Chapter One – John 17:1

From “Studies in the Lord’s Prayer,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield

John 17:1

Would you say that the Lord Jesus was, or was not, a man of prayer? The answer is obvious. To picture Christ Jesus as anything less than the epitome of the true Intercessor approaches blasphemy. Even at this moment He is at the right hand of the Father interceding on the behalf of His own. And a casual study of the Gospels shows that He when He was walking among us incarnate, He was constantly bringing God the Father and us, His brethren, together at the heavenly throne. Furthermore, there has never been anyone who successfully prayed “without ceasing” while upon earth – except our Saviour. How many times during your life have you deliberately spent an entire night in prayer? and how many times are we told that Lord Jesus did exactly that? Without a doubt He was a man of prayer. John 11:41-42 says:”Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,” and He knew that He was always heard.

Of the many prayers of Christ which are recorded in the Word of God, this chapter contains the longest. And unlike the example that we have in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke, this really is the Lord’s prayer. It came after the Passover and Lord’s Supper, when Jesus and His disciples were all back outside under the stars. Some think that it was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps, but it was probably prior to that other great prayer.

This was somewhat like the dismissal prayer at the end of a great church service. It was family prayer, with no one there but the disciples. It was parting prayer and anticipatory prayer. It is a wonderful specimen of the Lord’s communion with His Father. It is a pattern of intercession for us to follow.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus never really prayed with his disciples? He prayed before them, so that they could see, hear and learn, and He gave instructions to them in regard to their own prayer lives. But His relationship to the Father was so very different from theirs that He never prayed,”Our Father we bring these corporate requests to your throne of grace.” Never did Jesus ask Peter, John or any of the others to put words to His prayers: “Andrew, why don’t you lead us in prayer?” In Gethsemane, He told the disciples to watch and pray, but He didn’t join them in their prayers.

This is the greatest of the Lord’s recorded prayers; it is truly the Lord’s prayer. Out of all the hours that the Lord spent in communion with the Father, this was one of the few that was recorded for us. We are obligated to accept the privilege of this study. We are sinful and spiritually negligent if we shirk this privilege.

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to Heaven, and said. . .”

The first words of this verse point back to what Jesus had been saying and teaching. It is like a chapter division in a great book. When the Lord had finished teaching, He began praying. And He lifted up his eyes to heaven. Think about this: if there was a globe of the world sitting right before you, and it was standing with the North Pole towards the ceiling, where would Israel be in relation to the North Pole? If the Lord Jesus looked up toward heaven, what direction would He be looking? On the other hand, if we look up when we pray, what direction are we looking? Can we be absolutely sure that we’re looking toward the Heaven of Heavens?

There are two primary verses in the Scripture which lead some people to conclude that the Heaven of Heavens is towards the north: Psalms 48:2: “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.” And Isaiah 14:13: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” So what is the Lord Jesus doing lifting His eyes toward the south east?

This is not teaching us to look for a direction, but rather for a state of heart. Christ could just as easily have closed His eyes and folded His hands. It would have accomplished the same thing. Wasn’t He clearing His eyes and heart of the things of the world? Wasn’t He limiting the distractions of the world so that He could focus on His Father? This is something that we should do whenever we pray.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and lifted up His voice, without any shame or embarrassment. He didn’t care if anyone heard Him so long as the Father did.

I don’t believe that God is overly concerned about our posture, our volume, or our gestures in prayer, except that they be true reflections of the condition of our heart. The Lord Jesus usually looked toward Heaven, as we can see in John 11. He lifted up his eyes to heaven when He blessed the food of the 5,000. That was His common posture. But when He taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name,” He didn’t tell them to look toward heaven. There is no standard and required posture.

Furthermore, He praised the publican in the temple, when he would not so much as lift up his eyes toward heaven but beat upon his breast and cried, “God, be merciful unto me, a sinner.” Jesus didn’t tell us to raise holy hands, or to kneel, or to lay flat on the ground. Any of these, and many others, might be absolutely acceptable, if they depict the attitude of our heart. There is nothing to fear in the person who raises his hands to heaven when he prays or sings. But there are some songs and some prayers when that isn’t an appropriate posture, and the man who does so then proves that his heart isn’t right with the Lord.

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to Heaven, and said, Father. . .”

Just about every man who comments on this chapter stresses the fact that we can’t begin to understand all that is contained in these words. True! Only a member of the Trinity could understand everything contained here. Even the angels of God stand in awe before this chapter.

And one of the first conundrums that we find here is in Jesus’ use of the word “Father.” I understand, to some degree, Jesus’ eternal Sonship, and the Fatherhood of First Person of the Trinity. I have a rudimentary grasp of the meaning of the “first born.” But I can only guess why the Lord Jesus calls His Father “pater” rather than “abba.”

In Matthew 7:9 and Luke 11:2, Jesus taught us to say, “Our ‘pater,’ which art in Heaven.” And here He uses the same word. Paul tells us, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, ‘Pater'” – Romans 8:15. And in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Abba, ‘pater,’ all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” I understand that “abba” is the more informal and endearing name; something akin to “Daddy.” But I don’t understand the criteria for going back and forth, by either us or the Saviour.

Throughout this prayer, in six cases, Jesus never used the term “abba”, but always “pater.” In verse 11, Jesus called the God – “Holy Father.” And in verse 25 He called him – “Righteous Father.” These should remind us not to become more familiar with the name of God than we should. The Lord may be our “Abba Father,” but He will never cease to be our “Holy Father.” Remember that.

“Father, the hour is come.”

The hour to which the Saviour refers, is the hour of his sacrifice for our sins. At times when He speaks of this hour, He appears to refer to the complete salvation transaction: death, burial, resurrection, and presentation in Heaven. At other times He just seems to refer to His death alone. At the marriage in Cana when His mother came to the Lord telling Him that the host was running out of wine, Jesus replied, “My hour is not come.” That doesn’t really sound like His crucifixion, but it does touch on His glorification. And then there were times when the Jews tried to kill Him but couldn’t “because His hour was not yet come.”

But that hour had now arrived. One of the lessons here is that there is an hour for each of us. For example,”It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Just as Jesus was untouchable until that hour, there is a sense in which that is true of us as well.

This hour of Christ had been a long, long time in coming. For more than 4,000 years Adam had been waiting for it. “But only in the fullness of time, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law.” Yet even then, there were thirty years of obscurity, and then 42 more months of ministry. But now finally, the hour of salvation had arrived. The time of the crushing of the serpent’s head had arrived; the Saviour bared His heel.

But for Christ Jesus, personally, it wasn’t salvation, it was death. Was this word spoken with pleasure? “0h, boy the hour has finally arrived!” In a few minutes at Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t sound very thrilled that the hour had come. But one consolation is that an “hour” is a relatively short period of time, in comparison to its eternal effects.

“Father, glorify thy son,”

This chapter is sometimes called “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer” for the Saints. And indeed it is. But it begins with a request for Himself. In order for any of us to be a blessing to others, we need to first be blessed ourselves. In a sense that seems to be true of the Saviour as well.

But what exactly is the glory to which Jesus refers? It is not a request for the crucifixion, or even for the resurrection. I think that the next verse explains it: “Glorify thy Son in the salvation of those whom you have chosen.”

In this we have one of the paradoxes of Christianity. The salvation of the elect was already guaranteed. They have been chosen since before the foundation of the earth, and none whom the Father gave the Son could ever be lost. In addition to this, the glorification of the Son was guaranteed as well. There had been an eternal covenant established between the Father and the Son. Yet despite that unbreakable covenant, the Lord still prayed for its fulfilment. It’s like our praying to the Father for things about which the Lord has already made promises. Should we not pray, because we know that He knows our request before we ask it? We continue to pray. The point is, we need to pray and fellowship with our heavenly Abba, even though the prayer, in itself, is not as important as we might think.

“Father, glorify thy son.”

Do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples about Lazarus’ sickness and death? “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God” – John 11:4. Do you see how that is similar to Jesus’ passion and death? It doesn’t culminate in death – death is just a chapter somewhere in the middle of the book. This sickness and this crucifixion are actually for the glory of God. And like Lazarus’ sickness and Jesus’ death, these are indications of the saints’ future glory too. Christ died that we may live, and Jesus was glorified that we may be likewise glorified. Notice something else here: Jesus could have said, “GlorifyME, that I also may glorify thee,” but he didn’t. He prayed, “Glorify THY SON, that THY SON also may glorify thee.” This was all about relationships, authorities and covenants. It’s not a matter of personal blessing to Jesus or to the Father. This is a fulfillment of the eternal covenant, not a simple blessing to Jesus.

“That thy Son also may glorify thee.”

Who but the Father’s equal could ever pray like this? We might pray to be glorified, based upon the promises and declarations of God’s Word. We know that for us to be glorified, He must be glorified first. But this is just the reverse. Who among us would dare to pray for our elevation, so that He might be glorified? No one but the Son of God could beseech the Lord like this.

And what was Jesus’ highest passion and goal in life? Some might say that it was the saving of souls. I think that was just a means to a greater end. The passion of Christ was to glorify His Father. But didn’t the Lord Jesus glorify His Father throughout his life? Without a doubt! You and I can even glorify God in the way that we brush our teeth and comb our hair. Unfortunately, we can also do just the opposite, under certain circumstances, when we neglect these things. But there are bigger things, crowning things, which God has ordained to bring Him honor above all the other things in our lives. And nothing in the life of the Lord Jesus glorified the Father like the bringing of many sons into glory.

What is the major lesson of this verse? The great lesson of this verse is that our every desire, like our Lord Jesus’ desire, should be for the glory of God.

Go to Chapter Two »