John 17 is a prayer, and not just any prayer, a prayer from Jesus Christ himself. I started reading the book of John before bed every night, and it was then that I think I read this prayer for the first time. I know I have read prayers in the Psalms, prayers of David and Solomon, prayers of Abraham and Moses. I have been moved by those and drawn to them. But this prayer in John 17, it wrecked me. I feel like prayer time can reveal a lot about the heart of a person and the character. Please take a moment to read this prayer below:
The High Priestly Prayer
17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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 ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.
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 17:15 Or from evil
John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God)
John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God)
John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)
John 17 is Jesus’ final prayer. The first 5 verses Jesus is praying for himself, but not selfishly. He is asking the Lord to “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”, glorify means to celebrate. In this particular passage it is translated as doxazo which means to make renowned, render illustrious. Jesus is saying here not only to celebrate God, but to make him well-known, recognized, and memorable through Him. Even when Jesus prays for himself, he still finds a way to not make it about himself but about The Father.
Next, Jesus prays for his disciples and his future followers. He prays for the men who will take what they have learned from him and share it to the ends of the earth. He says in verse 9, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours”. Jesus is praying for all who believed and all who would come to believe. Right before Jesus goes to the cross he prayed for you. He prayed for me. He prayed for us. Because our job, our purpose, is that important: to glorify the Father by taking the information given to us by Jesus Christ, and bring more and more people to a knowing faith in the Lord. He asks the Father to sanctify us. Sanctification for a Christian is an ongoing process. It is the process of setting us apart from the world, making us holy. Scripture tells us in 1 Peter that we should be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). This message is taken directly from Leviticus 18 when God is telling Moses to let the people of Israel know how they should behave. God is holy and he has called us as believers into himself. So, when Jesus is praying and asking the Lord to sanctify us, he is praying for a relationship for God and his people. We cannot learn how to be holy if we are not walking with the One who is holy. According to verse 17, Jesus’ prayer shows us that holiness is only possible within the truth of the gospel. And to take this a step further, he is not asking for us to just be sanctified, but sanctified in the truth. Not an adjective meaning true, but a noun indicating truth. The ESV study Bible says this, “This implies that God’s Word does not simply conform to some other external standard of “truth”, but that it is truth itself; that is, it embodies truth and it therefore is the standard of truth against which everything else must be tested and compared”. In a world when we are told to own or know our own “truths”, I love knowing that 1. I do not have to come up with my own truth and 2. that Jesus Christ himself prayed that I might be sanctified in the only true truth.
Jesus continues his prayer by praying for the unity of the Church. He mentioned in verses 17-19 that he desires for us to be sanctified in the truth because we live in the world. Jesus knows that people on earth do not know him, and subsequently do not walk in line with his truths. He is asking the Father to draw in unbelievers through those who believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—the redeemer of humankind. Jesus recognized that it is our nature as humans to not want to follow after or trust in God and to not be unified so he prays for US, future believers, that we might share in his glory, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them…” verse 22, and give our lives over to the Lord.
At the end Jesus gives us assurance for eternal life (v.24) and also assurance of being with us while on the earth. It is a covenantal promise that recognizes the New Covenant made with the death of Jesus. Jesus knows that he is the sacrificial lamb of the New Covenant, there will not need to be another one made after his death. As a direct result of this prayer, every believer will be with Christ in heaven where He will be.
So other than how much I love the emotion behind this chapter, what else can be learned? I want to leave you with the idea of unity. Unity is defined as the state being united or joined as a whole. It is a consistent theme across Scripture and one that I believe, needs to be spoken about more. Genesis 3, the fall, put humanity into a downward spiral of disunity. Over and over again in Scripture when believers are spoken about, they are described as a unit, a body, a church… a group of people together. If you are feeling a sense of separation or isolation now, I would encourage you to be bold and reach out. Reach out and hold out tightly to a body of believers during these uncertain times because one thing we know that we can be sure of is God’s Word because it is the Truth. Romans 15:5-6 says this, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is important for us to remember that as humans, we are going to have differences of opinion. Whether that is church doctrine, politics, raising our children, or wearing a mask… we are not always going to agree, and if I’m going to be honest, we will probably disagree more on those things than we agree. But here is the thing, if we cannot come together as a body of believers and worship Christ as one, we are missing the mark, we are letting the enemy win. The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible says this, “Differences of opinion will always exist where Scripture does not give clear guidelines; but if they keep the church from glorifying God “with one voice,” the church has forgotten its purpose.” Ouch… I don’t want to forget my purpose. A purpose clearly lined out for me in Scripture. A purpose prayed for by Jesus right before he went to the Cross to save me from MY sin. In times where we might feel like we just don’t know what to believe in the news or online, let’s come together to know the Truth of God’s Word and stand confidently on that.
 Moody Commentary pg. 1654