John 17 contains Jesus’ high priestly prayer. It’s the longest prayer in the Bible, but you can read it in about three minutes. (If only all public prayers were that short!)
Jesus prayed for Himself (vv 1-6), the apostles (vv 6-19), and for all believers (vv 20-26).
But what did He ask, not for Himself, but for us? Jesus made at least five petitions.
First, Jesus prayed the apostles would be united, just as He and the Father were united (v 11). On the one hand, this is certainly a union of purpose. Jesus prayed they would have the same will, goal, and purpose as the Father. On the other hand, Jesus goes even deeper than that. In vv 21-23, Jesus prayed the apostles would be united in the sense of having God’s indwelling presence within them. In the Holy Trinity, there is a mutual indwelling between Father and Son (and the Spirit) in their essence (“You, Father, are in Me and I in You”). Systematic theologians call this the doctrine of perichoresis. Amazingly, the Bible states that believers share in this mutual indwelling. We are indwelt by each member of the Godhead: God the Father (John 14:22-23; Eph 4:6; 1 John 4:15); God the Son (John 14:20; Rom 8:10; 2 Cor 13:5); and God the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). Our physical bodies, and more particularly, our human spirits, are temples of God’s presence. Words cannot describe how astounding that is.
Second, Jesus prayed the apostles would have His full joy (v 13). Given the fact that God had come to dwell in them, what else could they have? What earthly trouble can compare to that? And has it ever struck you that Christianity should be a joyful religion, not a morose one? Jesus was joyful. He was full of joy, in fact! And He prayed the apostles would be full of joy, too.
Third, Jesus prayed the apostles would be protected from the evil one (v 15). It is easy to forget that we are all involved in a spiritual war between God and the Devil. As much as you and I face earthly adversity, and think of it only in earthly terms, the reality is that behind it all is supernatural evil. The devil prowls around like a lion seeking people to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). Hence, we need protection.
Fourth, Jesus prayed the apostles would be sanctified (vv 17, 19). This is not sanctification in the sense of becoming progressively holy in your experience. Jesus said, “I sanctify Myself.” Obviously, Jesus was sinless from the start. He didn’t need to be sanctified in that sense. Instead, this is sanctification in the sense of being set apart for a task. The apostles had a great mission before them. They needed to be set apart for that. How? By the truth. By learning and applying Bible truth (or Bible doctrine) to their lives. That is how you and I are set apart, too. By not just being hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word (Jas 1:22). As you learn and apply Bible truth to your life, you become better equipped to fulfill your Christian ministry.
Fifth, Jesus prayed for a future time when the believers would be with Him and see His glory (v 24). I take this to mean His enthronement in the Millennial Kingdom. But Jesus may have been referring to a different time. Whatever the case, we will see His glory. And I, for one, cannot wait for that blessed vision.