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

John 17:13

My wife, Judy, and I had been married a long time before either of us left the other’s side for any length of time. Sure, we had gone to work, to the store, and to class many times, being gone for a few hours, but neither of us had ever been away from the other for more than day. In fact, as far as I can remember, Judy and I had kids before that ever happened. The only exception was when I was on deputation as a missionary and Judy was living with her parents.

But it came to pass in the process of time that I was invited away to a Bible conference. It was going to be gone for less than week. I was flying in and flying out. We had probably been married for 400 or 500 weeks by that time. As we parted at the airport, Judy was in tears, and I had a very heavy heart as well.

This was something new to both of us, and to ease my conscience and mind, while in Texas, I bought little gifts for everyone back home. When the plane finally returned me to Calgary again, I gave everyone a little memento of my absence. I suppose that thousands of Dads have done that millions of times.

There is a whole industry for this sort of thing. Why else are there those gift shops at the airport all stuffed with all those stuffed animals? But isn’t that sort of practice a little backward? When Dad steps off that airplane and hugs and kisses his wife and all the kids, shouldn’t that be the welcome home gift? The time when everyone needs the memento and heart-warming present is while he’s still gone. I suppose that all of us Dads inwardly hope that everyone at home is miserable because we’re away.

A part of this prayer, overheard by Jesus’ disciples, is a going away gift. When the Lord returns, He won’t need to bring us any mementos. Right now is when we need the heart-warming, soul-warming reminders of His love.

“Father, now come I to thee . . .”

Remember that this is not Hebrew, English, Chinese or even Aramaic or Greek. This is the language of the eternal God, this is “Christese.” When we pray, we sometimes say, “Father, we come to thee in the name of Jesus.” But when Jesus says, “And now I come to thee,” he’s not talking about this prayer. He’s talking about His ascension to Heaven which is still a few days away. The Lord is not bound by, or concerned about, time the way that human beings are.

One of the really interesting things about much of this prayer is our Lord’s overlooking the cross. Here He is on one side of the cross looking over toward His resurrection and ascension on the other side. Is the crucifixion not important to Him? Is He living in denial? No, He is simply looking at the mountain peak of His ascension and His glorification, ignoring the deep ravine that lies between the place where He is standing and where Hen is going to stand.

“Now I come to thee. Now my mission has been accomplished. I have defeated death and Hell. I have overcome the world. I have defeated the law of sin and death. Now I come to thee with the blood of the sacrifice in my hands to sprinkle on the Mercy Seat. I have redeemed those whom thou hast given me. I coming home to prepare those mansions. Father, glorify thou me, with the glory that we had before the foundation of the world.”

Notice, that even though the Lord prays for the reinstatement of His former glory, He doesn’t ask permission to come home. This is not the prayer of a prodigal who has wasted his substance on earth in riotous living.

There has never been a life better spent than the one enjoyed by our Lord Jesus. He hasn’t been rehearsing a prayer of confession begging to become one of His Father’s servants. This is a bold statement, made without pride or arrogance, “Father, I’m coming home.” And in the language of eternity, He might have added: “And I’m bringing your chosen ones with me.”

“And these things I speak in the world. . . “

It’s a very great danger that pastors face, and I suppose that it is true to some degree for everyone, but there is a temptation to preach to people while we pray to God. There are people who argue and nag other people during their public prayers. Sometimes it’s obvious that the prayer leader is not thinking about the Lord, to whom he should be praying. Sometimes he’s thinking only of those sinners around him. That is a shame and probably a sin on his part.

I’m not going to accuse the Lord of any wrong doing, but what He says at this point is that the thing about which He has been praying has benefit to the disciples who are overhearing Him. I couldn’t find any commentaries which teach that this statement is referring to earlier instruction. The Lord is not referring at this point to lectures that He made last week or last month. But even if we assume that Jesus was talking about comments made at the supper table, or even if he was talking about Bible lessons given throughout the last three years, there is enough in the first twelve verses of this prayer to fill our hearts with praise and warmth enough to carry us from that day until the day of His return for us.

Doesn’t it warm your heart to know that Christ Jesus has been given power over all flesh? Isn’t it wonderful to know that eternal life is a gift and not a reward? And what about the fact that not a soul given to Christ will somehow slip through eternity without receiving that great gift? The Lord has manifested the Father unto us, and taught us the nature of eternal life. We have seen the glory of the Father in the person of the Son. By the grace of God we have kept the Word of the Lord in repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. We have been given the gift of knowing that Christ came out from the Father and that He has returned to the Father in preparation for the completion of our salvation.

I find it heart-warming to know that the Lord so loves us that He prays for us especially, and not for the rest of the world. And He has asked the Father to keep us while Jesus is physically absent.

These are all things which we have overheard the Saviour request from the Father for us. And we are confident that the Saviour’s intercessory prayers are heard and answered affirmatively. I think that I can see my name on one of the jewels on His breastplate and again on His shoulder. We really do have an high priest who has been touched with the feelings of our infirmities.

And why has He spoken these things so openly in the world?

“That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

He has spoken these things that while our Saviour is away taking care of business in Heaven on our behalf, we may have the joy, comfort and peace that is intrinsically His.

There are a number of ways to think about the joy that is His: This could refer to the joy that Christ has thinking about things that I’ve just described. Or this might speak about the joy that the Lord Jesus has in us. Sort of in the sense in which Paul spoke about the Philippians as being his joy and his crown. This could refer to the joy that we will have when living in our mansions above. But I think that rather than these, it’s talking about simply the joy of which Jesus is author and source.

I haven’t forgotten all the things that I have said in the past about the word “happy.” I know that happiness is related to the things that happen around us. I know that Christians need to emphasize the Biblical word “joy” over the word “happiness.” But there is the potential for a gross error in doing this: It can carry the idea that the Lord Jesus is not interested in our earthly happiness. There is a very real sense in which the Lord wants us to be happy.

Some people have the idea Christians who never smile can still be truly joyful, but I don’t agree. Spiritual joy, which springs from the things that are mentioned earlier in this prayer, but which doesn’t overcome the trying circumstances in which we live is not perfect joy.

The joy that we can have spiritually should be seen in our faces and attitudes physically. Paul and Silas looked and acted happy, even when beaten and bloodied in the Philippian jail.

I know that there is a difference between happiness and joy, but there is a sense in which the Lord Jesus wants us to be happy and well as spiritually joyful. He wants us to be able to whistle while we work. Sure there is a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. That is a joy which is Heavenly and not to be entertained until such time as we are full of glory. But there is joy which is for right here and now, and that is what the Lord refers to in this verse He prays in such a fashion that His joy might be fulfilled in us.

And by the way, the tense of the verb shows that the Lord wants us to continue having His joy fulfilled in us. The point is that every Christian is the proud owner of this joy. But there are so many distractions, temptation and sins of which we are guilty, that the enjoyment of this joy is overshadowed and lost by so many of us. “Father, I speak these things that my joy may keep on growing and producing in their hearts.”

Why don’t we have the joy about which the Lord Jesus prays for us?

Go to Chapter Eleven »