel through a plan of genocide (Esther 3:1). If you leave loose ends it will come back to bite you. Finish what God directs you to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Jesus prays from a position of victory. Jesus had yet to go to the cross but He prayed as though he had already gone to the cross and completed His mission. That is an important perspective to adopt for our prayers. We don’t fight for victory, we fight from a position of victory. The end result is secure in the Lord. Jesus had a rock solid confidence and trust in His Father and the Spirit that He would accomplish that for which He was called to do. That should be our perspective in prayer too. God will do in and through us what He has purposed to do.
This is what the apostle Paul meant when he was inspired to write that the Christian is “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37-39). How do we do that? By faith in God; Jesus trusted in the Father and the Spirit to empower Him to complete the most difficult part of His mission; the cross. We too must trust the Lord; that the Holy Spirit will empower us to complete the life tasks He sets before us and calls us to do.
There is an aspect of Jesus’ prayer which we cannot apply to ourselves. We are not God incarnate. We are not the Second Person of the Trinity. So we do not pray for the Father to glorify us like we were glorified with Him before. When we pray we pray only for the Lord to be glorified. In everything we do we should do it with the purpose of glorifying God (e.g. 1 Corinthian s10:31; Colossians 3:17, 23-24).
6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.
Jesus prayed for others with an awareness that they belonged to God. The disciples belonged to the Father and to Jesus. No one belongs to us. When we pray we need to understand that we are praying for people that belong to God and are under His sovereign watch. We never pray for people no matter how young or old as though they were our property. We intercede on behalf of others from the perspective that they belong to God.
Jesus says, “I have manifested Your name.” The word “manifested” (Greek phanero) means to shine forth. The idea is not, “so much declaration as it does illustration. . . . [not] “I have preached about it verbally,” but rather, “I have lived it out observably.”
8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
Jesus prayed for others to receive the right words at the right time. Jesus said the disciples had received His words and that they had believed that the Father sent Him. Jesus got His words from the Father; “which You have given Me.” The word “words” is translated from the Greek term rhema. Rhema means a word spoken. Rhema is a word from the Lord; the right word from the Lord at the right time. Rhema is a word directed by the Spirit to address a particular situation with a person. Jesus spoke a rhema word to the woman at the well when He informed her she had not one husband but five and the one she was living with presently she wasn’t married to (John 4). Jesus spoke a rhema word to the Pharisee Nicodemas when the priest came by night to Him and learned from Jesus that “You must be born again” (John 3). Jesus spoke a rhema word to the woman caught in adultery when He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more (John 8). The only way we can speak a rhema word is by the enabling and leading of the Holy Spirit who helps us to do so.
When “Christians” shout offensively at people caught up in sin they aren’t doing God’s work or fulfilling God’s will. They are merely venting their own petty angers. Whatever we speak and especially when we speak the truth of God’s word, we are to speak it in love. There is no other way to speak for God than to speak what He gives us in His love to others (cf. Ephesians 4:15).
When we pray we should pray that people receive God’s word the Bible, but we should also receive that the Holy Spirit enables us to provide the right words at the right time to people. And we should pray that when they receive God’s word that it would lead to a belief in Jesus.
9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
Jesus focused His prayers on His disciples. When Jesus says He doesn’t pray for the world it doesn’t mean he never prays for the world; this prayer contains prayers for people in the world. Also, the term “world” (Greek kosmou) can refer to planet earth, or humanity, or a world system. When Jesus says He doesn’t pray for the “world” here He is saying He doesn’t pray for a world system. Jesus didn’t pray to change a system of government in the world. Instead He prayed for those who have answered God’s call to exit world systems and live the life of a disciple. We may live in such systems of government, but we are not of them; we live by God’s higher standard; by God’s word.
But Jesus priority is to bolster with prayer those who have followed Him and are His disciples. We should not neglect praying for those who have accepted the Lord as though everything that needs to be prayed for them has been accomplished. Those who follow Jesus still face temptations and the attacks of the enemy. We need to pray for one another in the body of Christ.
10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.
Jesus prays for the unity of believers. Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of His disciples who will be left in the world behind Him. He prays to the Father to “keep through Your name those whom You have given Me.” Then Jesus prays to the Father that His disciples would “be one as We are.” Therefore it appears one of the greatest concerns for believers in the world is unity. This is the first thing Jesus prays for on behalf of His disciples. Jesus taught, “A house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). The enemies’ most effective tactic is to divide and conquer. Are you praying for the unity of believers? You should be.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
Jesus prayed that His joy would be fulfilled in His disciples. Joy is the assurance and stabilizing comfort that no matter what God is in control. God has a plan and He will complete that plan. That is good to know when all heal is breaking loose around us. Pray for others that their joy would be fulfilled in a close deep abiding saving relationship with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
Judas chose to become “a devil” (John 6:70). It’s not likely Judas was ever saved. He walked in the group of Jesus disciples, but he was never one of them. Just because you come to church or hang out with Christians or disciples of Jesus doesn’t make you one. You may spend time with Christians, but are you one?
14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Jesus didn’t pray for His disciples to be taken out of their difficulties, He prayed they would be protected through them. Difficulties and trials are the instruments through which a strong faith is built (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Therefore Jesus doesn’t pray for His people to be removed or spared difficulties and trials, only that they would be kept safe from the evil one who tries to use the circumstances of life to destroy faith and life.
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Jesus prayed for His disciples to be sanctified in the truth of the word of God. “Sanctify” (Greek hagiadzo) means to make holy, purify, consecrate, sanctify, to make distinguishable from the common, and /or to set apart for service. Jesus ministry and this prayer are permeated with references to the use of the word of God in His disciple’s lives. Jesus prays to the Father for His disciples to be helped to apply the Holy Bible to their lives in a way that distinguishes them from the world just like Jesus lived. Jesus was sanctified. His disciples should be too. The best definition of what it means to be sanctified is “that you love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Pray for others sanctification in the love of Jesus.
The term translated “word” (Greek logos) here that is used by Jesus means simply statements, words, message, declaration, etc. But Jesus identifies this word as “Your word” or God’s word; the written word of God; the Bible. Jesus particularly referred to God’s word as “truth.” “Truth” (Greek aletheia) means free from error, dependable, integrity, and true. God’s word, the Bible, is our source of truth: “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. . . . The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:142, 160). This truthful word of God is what we are to be sanctified by or set apart by. The truth of God’s word is the scalpel with which the Spirit performs spiritual surgery on us. The truth-full word of God is our manual for life. And that word will go with us into eternity. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
Therefore, to be sanctified means to be sided with the truth of God’s word in contrast to falsehood that opposes God’s word. The word of God is the determining factor in what is sanctified and what is not sanctified. You can’t discard God’s word and be acceptable to God.
Jesus died so that we might be sanctified. Jesus died to make us individually holy – “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). We are righteous through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). When we put our faith in Jesus as Savior our sins are forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is put to our account. But because we are spiritual birthed when we accept Jesus as Savior (e.g. John 3; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5-7), we are to put off the “old man” of sinful ways and put on the “new man” of Spirit led ways (e.g. Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:12-17). Once we are saved from sin there is a new continuing Christlike walk in the Spirit that we are called to live (e.g. 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:1-6). This is a new way of life, a life set apart for God’s use, is the sanctified life.
Jesus died so that corporately we would be a glorious without blemish church bride – “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Jesus died to make us “holy, and blameless, and above reproach” (Col. 1:22). The blood of Jesus scrubs us clean of sin (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). If Jesus shed His precious blood to cleanse us and free us from sin, then we ought to seek living the sanctified life that fulfills His purposes in us.
Remember, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13). God’s word is full of His truth because God the Holy Spirit inspired it through holy men of old (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). The Holy Spirit is the One who uses the truth-full word and works this sanctification in us. That is why He is called “the Holy Spirit.” There is a “sanctification of the Spirit” that we are to surrender to and seek to have worked in our lives (1 Peter 1:2). “Sanctification by the Spirit” is something that is done through “belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Living holy involves growing in the fruit of the Spirit which is love (Galatians 5:22-24). The Holy Spirit pours His love into us when He enters us at our spiritual birth (Romans 5:5). The maturing of the Spirit’s love in us is the best definition of sanctification (1 Cor. 13:4-12).
20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;
Jesus prays for you and me and all those who believe in Him through the historical ministry of His followers. Jesus prays for you and me. He is praying for our sanctification and preservation (Hebrews 7:25). Just think of it, right now, Jesus is praying for you. That should be a great comforting thought. When you feel all alone or are tempted to despair, always remember, Jesus is praying for you!
21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Jesus prays for all Christians in all ages to be united and that the world would believe in Him through the testimony of that unity. Unity is so important in Jesus prayers. He emphasizes it and makes us believe by its repeated mention in His prayer if that were not Jesus’ greatest source of concern. The world will come to know Jesus through the testimony of the unity of the church. It’s no wonder that the unity of the church has been so persistently and unfortunately effectively attacked by the enemy. Whenever there is disunity in the church amongst believers it takes away from the churches effectiveness to reach the lost and tarnishes the name of Jesus.
24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Jesus concludes His prayer in worship. Jesus ends His prayer in a final petition that His followers would one day be with Him in glory and see His glory. And Jesus prays and associates that glory in the love between Him and the Father. Jesus exults in the Father’s love. Jesus proclaims the righteousness of the Father. He worships and requests that people would come to know the love of God.
That is how we should conclude our prayers. We shouldn’t just get up and leave. We should end our prayers in worshipping the Lord for His love and grace all to His glory. How do you end your prayers?
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 572). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 573). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.