Studies in the Gospel of John
“The Closing Prayer”
One of the traditions that has arisen within Christianity through the years is the opening and/or closing of many gatherings with a prayer. Even though that was not done in Jesus time, nevertheless He did actually have a “closing prayer” to His life on earth. And the importance of prayer is shown not only by the fact that He ended his time on earth with a prayer, but actually His whole life was bathed in prayer. He prayed repeatedly. He prayed all night before choosing the disciples. He prayed about things He already knew how to do, such as casting out demons and raising Lazarus and a couple of other people whose name are not given from the dead. He prayed several times in His last hours on earth and even in His dying moments. When we realize the integral part prayer played in the life of our Savior, it is shocking that this is the area in which Christians seem to be the most inconsistent. Why do you suppose that is? Surely it can’t be a lack of time or a lack of knowledge about how to do it. So it may well be that these failings in prayer are because Satan knows that very little will happen without it. Bible studies, evangelism, and spiritual growth, and so forth. And he also knows that we will be proud of our activity and those lose our rewards at the Judgment seat of Christ.
Now that is not exactly what is going on in John 17, but I believe that it is completely appropriate to refer to this chapter as “the closing prayer” because it is the last prayer that Jesus prayed, or at least the last recorded prayer as He came to the close of His life on earth. And the amazing thing is that the subject of that last prayer was His believers – including you and me!
As we look at this prayer, which takes up the whole chapter, we will see:
The Personal Nature of the Prayer in verses 1 through 5,
The Paternal Nature of the Prayer in verses 6 through 24 and,
The Purposeful Nature of the Prayer in verses 25 and 26
So let’s look first at The Personal nature of the prayer in verses 1 through 5. He begins with a request in verses 1 through 3. The time of the request is in verse 1a
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has now come. Glorify your Son that Your Son may also glorify you
Notice the first phrase in the verse, “Jesus spoke these words . . .” ‘“These words” is a reference to all of the things he had been saying to the disciples in chapters 14 through 16 about His departure. So the implication is that after saying those things it was time for Him to have this “closing prayer” with the Father. And that was perfectly in keeping with the way the whole plan of God for the life of Jesus had gone. Galatians 4:4 says that God brought forth His son at exactly the right time. We don’t know what the details of that plan were, but it was important that Satan not be allowed to bring about that death ahead of time. That is amplified in the next phrase here in verse :1 with the words “the hour has come.” When His mother had asked Him to do the miracle of changing the water into wine, He had said, “my hour has not yet come” – but now it had. God the Father had a perfect timetable for the life of Christ, and in His humanity Jesus had carefully guarded His activities in life so that He did not get ahead or behind schedule in that plan (and He has one for your life too, by the way.) We, too, should be careful that we seek His guidance in following the plan that He has for us as well.
Then the tone of the prayer is in verse 1b
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has now come. Glorify your Son that Your Son may also glorify You
The specific “text of the prayer has become famous down through the years. And it is extremely important, as we will see, but it must always be understood in the context of these opening statements. You see, the “tone” of this whole prayer was the ultimate glorification of the Father and the Son. Notice the phrase “glorify your Son.” This is a reference to all that is about to happen – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And they all have to be taken together. The death of Christ was as much a part of that glorification as the resurrection was. And that is important to understand, because we tend to think of “glorious” things as “non-painful” or even “non threatening.” And that glorification of the Son would, in turn, glorify the Father, the next phrase will go on to say. As we understand the overall plan of God, the death of Christ glorifies the Father in our hearts and minds. This is why, on the mount of transfiguration Jesus and Moses and Elijah “spoke of His decease” which He would accomplish. . . .” at the cross.
And then the text of the request is in verses 2 and 3.
“As you have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. (3) And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Actually the whole paragraph, verses 1 through 3, forms the text of the request, but these are the essence of it. The glorification of the Father comes from the fact that He has given Christ the authority to give eternal life to those who believe. And those who believe are enabled to do so by the Father (working through the Spirit, as Jesus pointed out in chapter 16.) So this is a total gift to human beings – even the ability to understand and accept the gospel comes from God. Then in verse 3 that gift of eternal life is further clarified:
And this is eternal life that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Now if you are thinking, this may come as a surprise. We tend to think “eternal life” as “heaven” – something far off in the future. But think carefully about this definition of eternal life: “that they may know You . . . and Me.” Does that say anything about a time or place? No! This is because eternal life begins the moment you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior! Don’t think of eternal life as something off in the future when you will have the privileges of salvation. “Eternal life is the privilege of knowing God the Father and God the Son right now. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances. Someone has said that the word “eternal” refers to a quality of life, not length of life. Heaven will be a nicer location and better circumstances, but the real essence of eternal life is the fellowship that we have with God right now!
So that is “the request” that Jesus makes of the Father: that glorification for both of them. But the second part of the prayer is the report that He gives in verses 4 and 5:
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do. (5) And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was.”
Notice the summary of all that Christ had done: “glorified you on the earth.” Now stop and think about this for a moment: what is Christ famous for? Even among unbelievers and liberals, He is respected as a great teacher and “example” (which is ridiculous. If that is all He was – if you limit it to that He was either a liar or a lunatic of the first order. But among Christians in general He is He is thought of as “the great physician,” “the miracle worker,” “the teacher.” And ultimately He is “the Savior.” But all of that is summarized in terms of “glorifying the Father.” Jesus did not come primarily to raise the dead (although He did do that) He did not come primarily to heal the sick) (even though He also did that) He did not even come to teach about the Father, although He certainly did do that. Each of these things, and all of them together, were for the purpose of glorifying the Father. So it is on that basis, then that He repeats His request for glorification in verse 5.
The second thing we want to notice about this prayer is the paternal nature of it in verses 6 through 25. The thing that Christians down through the years have noticed about this last prayer of Jesus is that the subject of it is His believers. Think of all of the things He might have prayed about: His excitement about coming home, strength for the agonies that lay ahead for Him in the coming hours, that everybody would understand the significance of the crucifixion they were about to see; and who knows what else? But look at what He prays about: You and me! And all of His other spiritual children to come.
First their regal background is reviewed in verses 6 through 8. Now wait a minute!” you may say. “Weren’t just ordinary men who had become believers in Christ?” Why do you call it “regal”? Well, look at these verses:
I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, you gave them to Me out of the world and they have kept your word. (7) Now they have known surely that I came forth from you, and they have believed that You sent Me.
This just emphasizes again that we would not be saved or even understand anything about our salvation without God’s direct activity in our lives. But notice carefully that these verses say in detail that that is exactly what God has done – involve Himself in our lives! But not only did our salvation “originate” with the Father, in verses 9 through 12 we find that Jesus requested blessings for us after our salvation
Notice who the specified recipients of the blessings are in verses 9 and 10
I pray for them, I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are yours (10) And all mine are yours and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
This should forever do away with the idea of “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” idea. It is true that God is the creator of all men, but He is the Father only of those who believe. A separate study along this line is the use of the terms “neighbor” and “brother” in the context of believers and unbelievers. Another example is Galatians 6:10 – Do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith”
So the blessings that Jesus is asking the Father for are specifically for believers only, including future believers as well.
There is more to the chapter but let me try to summarize what we have seen thus far. First, the “tone” of this whole prayer is the ultimate glorification of the Father and the Son! There are many “by-products” and blessings that come with that glorification. So while everything we do and have is a part of the glory of God, it is also true that everything we hold dear is as safe as the glory of God as well.
The first request is that the Father would satisfy them read verses 11 through 15 and think through them carefully. I realize that the term “satisfy” doesn’t appear anywhere in these verses, but it is a good “summary” term for what Jesus is asking. Look at the specific requests in the passage: in the last part of verse 11 He asks “that they may be one as we are”
Then in the last part of verse 13 He asks that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
And in verse 15 He says “I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one.
Isn’t it interesting that He doesn’t pray that we would be taken out of the world? All through chapters 15 and 16 He had told them about how they will be hated and mistreated. So why not remove us from all of that? Because, bottom line, there would be no one to spread the gospel. But since He needs us to stay in the world, He makes provision for us – “to be kept from the evil one.”
The third request is to unify them in verses 20 through 23.
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. (21) that they all may be as one, as You, Father, are in me. And I in you. that the all may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (22) And the glory that you gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: (23) “I in them and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as You have loved me.
And the fourth request is to glorify them in verses 24:
Father I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which you have given me; for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.
That brings us, then, to the third and last section of the chapter, which is The Purposeful Nature of the Prayer in verses 25 and 26
O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. (26) And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
As we wrap up this study, let’s think about what we have seen: First, that the “tone” of this whole prayer was the ultimate glorification of the Father and the son! There are many wonderful benefits for us in the plan of God for us. But those are only “by-products” of God’s own honor and glory. So while everything we do and have is a part of the glory of God, it is also true that everything we hold dear is as safe as the glory of God as well!
The purpose of these studies is to help people come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Romans 3:23 says that “All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “And Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” And John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. If you will sincerely ask Him to forgive your sins and give you eternal life He will readily do so. Having trusted Him as your savior it is my hope that the lessons will help you grow in grace and bring others to know Him as well. If you would like more information you may contact me at “firstname.lastname@example.org