In our study of how to please God through our whole life, we are beginning with the spirit – the part of us that is being renewed against the effects of sin. Those who are born again have a new nature that is fed through our devotion to prayer and reading God's Word.

One writer said, "Whatever causes us to pray is a good thing." The Bible is chock-full of examples of God's people praying to Him. In John 17, we read an example of Jesus Himself praying. Christ relied heavily on prayer to sustain His life and ministry. His prayer in this passage shows the purpose of His life. We too can find particular purpose for our lives by studying this prayer and praying similarly.

Jesus prayed these words shortly before His death. This prayer is often "used both by liberals and conservatives to urge unity on a horizontal level, to teach that churches should get together, but that is not the emphasis of the prayer at all." It has been called Jesus' unanswered prayer, but that is almost blasphemy. Jesus never prayed in vain. His prayer has been fulfilled and gloriously so.

"The prayer explains Christ's own relationship with the Father and the life He desired for Himself and for His children to have with Him," another author summarized. Jesus came to do God's will so the world would know the Father. This was necessary so that we are able to come to God.

Prayer affects our lives in many ways, but becoming like Christ is its most essential aspect. It is in the environment of prayer that God's grace transforms us to be like our Creator. There we find the strength to obey and consequently to be a light for the Gospel.

Warren Wiersbe said, "Those who absorb and apply the words of this prayer will be overcomers as their Lord was and as He is." In the flow of its parts, we find the importance of spiritual priority for our individual lives and for the church.

Christ's Prayer about Himself (verses 1-5)

Jesus prayed first for Himself. We don't always have to be praying for others! But we must observe how He was praying. He talked to God the Father about His personal work and accomplishment.

Jesus' prayer was a preparation for tragedy. At the end of His life, He prayed evaluating the purpose of his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus prayed that He would show personal stability for His watching disciples. Since we share in His life, we should imitate His attitude in prayer. This can be described in the following three ways:

  1. Reverent
  2. Submissive
  3. Thankful

Reverence for God typically leads our heart to yield to biblical authority structures. Jesus' prayer begins in John 17:1 with a reverent posture and attitude. Old Testament prayers often begin with reverent adoration and reflection on God's holiness. This attribute means He is wholly separate and unlike us.

Christ showed submission by His willingness to do the will of the Lord completely. He knew all of God's decrees from eternity past and perfectly conformed to the Lord's timetable. Submitting to God's personal plan for us is not easy when we are not reverencing God in prayer.

Christ reflected with gratitude on the work He had accomplished for the Father. Christ is one with the Father in character, person, and mission. Christ's mission on earth was to reflect the nature of God through everything He did. He glorified God through His obedient life, sufficient death, and perfect atonement for our sins.

The Father gave Christ the authority to give eternal life to all believers, who are called the Father's gift to Him. Eternal life is knowing God. He is the one who changes your character. Going to Heaven when you die is a divine benefit of having eternal life.

Jesus' life showed God's sovereignty, compassion, and the finality of redemption to all who were given to Him. He fulfilled His central purpose of glorifying God by imparting the nature of His divine life to us.

In the environment of prayer, we learn to take on the life of Christ. As we pray as He did, we'll learn reverence and submission, then will be able to reflect in a thankful way on what God allows us to do for Him.

We will continue studying Jesus' prayer next week along the following outline:

Christ's Prayer for His Current Disciples (verses 6-19)

Christ prayed for His disciples' spiritual development through the Word. He prays for their security, unity, joy, and future while displaying the same to them.

Christ's Prayer for All Future Believers (verses 20-26)

Application Points

  • As we prepare to study John 17, read through the chapter and note every occurrence of the word "world."
  • It's okay to pray for yourself. Jesus did! Note how and what He was praying in the first 5 verses. We can pray in the same way and for the same reasons.
  • We cannot endure life's greatest afflictions without prayer. It's not enough just to pray in the moment of hardship; we need to follow Jesus' example of preparatory prayer. Invest time in prayer now for whatever affliction is coming.
  • Who is watching your life? Are they your children, grandchildren, neighbors? Who knows you well? You want praying people around you because they are stable and discerning. You can cling to them when you are spiritually weak. Likewise, pray to maintain your strength for them.
  • Submitting to God's personal plan for us is not easy when we are not reverencing God in prayer. Are you struggling to submit to and trust God's plan? Are you regularly praying with reverence to God?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 4:24-31, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Acts 9:10-19, 1 Kings 3:5-15, Habakkuk 1:1-17, 3:1-19, Nehemiah 1:4-11, 2:4, 4:9, Daniel 6:10, 9:2-19 – Examples of God's people praying.
  • John 11:41-42, Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12, 22:32, 22:39-46, 23:34, 23:46, Hebrews 5:7-10, Psalm 68:18 – Examples of Jesus praying.
  • John 16:33, 1 John 5:1-5 – What does it mean to overcome?
  • Isaiah 6:1-7, Matthew 6:9-10 – Praying with reverence.
  • John 2:3-4, 7:30, 8:20, Psalm 31:5 – Jesus followed the Father's timetable.
  • Philippians 2:1-11 – The character of submission is developed when we have an attitude of reverence.
  • 1 Peter 5:6-7 – Prayer is in the context of reverent submission.
  • John 1:4, 3:15-16, 4:14 – Christ imparts His life to us.
A Hymn to Encourage: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Quotes to Ponder

"Keep the altar of private prayer burning. This is the very life of all piety. The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here; therefore, let this burn well. Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer of vital and experimental religion. Let your closet seasons be, if possible, regular, frequent, and undisturbed."

— from a devotional on Leviticus 6:13