A Fresh Look at the Lord’s Prayer
(John Chapter 17)
While it is common to speak of the ‘model prayer’ of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 as the “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Christ given in John chapter 17 is the one in which Jesus pours His own heart out to His heavenly Father. For this reason, it is correct to speak of it as truly “The Lord’s Prayer.” No other recorded prayer of Jesus recorded in scripture shows us the depth of Jesus’ commitment to glorify God by His life and His death. No other recorded prayer of Jesus teaches us what it means to glorify God by the way we live and the way we die. In this prayer Jesus says: “I have glorified you on earth” (John 17:4)*. He asks God to “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). God is “glorified” in those who believe in Him (John 17:10). In this prayer we discover the divine mission of life is to glorify God.
WORTH PRAYING ABOUT. Jesus set the example for us by asking that God be “glorified” in His life. There are no steps of spiritual growth more important than to ask the Lord to bring glory to Himself by the way we live. If Jesus made His relationship with the Father the ultimate focus of prayer, how much more should we! We need to begin very day asking the Lord to direct us in paths that bring glory to Him.
ACCOMPLISH THE LORD’S WORK BY THE WAY YOU LIVE. Jesus said: “I glorified you on earth having accomplished the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). The decision to glorify God is to be active, to accomplish something that really matters. Jesus looked for opportunities to talk with others about God’s plans for their lives — He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He cared about people and responded to their needs. While you and I cannot perform the miracles Jesus performed in healing the sick and raising the dead, there are many ways we can accomplish the Lord’s work by talking with others about God’s plans for their lives, lifting up those discouraged by loses and defeats, sharing what we have with those who are hungry, lonely, persecuted for righteousness sake or confused by the world’s temptations. These are not the times for Christians to withdraw from involvement in the lives of others. These are the times for Christians to speak up, to remind people of what the Lord has done for them, to let friends and neighbors (even enemies) see what being a Christian is all about. In the words of the Isaiah Baltzell: “I want to be a worker for the Lord, I want to love and trust His holy word; I want to sing and pray and be busy every day in the vineyard of the Lord.”
MAKE THE NAME OF GOD KNOWN AMONG THE PEOPLE. Let these words of Jesus become your prayer: “I have manifested your name to the people….” (John 17:5). He refers not to a covenant “name” of God (Jehovah) but to the person and character of God Himself. In the words of John, “No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). Only by “knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent,” can we receive “eternal life” (John 17:3). We are surrounded by people who do not know Him personally in their hearts! The key to getting to know the Lord is to hear the words of God. Jesus said, “I have given them your word” (John 17:14). God’s word is “truth,” and by His word we are “sanctified” (John 17:17). The “Great Commission” given in Matthew 28:19-20 (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”) is reflected in Jesus’ prayer in John 17:18 — “I have sent them into the world.” Our “Great Commission” is not to tell people to meditate on nature nor to practice personal introspection. Our message is not to find the church of our choice, a preacher whose sermons make us “feel good” or a musical group that entertains us in worship. There is a rightful time and place for giving our “testimony” about what God has done for us. However, telling sinners our “religious experiences” is no substitute for teaching them the very words of God. The testimony that matters most is the testimony God has given about Himself –– testimony contained in the Scriptures. In order to share the word with others we must be serious students of the Bible ourselves, we must “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3:16). This is how people learn about the “name” of God. This is the message Jesus has sent us into the world to proclaim. Our divine mission is to teach the word of God (the Bible).
FIGHT YOUR SPIRITUAL BATTLES WITH DIVINE WEAPONS. Jesus believed Satan was real and the battle between good and evil a serious battle with eternal consequences. Christians are vulnerable to the deceptions and designs of the evil one. As long as He was on earth, Jesus protected His apostles from Satan’s attacks. He “kept” them in God’s name and “guarded” them (John 17:12). But now that He was leaving this world to return to His Father in heaven, He was concerned about them. The whole scheme of redemption rested on the shoulders of those He had chosen to be His apostles in establishing His church and proclaiming the truth of His gospel. If the apostles failed in their mission there was no “plan B.” He prayed: “Holy Father keep them in your name” (John 17:11). He said: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Only by remembering what He had taught them, holding firmly to the words of God and allowing the truth to “sanctify” them would they overcome victoriously. These are still the keys to overcoming the evil one in the spiritual battles God’s children face. The victory that “overcomes the world” will always be our “faith” (1 John 5:4), and the foundation of faith is hearing the “word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
PROMOTE THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH. Four times in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus prayed that His apostles and disciples would be “one” (John 17:11, 21, 22, 23). Unfortunately, some have made the primary application of this “oneness” what the apostles and subsequent church leaders teach as if our Lord’s greatest concern was that Christian leaders not promote false doctrines or man-made traditions. However, the “oneness” of Christ’s disciples is not only defined by what they believe and teach. There are other challenges which threaten to undo the unity of the church, especially unloving attitudes, internal contentions and clashes between brothers and sisters. If members of His church do not get along with one another, if there is constant grumbling and bickering, gossip and backbiting, conflicting teachings and factions, pride, selfish ambition, jealousy and envy the future of the church will look bleak indeed. But love will keep the disciples together. Our Lord’s disciples need to resist the temptation to become discouraged and disheartened by the rough times that lie ahead. They need to recognize the things that threaten to divide them. They need to be bound together in oneness, to stick together, to support one another, to keep Satan from gaining advantage over them. Christians of every generation need to be warned about being “outwitted” by Satan, for “we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The evil one is constantly on the prowl seeking to devour those whose commitments are fickle, whose knowledge of the truth is shallow, and whose jealous and selfish ambitions create disorder and every vile practice (James 3:16). Perhaps more than ever before, the conversion of the unbelieving world depends on seeing the church of Christ united in love and teaching. Jesus prayed that His disciples be “perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you love me” (John 17:23). There are few stumbling blocks facing unbelievers more significant than animosity, strife, thirsts for power, selfish ambition, discrimination and in-fighting among believers. That is why Jesus prayed: “I have 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 17:26).
ANTICIPATE LIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Listen to these words of hope found in the Lord’s Prayer: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4). And again, “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” (John 17:24). There is a reward for faithful service. No matter how difficult it may be from time to time to remain faithful to Christ, no matter the struggles and sacrifices, when our eyes are set firmly on spending eternity in “the presence” of God it renews our courage and fortifies our resolve. In the words of the hymn writer, “What rejoicing in His presence, when have banished grief and pain; when the crooked ways are straightened, and the dark things shall be plain! Face to face shall I behold Him, far beyond the starry sky, face to face in all His glory I shall see Him by and by.”
May these fresh thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer strengthen all of us so we will fulfill our divine mission to glorify our heavenly Father.
–– David Tarbet
Church of Christ
New Milford, Connecticut
Scripture quotations from English Standard Version