I Say A Little Prayer (For You)

Joel May, Speaker

John 17:6-26 | March 31 - Holy Week, Sunday Evening,

Holy Week, Sunday Evening,
March 31
I Say A Little Prayer (For You) | John 17:6-26
Joel May, Speaker

Father, we come to You now wondering what else we could even say, what we could even pray, before reading Your Word that was not already prayed in this passage by Christ Himself. Lord, we come to You humbly, asking that You would impress upon our hearts the truth of what Christ is trying to make very, very clear here, that You would encourage us and edify us with Your Word and by the prayers of our High Priest. It’s in Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Go ahead and open up to John 17. If you’re a visitor here, you can grab one of the black Bibles in the pew. John 17 is going to be found on page 903 if you want quick access there. While you’re flipping there, let me address the elephant in the room. As we read through John 17, none of this stuff is going to sound new. There’s going to be a lot of concepts, there’s going to be a lot of themes and even maybe some specific phrases that we have talked about and that have already been preached on for the past however many weeks. This whole time that we’ve been going through the upper room discourse, dare I say, that almost every single major theme and point that Christ is going to turn and pray to the Father, He’s already taught to His disciples in this intimate context.

So as we come to this passage, one thing that I want us to understand and to know is that this is not actually a sermon to His disciples in order to teach them brand new concepts or doctrines that He has not already taught them. Jesus is really good at preaching. He knows when to step into an opportunity to preach and to teach, but in fact this is not what He’s doing. There’s a hard shift right here, in fact. There’s a complete change of perspective and conception almost and He starts to direct His prayers towards the Father rather than His teaching towards His disciples. That’s really significant.

You might ask yourself, why? Why is He doing this? If He has already taught His disciples everything, He’s already given them these new commandments, He’s already taught them about His unity with the Father and union with Christ, and the communion with the saints and He’s touched on things that what we’re going to call the pactum salutis later on, there are all these rich, doctrinal truths, all these really profound things that maybe we think, oh, that’s what He wants to teach us in this moment.

In fact, I think what He’s doing is He’s modeling something that He just said a couple of verses before. John 16:23 Christ says this. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full.”

So here in John 17 when Christ shifts focus and He directs prayers to the Father, He is literally practicing what He just preached. We use that phrase “practice what you preach.” He is literally doing this.

Here’s the really awesome part, that us now are in the room where it happened. Us now, we have an inside look into the triune life. We actually get to see and to hear and to benefit from the way that the Son enters into dialogue and communication and prayer with the Father. How amazing is that?

So as you listen to the reading of God’s Word in just one second, try not to hear this as a hortatory passage. Don’t think of this as okay, well, now this is a task list. Now I have to go out and be perfectly one with everybody. Now I have to go out and be completely fulfilled in giving Christ all the glory. Instead, what I want this to be, what I want you to get from this, is this strong sense of assurance that everything that God has promised will be accomplished because God’s own Son is praying for it. He’s securing it right here in John 17.

With that said, let’s read this passage together. It says:

“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, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.””

““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. Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You. 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. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. All mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 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. 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. But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 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. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. ””

““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, 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. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, 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. 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. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know You, I know You, and these know that You have sent Me. 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.””

The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.

I preached this passage a few times in the past year and I will have you know that I’m doing you all a favor. Every other time I had seven points; this time I have three points, but two of those points have a sub point, and one of those points has two sub points. So, I don’t know, it all comes out in the wash.

But in essence here’s actually the reality of this passage. I think you could technically sum it up with one point. This whole prayer is about fulfillment. Okay, so in reality you could just say this whole prayer has one major point and that this fulfillment.

Here’s what Mark Jones says. He says Jesus asked that God will fulfill the promises He made to Him as the Son. He was not presumptuous but diligent in reminding His Father of His promises to Him and His people. So everything that we’re going to see, everything that we’re going to read in this prayer, is actually an aspect of Christ praying for fulfillment in some way. He’s asking that everything he has taught and commanded His people would now be fulfilled.

But there are a couple of specific aspects of fulfillment that we need to touch on.

Number one, first and foremost, Christ is asking for a fulfillment of His glory.

Now unfortunately you can’t really do like a systematic read through, and if I were to start giving references where this shows up then your eyes would be going all over the place. So what we’re kind of going to do a thematic unification of a lot of these things because He sprinkles in these concepts all throughout. There’s not really necessarily one specific centralized condensed place. But right here at the beginning, right off the bat, we see this aspect shine forth, that Christ said He came in order to manifest God’s glory to the world and to accomplish redemption for God’s people.

One of the ways that Christ reveals and receives the glory that He deserves is actually by offering up this prayer and supplication for His people. One of the ways that He fulfills His role as a high priest is by publicly offering this prayer that will be answered and will be fulfilled by the Father. He’s almost like calling His shot in a pickup game or calling __ in a pickup game. He’s saying, hey, I already know that this is going to happen so I’m calling it, and by the way, it will be fulfilled. So the very act of the prayer itself is a fulfillment in large part.

Then the first and foremost thing that He prays for is a fulfillment of His own glory, that He would receive the glory which He had before the foundation of the world, that that would be manifested in Him.

Here’s the thing. Jesus wasn’t asking this flippantly. In fact, He knew that this was going to come at a cost. He knew that to petition the Father for Him to receive the glory that He deserved was going to come at a cost. He just preached about it. He had preached about it all over the place, all throughout His public ministry He preached what it was going to look like, what that would mean. It was going to require suffering and shame and death.

But He also believed and knew that in God’s wisdom He would use His humiliation to bring about His exaltation. He would use the fact that He suffers to the point of death, even death on the cross, so that therefore He would be highly exalted and given the name above every name so that every knee would bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. He knew that this was going to come at a cost and He actually embraced that.

He willingly becomes sin so that He could exhibit His power and glory over sin. He had to go to the lowest of lows in order to be brought to the glory that He deserved.

Now I was going to go with one of two football illustrations, but we’ll do this one. Indulge me here. I’m a Falcons fan and many of you know about the Super Bowl against Tom Brady. Okay. What happened in that Super Bowl was the perfect storm for Tom Brady to receive maximum glory. Okay. I remember Falcons were up 28-3 and I’m in my kitchen scrubbing dishes and the announcers just write it up like it’s literally scripted. They say, man, okay, this is the biggest margin in Super Bowl history. No team has ever been down going into halftime this bad. They say also Tom Brady, if he were to come back, pull off the biggest upset ever, he would have the most Super Bowls ever. He would probably then secure the most MVPs ever. He would have the most wins with a coach ever. He would set every new record and it would be undisputable that he was officially the GOAT. They set it up so that Tom Brady’s humiliation would lead to his inevitable exaltation, as the greatest of all time.

Unfortunately, that’s what happened. How much more so, I distinctly remember being like this is not going to go well for the birds, this is going to be bad. It was like watching a car wreck very slowly.

How much more so then do we see that in Christ’s humiliation He actually becomes more highly exalted? He knew that it would happen and yet He prays for the fulfillment of it. He would bear the cross of Golgotha in order that He might wear the crown of glory. That is why He prayed this.

Second thing we see, a fulfillment of faith all throughout. He scatters these little phrases. He says, “This is eternal life that they know You and Jesus Christ.” He says, “They have received the words You have given Me. They have come to know in truth that I came from You.” He says, “I do not ask for these only but for all those who will believe in Me through their word.” All throughout He’s praying for a fulfillment of faith for His people.

What He’s praying for is not a vague sense of faith, but He’s actually praying that His people would know Him as the object and surety of their faith. What this means is that if you profess faith in Christ, if you’ve received the gift of saving faith, you’ve received that in part because Christ prayed for it right here. That is astounding that the reason, one of the reasons that you call yourself a Christian today is because Christ in this moment prayed that you would have the gift of saving faith. Praise God.

The next major point here, so the first is fulfillment with a couple sub points, the second that we see here is He prays for faithfulness. There’s some repetition, some repeated concepts, but first and foremost Christ actually prays for the Father’s faithfulness, continue faithfulness, to His people. And in so doing, He does pray, sort of there’s an implicit prayer, for His people’s faithfulness but He uses words like this. He says they have received My words, they have kept and guarded My words, they have stayed in the truth, and now, Father, would You keep and guard them? Would you preserve them in order that they might be kept in the truth? He knows that His own people’s faithfulness, His own people’s preservation, is contingent upon the Father’s preservation of them.

There’s some parallel language here and He’s pleading to the Father that He would keep and guard them from the evil one. Notice that an essential aspect of the Father’s faithfulness to His people is actually to not take them out of the world. That’s kind of frustrating because there’s a lot of times where I’m in circumstances and I think to myself, it’d be really nice if I just got like the special chariot treatment and got zipped on up to glory right now and I could get taken out of the world, or if we lived in some world where I could like Dr. Strange my soul out of my body and not have to experience this anymore. There are times when I think that ultimately what I need to be kept and guarded from are my own circumstances.

But what Christ is saying and what He’s praying for here is not that His people would be taken out of the world but that in this world we would be preserved and kept and guarded and protected.

Now it just might be that you’re experience of being in this world, your experience of having to endure and keep God’s Word even in the midst of a hostile generation, He says that the world hates His people, it just might be and is the case that your experience of living as a child of God in this world is one of the ways that you truly come to know God’s glory and grace towards you. And it’s one of the ways that God chooses to help you grow up into Him, grow into Christ.

That leads to our third point, fruit. So He prays for fulfillment, faithfulness, fruit with some other smattering things in there.

Fruit, first and foremost, is a broad category. The theological term here is sanctification. A couple times He specifically prays for our sanctification, that we would be sanctified. Here’s how He says it. He prays that we would walk in the truth, be shaped by the truth. He says sanctify them in the truth, Your Word is truth.

Now we’ve heard, obviously, earlier in John that the truth will set us free and now we’re hearing that the truth will set us apart.

There’s sort of like this low level obsession in like adolescent culture nowadays to simultaneously fit in and not like stand out for bad reasons, but also to set yourself part from the rest of the crowd so that you stand out just as much as you want to. You can do it with the way that you dress, you can do it with the way that you talk, you can do it with the way that you think about school and interact with your friends. All that stuff. But here’s the reality – Christ says that we are sanctified in the truth, which is His Word, and it’s Himself which He said a couple chapters right before.

So we have “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and we have “Your Word is truth,” and now He’s asking that they would be set apart and sanctified in the truth and by the truth.

So here’s the reality. If you want to stand out in this world, if you want to feel like you are set apart from the people around you, read your Bible and walk in the way of Christ. That is such an encouragement. Once again, we know that this will happen because Christ Himself, who is our great High Priest and who is the Son of God, prays for it, so we can have assurance that this is the way that He will work.

3b. Point 3b. I don’t know how you’re keeping it in your notes or in your mind palace. The last thing that He prays for here is fellowship.

Fellowship is probably the strongest thing that comes out most clearly here towards the end. A huge chunk on fellowship. Let’s touch on one of the easier aspects of fellowship, which is actually fellowship among the body of Christ. Fellowship within the communion of saints. Christ prays that above all things His people would be a loving community, where they enjoy true spiritual fellowship with the body of Christ itself, that they would understand as Paul will state it later that everyone is a different member of the body and that the body is unified with Christ as the head. He prays that we would be perfectly one.

I don’t even know that that means, but Christ prays that we would be perfectly one by our spiritual unity and fellowship with one another.

What He clearly is not saying here, He’s not praying that people in 2024 at Christ Covenant Church would have like a begrudging sense, or a frustrated acceptance, of the people that He’s put in this sanctuary with you. He’s not saying, like, “Lord, I pray that someday down the road we’ll look across the sanctuary and be like, well, guess I gotta love that guy over there, even though I have everything about him, guess I gotta love him.” That’s not what He’s praying for. He’s praying for a perfect love. He’s praying for true fellowship, which requires a humble, thankful posture of love for the community of saints and the members of the body of Christ that He has called you into fellowship with. That’s what His prayer is.

Love for other Christians is one of the most ultimate expressions of our faith in Christ. It’s what Christ Himself prays for that we would love Him and that we would love His people. He actually says that this is one of the ways that the world will know that Christ is Lord, that we would love Him.

Now all of this fellowship, of course, is rooted in and grounded in and what’s even more mind-blowing, it’s reflective of the type of fellowship and unity that He prays we would have with God Himself. All of this is reflective of, He says it needs to be an outworking and an outpouring of what is even more true, which is that we have fellowship with God Himself, fellowship with Him as our Father and He uses these crazy phrases that we would be in Him and that He would be in us, just as the Father is in Him and we are in them, that we would all be in each other just as He is in us.

I don’t like, we just have to read verses 21 to 23 again. Look at this: 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. Just down to verse 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.

We could and maybe should do a lot of time on this concept, but let’s just point out five specific things He prays for right here.

Number one. That His body would be in Christ just as Christ is in God.

Number two. That the love that the Father has for Christ, the eternal love, would also be given to and poured out to the rest of His children.

Number three. That the world will know that Christ was sent by God and that the world will know that God loves His children with an everlasting love, which is the same type of love that He has for Christ.

Number four. That the glory that Christ receives would somehow be also given to His people. Christ actually says I have glorified them.

Number five. That we would be with Him to see Him in His glory. Once again, He knew what this would entail. He’s not just throwing out concepts and being like, well, I don’t know, this sounds cool and someday people are going to be confused by it, but it sounds cool so let’s see what happens. No, He actually knows what this is going to entail. It’s going to entail resurrection. It’s going to entail union with Christ. It’s going to entail the new creation of all things, bringing dead people back alive because they’ve been buried with Him and raised with Him. This is an audacious prayer and Christ prays it because He wants you to be assured that it will be fulfilled.

Again, these are not brand new teachings. These are not the first time that we’ve heard these concepts in John 17. But they are direct petitions, poured out by the Son of God to His Father to assure us that they will be granted and fulfilled.

Let me close with an illustration. I had a friend through middle school and high school who had like the dream house for a teenager. We’re talking they were on the lake, they had the double decker dock that we could do flips off of, they had a boat, they had trails in their backyard where we would ride like this off-road mule/gator thing. They had a pool. They had a hot tub. They had a theater. They had a pool table, ping pong table. You name it. Oh, and also, one of his older sisters was a professional baker for Southern Living. Okay? So every time she was around, which was a lot, she would bake. She’d be like, yeah, I’m doing this experimental treat for Southern Living, do you 13-year-olds want to try it? And we were like, thank you, yes. It was the dream house to be at.

Here’s what would happen. We would all kind of conspire throughout the week. We’d be like, okay, guys, we’re going to have an amazing weekend. You know how we’re going to do this? We’re going to start by going in the lake and then we’re going to go tubing then we’re going to go take a gator ride then we’re going to do the pool and then we’re going to do food and then we’re going to Waffle House, just because why not, and then we’re going to do this and this and this and then we’re going to do a night swim and all that stuff. To us, it’s like this 100% is going to happen. We know that this is going to happen.

But here’s the reality. None of that in a sense really actually became true until my friend entered the throne room of his father’s home office and he petitioned the father with all of these requests and the father granted them and he fulfilled the requests. You know why? Because that father delighted in granting the requests of his son.

How much more so does our heavenly Father delight to grant every request from His Son poured out here in John 17?

Here’s what Mark Jones says once again. He says this once earthly prayer has continued in heaven where Christ continues to intercede as our high priest and here is the important point – there would be no Christians if Jesus had not offered up this prayer. The contents of this prayer are more important than the air that we breathe. Jesus asked and so He received. He believed in faith that He would procure all that He asked for in His high priestly prayer. This persistence did not stop after He offered up this prayer but continues heaven until all is accomplished.

Let’s pray. Father, with Christ we pray once again that You would be glorified in and through us, that we would know and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that we would be kept and guarded from the evil one, that we would be sanctified in and by the truth, that we would be in Christ as Christ is even in You, that we would be perfectly one in our fellowship with the body of Christ, that the world might know that You sent Christ into the world to save sinners and the same love with which You love Him You also pour out on us. We pray all of these things in His name and for His sake. Amen.