The Lord Prays for His Own: John 17

This is truly “The Lord’s Prayer.” Matthew 6 gives us the Lord’s model prayer. He never prayed for any sin to be forgiven, for He had no sins to be forgiven. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the only sinless person who ever lived and no other sinless person ever will live on this earth.

The Word of God is so simple that a child can understand it, but parts of it are so deep that the greatest of human intellects cannot understand all its depths. This is especially true of John’s Gospel, and even more so of chapter 17. Although the words John used in writing his Gospel need only elementary reading skills to grasp, he expresses deep truths. J.A. Bengel writes, “Of all the chapters of the Word of God, John 17 is the simplest in word and profoundest in thought.” Harold St. John writes, “These discourses begin with the Lord looking down, laying His hands on the dirty feet of His disciples, and end by His lifting up His eyes to heaven, and laying His hands on His Father’s throne.”

I am indebted to the book The Central Teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ by Thomas D. Bernard, especially for the next three paragraphs.

There are seven gifts in the chapter and one of them is mentioned seven times – the love gift, of which every child of God is a part. In John 3:16 we have the Father’s love gift to the world. Here we have the Father’s love gift to the Son.

The Greek word kosmos (“world”) is found 79 times in John’s Gospel, more than in any other book (19 of those are in John 17). This chapter is the most unworldly, and the more we grasp its truths the more unworldly we will become.

This wonderful chapter tells us much about the person and work of our Lord Jesus. It is fitting for us whenever we pray to God to first confess anything wrong in our lives. Here we see the Lord praying intimately to His Father and He does not pray for any improvement in His life, for He was perfect. In all His words there is no tone of defect or note of demerit, nor the faintest echo of any recollection of sin whatsoever. Instead, He had the certain conscious knowledge, “I have glorified thee on the earth” (v4).[1] His absolute dependence on the Father contributes to the testimony of His sinless perfection: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee” (v1).

This chapter not only tells of His sinlessness but there are statements that could only truthfully be made by One who is coequal and coeternal with the Father, emphasizing His deity. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (v5). The Lord could say in verse 10, “Thine are mine.” All that the Father has is equally His. In verse 21, He prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” He expresses His will in verse 24, and also makes it known that the Father loved Him before the world began.

This chapter also tells us of His work. We read in Hebrews 3:1, “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” Our Lord Jesus is closing the office of Apostle by giving a report:

  • “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (v4).
  • “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (v6).
  • “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me” (v8).
  • “Those that thou gavest me I have kept” (v12).
  • “I have given them thy word” (v14).
  • “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (v18).
  • “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them” (v22).

The Lord Jesus is also anticipating leaving them and officially beginning His work as High Priest. In verse 11, He says, “I am no more in the world;” in verse 12, “while I was with them in the world;” in verse 24, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Of course, our Lord does not want us with Him in Israel but rather in heaven where He is now.

The Lord Jesus prays for Himself in the first five verses. From verses 6 to 19, He prays for the eleven. In verses 20 to 26, we are included in His prayer: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (v20).

In verse 1, He lifts up His eyes to heaven with infinite sorrows before Him. We should follow His example in the midst of our trials. The phrase “the hour is come” is found five times in John’s Gospel, but first we find the expression “the hour is not yet come” (also five times). The cross work of our Lord Jesus is the focus of two eternities: An eternity past looked forward to the cross; an eternity future will look backward to the cross.

The Lord Jesus pleads for His own on the basis of five good things about them. The more that these things are true of each one of us, the greater the weight of the pleas that He makes for us with the Father.

The last phrase in verse 6 is “they have kept thy word,” referring to the disciples’ faithfulness. In verse 7 He says, “Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee,” referring to their spiritual intelligence. In verse 8 He first says, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me,” implying their reception of the Word of God. In the last part of verse 8 the Lord Jesus says, “They … have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me,” referring to their faith. Finally, in verse 10 He says, “I am glorified in them,” speaking of the measure in which their lives were glorifying Him.

Their faithfulness, spiritual intelligence, reception of the Word of God, faith, and lives glorifying Him are all things we should emulate, even when doing so might bring reproach.


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.