It’s always good to look at what comes before the passage we read, especially when it say’s ‘after Jesus finished saying this’. This is because it gives us a little insight into the way he approached things and how he did or said things in a certain way. So, for that reason were going to have a little look at what is happening on the run up to John 17.
In the previous chapter, Jesus is explaining to his disciples about what’s to come, with him having to go to the cross and giving his life for the world. At this point the disciples are struggling to understand and are upset that Jesus is telling them that he is going away and won’t be with them in person anymore. So, to help them understand, Jesus explains in much clearer language that whilst he won’t be with them in person, he will leave them with his helper, the Holy Spirit.
As they finally come to understand what Jesus is saying he goes on to say:
“Do you believe now? The time is coming, and is already here, when all of you will be scattered, each of you to your own home, and I will be left all alone. But I am not really alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united in me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!”
Jesus is saying this to the disciples, but it applies to us as well, to be brave…!!
The next thing Jesus does is to turn in prayer to his Father, it’s always good to remind ourselves that everything Jesus does is always underpinned with prayer. That’s something we need to learn, as Christian prayer really sets us up for what God is calling us to do and gives us the strength to do it. And it also brings us closer to him. Jesus understood this and so must we. And this brings us to today’s reading. Jesus starts his prayer by praying for himself and then goes on to pray for the disciples. I wonder what you think about Jesus praying for himself? Jesus, the perfect son of God, part of the Holy Trinity, three in one, the one we should try and emulate – praying for himself.
I ask this because so often I hear people saying that they don’t feel they should pray for themselves as it’s selfish and shouldn’t be about them., it should be about others. In some ways I can understand that, for example, if the only time we pray is to ask for something material we want rather than need isn’t right– but I believe we do need to come to God in prayer for ourselves so that we can draw closer to him .
Also, we often get scared about prayer especially when we think others might hear. That’s because we think we’re not clever enough and don’t have the right words to say. Or we think we may say the wrong thing, so I want to assure you we don’t need to worry as God knows exactly what’s on our hearts and he delights when we come to him. I believe that God hears every prayer and is just glad when we take time out to speak to him. Jesus didn’t use big, complicated words, he simply prayed from the heart, and that’s all we need to do.
Jesus is not praying for selfish reasons either, he’s not asking for material things or money, rather, he’s praying for the glory of God to fill him so that he can then glorify God – by completing God’s work on earth, which is what he was sent to do. All that Jesus has done has led to this point, his death on the cross – the completion of his mission.
And the completion of that mission means that we can now have eternal life and a direct and personal relationship with God. How amazing is that? But what is eternal life? Often, we think of eternal life as something that starts when we depart this world, but for Christians, it’s so much more than that because we have it now. Eternal life is about knowing God and having a personal relationship with him and enjoying all the blessings here on earth that come with that.
As Jesus prays to his Father you can see the intimacy between them and the longing that Jesus has to do his Father’s will. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, as Christians, we are God’s children and we can have that same relationship with God – and he longs for us to come into his presence and speak to him, to pour our hearts out, to bring our troubles to him, to thank him in the good times and cry to him in the difficult times. Never think that prayer isn’t important, if Jesus had to keep praying to stay in close contact with God, how much more do we need to do the same?
So, prayer is really important, and Jesus goes on to pray for his disciples, and further on in the same chapter, his prayer extends to all of us who believe and follow him, isn’t that mind blowing? I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of yourself as a disciple, but as a Christian, that’s exactly what we are disciples of Jesus. And Jesus continues to pray for us in heaven – in 1 John 2 vs 1 we read that Jesus ‘pleads with the Father on our behalf’.
But did you know that the Holy Spirit also prays for us? I was reading an extract from Isaac of Nineveh’s The Ascetical Treatises that said this:
When the Spirit dwells within a person, from the moment that person has become prayer, the Spirit never leaves them. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray within us. Whether we are asleep or awake, from then on prayer never departs from our soul. Whether we are eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else we may be doing, even if we are in the deepest of sleeps, the incense of prayer is rising without effort in our heart. Prayer never again deserts us. In every moment of our life, even when it appears to have ceased, prayer is secretly at work within us continuously.
So, this passage fills us with hope and security. We are safe in the loving arms of Christ and we are one together with him. I hope as we ponder this passage together that we would become a praying church family, drawing close to Jesus, and allowing his glory to shine through each and every one of us. Jesus is our ultimate example of how to live our lives as Christians.
But the only way we can live in a way that glorifies him is by drawing closer to him, reading the bible and spending time in prayer. I want to encourage you to commit to pray more, giving time to God. There is something very special and comforting in knowing that even though we are in our homes praying, we are praying together as brothers and sisters in Christ, along with Jesus and all the Saints in heaven. I have to say it doesn’t get any better than that.