As we approach April, we come to the time of year that we remember and celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the hope we have in this life and for eternity because of it. In John 17, we find a prayer of Jesus just before he was arrested, tried, and crucified. As we think about this time of year, may we reflect on his prayer and how it should shape our prayers.
Jesus prayed for four things in particular. First, he prayed for the glory of God (17:1-5). Specifically, he prayed that the Father would be glorified as the son would be glorified in the hour that had come. This hour was Jesus’ crucifixion and what it accomplished. Jesus’ work on the cross brought forgiveness and unending life to his people. In this way, Jesus prayed for his and the Father’s glory through our salvation.
Second, he prayed for his people to know and live the truth (17:6-19). The truth is the Bible, God’s word—his story about Jesus, first; those who lived it, second; and the rest of us, third. The truth leads to belief in Christ (faith). The truth produces joy in our lives. The truth shapes our character (sanctifies us). The truth also brings ire from the world (which we see in persecution throughout the world). But, the truth also propels us on mission into the world with the message of hope through God’s grace in Christ.
Third, he prayed for his people to unite and build community (17:10, 20-26). Jesus desires that we would be united by his truth as a band of brothers and sisters now and for eternity—God’s great Family. From our unity (and love for one another ~ 13:34-45), there is a great witness to the gospel message in our mission.
Fourth, he prayed for his people to go and pursue his mission in the world (17:18, 21-23). Even though the gospel brings hatred from the world (because people in sin have first rejected and hated Jesus, 15:18-25), Jesus has no interest in our isolation from the world. Jesus rather sends us as his witnesses into the world to magnify God’s greatness and bring people the hope of eternal life. We can accomplish this better together than we can apart.
So with these descriptions summarizing how Jesus prayed for us as his followers just before his crucifixion, how then should we pray in response? First, we should pray for God’s glory. It’s the same with how Jesus began his model prayer in Matthew 6: “Our Father in heaven, may your name be highly honored; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—prayer is foremost worship. Prayer is about us magnifying God. Let us pray that we would know him more and glorify him more. Let us pray that I may know him, as Paul did in Philippians 3; let us pray please, show me your glory, as Moses did in Exodus 33.
Second, we should pray to be people of truth more and more. We should pray that God will grow us and shape us in his word to be more like Jesus (maybe even pray scripture back to God for this end). And we should pray that as we become more like Jesus, God will sustain us in trials, darkness, and persecutions.
Third, we should pray for the growth and unity of the Family. We should pray for the needs that our brothers and sisters in Christ have, and the greatest need is spiritual growth. We should pray for more people to follow Jesus and join the Family—and this includes praying that we would be wise, gracious, and servant-hearted in every opportunity we have to speak the gospel into the lives of those around us.
Fourth, we should pray for our work in the mission. This flows from praying for the growth of the Family. We should boldly seek to speak the truth in love (to borrow from Ephesians 4:15). We should also pray that our unity would magnify the mission and God’s glory instead of our disunity hindering it.
So let us pray as Jesus prayed for us as we celebrate the grace and hope bound in Good Friday and Easter.