JOHN 17, THE REAL LORD’S PRAYER
December 31, 2017
L. John Bost
We usually refer to the prayer given by Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13, and repeated with some variations in Luke 11:1-4, as “The Lord’s Prayer.” This prayer is not intended to be a prayer for the Lord’s disciples to repeat verbatim. It is, rather, a model prayer.
Though that prayer is usually considered, “The Lord’s prayer,” because it was given by Him, there is another prayer found in the New Testament that I believe should be referred to as “The Lord’s prayer,” rather than that one. That is the prayer recorded by John in John 17. In this article, I will explain my position on that point, and take a close look at the prayer in John.
The Traditional “Lord’s Prayer”
In Matthew 6:9, Jesus says, “After this manner therefore pray ye.” The prayer in Luke is given in response to a disciple’s request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The two prayers are not exactly the same. For example, the prayer in Matthew contains the request, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). The request in Luke, slightly less specific, reads, “Give us day by dayour daily bread” (Luke 11:3). Also, Matthew’s prayer reads, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12), whereas Luke’s prayer reads, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). and the prayer in Luke omits the statement, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever” (Matt. 6:13). These variations show that the intent of our Lord was to teach His disciples how to pray and what to pray for in a general sense. Most importantly, we are to pray acknowledging the hallowed (holy) name of God, and that God’s will must be done on earth as it is in heaven.(Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2).
John 17, the Real Lord’s Prayer
John writes, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” (John 17:1). This prayer was prayed by our Lord just before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before he was betrayed by Judas Matthew 26:36-49; Mark 14:32-45; 18:1-2). He has spent some time after announcing that He would be betrayed (Matt. 26:21-26; John 13:18-27) comforting them. Now He prays for them. The needed their Master’s prayer since He would shortly be crucified, rise, and ascend back into heaven. The work of telling the world of His sacrifice for our sins would then be theirs (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47.
Jesus first asks God to glorify Him so that He, the Son, might glorify Him (John 17:1). He would be glorified by his death and resurrection which fulfilled His mission on earth, bringing salvation to the world (John 17:4). He prefaces this request with the statement, “The hour is come,” that is, the hour of His crucifixion, literally only hours away. He gives as the reason for His request that the Father had given Him “power over all flesh” to give eternal life to as many as God had given Him(John 17:2). He was given the world and would offer eternal life to all (John3:16). He mentions that power as His authority to commission the apostles to “teach all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20).
The Savior reaffirms the truth that salvation comes through the knowledge God as the only true God, and Jesus Christ. Know, here, means, “to keep on knowing,” (Robertson). It does not mean to simply know in the sense of being acquainted with, or knowing that He exists. There is much more involved. (For a discussion of this, see What Bible Says and Salvation in Romans.
The Lord affirms what John had written in John 1:1-3, that He was in the beginning, and with the Father, created all things (John 17:5).
In John 17:6, Jesus gave the highest commendation possible. The Son says to the Father, “…thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Paul would later write, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). The apostles pleased God! The pleased God and Jesus because they knew that the words of Jesus, as He, had come from the God (John 17:6-8).
Jesus specifically prayed for the disciples, and not the world of unbelievers, because they belonged to Him and to God (John 17:9-10).
Jesus would be with the Father, but they would still in the world, so He prayed that the Holy Father would keep through His own name “that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). That oneness of the disciples is important. Jesus prayed for that unity four times in John 17 (John 17:11, 21, 22, 23). Nor was it a prayer merely for the eleven apostles. The Lord prayed in John 17:20, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” That would be us, as well as all of His people who have come before us, and will come after! He continues, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:20-21). Notice an important reason for this unity that our Lord sets forth in John 17:21, “…that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” We must be unified so that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son! (See also 1 Corinthians 1:10; Eph. 4:1-6).
In John 17:12, Jesus again mentions Judas, referring to him as, “The son of perdition. He was the only one of the twelve to be lost.
Jesus said that He said these things while in the world that the apostles would have His joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:13) They must remain in the world and endure much for Him while He is with the Father (John 17:14). They need to know that they would be hated by the world, but would be loved by Him and the Father, and would later be with Him.
Jesus did not pray that God would take the believers out of the world, but to keep them from the evil (one). They were in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-16). His prayer was that that would continue while they were in the world. He prayed that God would sanctify them (set them apart from the world for holy service) by His word, as He had sanctified Himself (John 17:15-19). Notice the affirmation by our Lord, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). This is the answer to Pilate’s question in John 18:37-38 when Jesus said, “I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth”. It is the answer to your question, “What is truth?” And it affirms that there is such thing as truth.”
After praying for the Eleven while they are on the earth, He turns, in John 17:24, to their place in Eternity. He prays that they “be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” He continues, “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” God loved the Son the beginning, while He was in Heaven, while He was on the earth, where He took the form of man (Phil. 2:5-11), and He will love Him in Heaven throughout Eternity. Now He prays that His followers be with Him there.
In John 17:25, He mentions that the world had not known the righteous Father, but He had known Him, and the Twelve had known Him. Now He prays “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
I believe that the prayer in John 17 is really “The Lord’s Prayer,” because it was actually prayed by the Lord Himself. It was a heartfelt prayer for the future of his disciples, throughout the future, that we would remain faithful to Him, though the world hates us. It was a prayer born out of the Lord’s love for God and those given Him by God.
It may be that the prayer was given in the apostles’ presence so that they would be reminded of the truths that He recounts, and be better prepared to continue His work as He was crucified, rose, and left the world, leaving them in the world that hated them to do the work that He had begun and made possible by His death – the work saving the world from its sins.
John recorded this prayer so that we might learn these truths and allow them to motivate us as we go about the work of preaching the Gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.