“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
- JOHN 17:20-21
In John 17, Jesus closes His Farewell Discourse with a prayer. Jesus first prays for Himself, then for the disciples, and then He prays for us in the church today, “those who will believe in me through [the disciples’] message” (John 17:20). He prays that we may be “in” the Father and Son, just as the Father and Son are “in” each other, and that we “may be one” as Jesus and the Father are “one” (John 17:20-21). In other words, Jesus prays for the church to display a level of intimacy with God and unity with others that is inspired by the intimacy and unity of the Godhead.
This is a bold prayer! It seems unattainable for a couple of reasons. First, Jesus and the Father are inextricably connected. Throughout this book, Jesus has frequently emphasized how close He is with the Father (John 10:30, 10:38; 14:10-11). On the basis of passages like these, early church leaders described Jesus as being “one in essence” with the Father and the Spirit. This intimacy and unity is unparalleled. Second, this seems like an unattainable prayer because, as we well know, humans are so prone to division. One wonders what was going through the gospel writer John’s mind as he wrote this book and prayer in the city of Ephesus. We know that the church in this city was deeply divided. In fact, the book of Ephesians was written primarily to address the problem of division in the church at Ephesus. There’s no doubt John was distraught at how far His own church had deviated from Jesus’ ideal in just a matter of decades.
Despite how unattainable these prayer requests seem, Jesus lifted them up because He understood that we are at our best when we are one with God and one with others. When we find ourselves isolated, at odds, or fighting with others in the church, we suffer and we hurt the church’s witness. But if we could have a level of intimacy with God and unity with others that is even a whisper of the intimacy and unity of the Father and the Son, then we can grow and help the world see the truth of the gospel. As Jesus says, “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).
JESUS PRAYS TO BE GLORIFIED
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS DISCIPLES
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
JESUS PRAYS FOR ALL BELIEVERS
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”