“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed.” John 17:1 (NIV)
One of the most satisfying activities I had with my children growing up was putting them to bed. They got their pyjamas on and then picked a book for me to read to them. Richard Scarry, Jack London or whatever. Then we sang a children’s song from Sunday School and prayed.
To listen to their prayers was such a wonderful moment. You can tell a lot about a person by listening to their prayers. I not only learned about my children when they prayed but they taught me things about how to pray that I have never forgotten.
As we reflect on this chapter of John’s Gospel we are going to listen to Jesus pray. We cannot get a better teacher than Jesus in the art of prayer. What is so interesting as we read Jesus’ prayer is to consider what He asks the Father for on our behalf. You might be startled to know exactly what He wants for us and what He does NOT pray for on our behalf. Finding out what was of prime importance to Jesus and what was not revolutionized my prayer life.
As Jesus begins to tell the Father about His disciples He states a good number of positive things about them such as; “you gave them to me, they accepted the words you gave me,” they believed in Jesus’ divine mission, they glorified Jesus, and so on.
Jesus never said anything bad about the disciples although there was much He could have said in that regard. So Jesus referred to His disciples in a very tender and gracious manner.
The first thing Jesus asked for on behalf of His people is that they might be protected, John 17:11. Now you might think of a lot of things when you consider the word “protect”. Physical safety could be the very first thing that comes to mind. However, Jesus could not have meant that, good though it is, because He had already warned them in John 16:2-3 that some of them will be martyrs for His cause.
Now this does not mean we cannot pray for physical protection, just that it is not at the top of the list. In fact in this entire prayer for the disciples Jesus does not mention physical protection.
We see a few verses down in John 17:15 that Jesus wanted His followers to be protected from “the evil one”. So we see that for Jesus, physical protection is not as important as spiritual safety. Now we recognize that not everyone shares the value system of Jesus. Some cling to the physical treasures of this world at the expense of the spiritual. Some try to have both in their lives.
We need to examine our personal ambitions regarding what this life has to offer. We may be making this world our heaven as we accumulate earthly treasures. Perhaps our main satisfaction in life is to acquire all the toys we can.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah quotes God in 9:23: “This is what the Lord says, ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord.” (NIV)|.
How do you pray and for what in life? Are you a safety first person who simply wishes to pass on the more difficult trials of life? Or are you prepared to face whatever life brings as long as you “understand and know” the Lord you Creator?
God is worth whatever price it takes to acquire the knowledge of Him and to walk with this loving and faithful One. Do you agree?