6 I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, 8 because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You. They have believed that You sent Me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours. 10 Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine, and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one. 12 While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled. — John 17:6-12
Jesus Prays for Believers in the World
by Jason Dukes
I asked him, “Why do you think you and your Jewish friends have yet to believe Jesus is the Messiah?” He did not hesitate with his response, and his response did not surprise me.
“His followers are not unified.”
I asked her, “Apart from the fact that some Christians have been overtly judgmental of you and your lifestyle choices, why do you think you and your homosexual friends struggle to embrace the teachings of the Christian church?” Her response stung.
“Because your gospel hasn’t caused you to love each other. What makes you think we are going to believe you love us any differently?”
Maybe this is why Jesus prayed what He prayed in John 17—so that we as believers, as we relate with the world around us, might do more than give polished rhetoric to the gospel of Jesus, but rather might actually embody it.
Throughout church history, we have fervently committed ourselves to the praying of specific prayers for revival and awakening and many other things, longing for “God to answer our prayers.” But I wonder if the desperation that many church-goers feel in North American church culture today has less to do with what we have prayed and more to do with the fact that we seem to have ignored what Jesus prayed. We long for Him to answer our prayers, while He longs to make us to become the answer of His prayer.
There’s not space to unpack all of the John 17 prayer, but consider the words of Jesus from verse 23:
“I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
Although the gospel of Jesus is very personal to each of us, I wonder if we have made the gospel of Jesus too personal and missed the “we” and “you” (plural) and “they” of it?
How significant is our unity as followers of Jesus representing multiple local churches? I’m not talking about unity for unity’s sake. I’m talking about unity around the gospel and mission of Jesus. According to the prayer of Jesus in John 17, it is VERY SIGNIFICANT!!!
Jesus prayed for the maturing of our oneness as His followers SO THAT the world may know Him as the Sent One, as Messiah. The result of our oneness is the work of God among us!!! You might ask, “Jason, how can you state it that way—the work of God?” Check out what Jesus taught in John 6:29 — “Jesus replied, ‘This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.’”
The work of God is that people believe in the One He has sent. Jesus prayed for us to be completely one as His followers SO “the world may know You have sent Me.” In math, if a=b, and b=c, then a=c. If the maturing of our oneness results in people believing in the One who was sent, and the work of God is that people believe in the One who was sent, then the maturing of our oneness will result in the work of God among us.
Maybe we need to quit valuing our own prayers and value the prayer Jesus prayed. Maybe we need to beg God for wisdom regarding what being completely one as His followers would require and look like in this competitively-charged American church culture where we are willing to value the interests of another person above our own (Philippians 2:3-5), but not the interests of another local church above our own.
Don’t miss this—what Jesus prayed we would become is exactly what He commanded us in the new command of John 13:34-35. The world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another.
May our goal in how we relate to the world be rooted in how we obey that new command and become an answer to the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17. Then, just maybe, they would believe that the One who was sent is the Promised One, the Messiah, whom we all desperately need.
May we be united in His undeserving love for all of us and then be compelled by that love as we love one another to love the world around us like He first loved us. All so that they will believe in the Sent One.
- Pray: Lord, help us to be one in You like You and the Father are one. May the world know they are loved like the Father loves You and all the world.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.