What Jesus Prayed: Five things we learn from the Son’s prayer to the Father

When I was a sophomore at Shorter University, our campus minister took a few of us on a retreat to Florida to plan our ministry efforts for the upcoming school year. One way he challenged us spiritually was by asking us to spend one hour in total silence, reading John chapter 17 and praying and meditating on that amazing prayer of Jesus. That silence was hard for me. Even way back then, my world was filled with noise. That hour of silence on the beach with full immersion into God’s Word was a powerful moment in my spiritual life and development as a follower of Jesus.

We can learn a lot if we pay attention to what Jesus prayed. In John 17, we see him praying for himself, for his followers, and for all of those who would believe in him through the centuries — including us! His prayer helps us to know how to pray in his name, according to his will. Notice in this prayer that Jesus prays these five things:

  • “Father, glorify the Son”
  • “Father, protect your children”
  • “Father, sanctify your children”
  • “Father, unify your children”
  • “Father, fill your children with your love”

We would be wise to incorporate these themes into our prayers to God. Notice the full context of Jesus’ prayer. Imagine yourself in the upper room with Jesus and the disciples shortly after they shared the Last Supper, hearing him pray to the Father. I’ve put some key phrases in bold type to point out where Jesus prays the five things listed above.

John 17
1 Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2  since you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. 3  This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent — Jesus Christ. 4  I have glorified you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5  Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed.

6  “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7  Now they know that everything you have given is from you, 8  because I have given them the words you gave me. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from you. They have believed that you sent me.

9 “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they are yours. 10  Everything I have is yours, and everything you have is mine, and I am glorified in them. 11  I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12  While I was with them, I was protecting them by your name that you have given me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled. 13  Now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy completed in them. 14  I have given them your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15  I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18  As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19  I sanctify myself for them, so that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. 21  May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22  I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23  I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. 25  Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. 26  I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”  

Let’s review what Jesus prayed. Which one should you incorporate into your prayer time today? Write these down somewhere and let them help deepen your prayer life with God.

  • “Father, glorify the Son”
  • “Father, protect your children”
  • “Father, sanctify your children”
  • “Father, unify your children”
  • “Father, fill your children with your love”

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