We know that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer to the Father.
He spent all night in prayer before choosing the 12 apostles (see here).
As his popularity grew, he would withdraw to desolate places to pray (see here).
We know that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, but we have only brief excerpts of his words. John 17 has the longest recorded prayer from Jesus Christ, and it shows His heart as he comes to the Father on behalf of his disciples.
What does Jesus Christ pray for?
He prays for his glory
First, he prays for his glory. As the cross is rapidly approaching, Jesus is comforted by the fact that the cross will bring glory to Him and to God the Father (see here). He also looks past the cross to when He will return to the Father. Jesus Christ has been the focus of total glory and honor since before the world began. He now looks ahead to his return to glory with the Father.
It is all about God’s glory. Jesus is about to endure the agony and the separation of the cross, yet he looks forward to the glory that will come through it. With this in view, Jesus says, “It is time. Let it come.”
1 Peter 3:18,22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, … who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
He shows a new relationship with God
Jesus showed the world a different relationship with God. Faithful Jews throughout the Old Testament knew of God as someone to be revered and worshipped, but Jesus introduced something new. Never before in history had anyone addressed God as “Father”.
We need to revere and worship God, yet we can also know Him closely. We can have a close relationship with Him so that we ourselves can call him Father.
There is a special significance to the name of God. In the Jewish culture, the name of a person meant much more than simply a way to identify him. A person’s name expressed the nature and character of that person. A man’s name was his essence. 
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
He prays for His own – “Father, keep them”
Jesus prays for His own. These are the eleven disciples who are standing with him. Jesus recalls the following about them:
- The Father gave them to him out of the world
- They believed the words of God
- They obeyed God
- They know that Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father
- They know that Jesus Christ was empowered by God the Father
- Jesus taught them the Father’s character (his name)
God the Father had given these eleven disciples to Jesus Christ. But His own are much more than these eleven. This prayer and these promises are for all who have believed in Him. We became part of His own when we believed in Jesus Christ.
Jesus asks the Father to preserve us. He does not ask on behalf of the world that is rebelling against God, but he asks to preserve the believers who live in this world.
Remember again who is preserving us. We are being preserved based on the character and nature of the Holy God. Jesus kept every one of his disciples when he was on earth, and now he has committed us to the Father.
None of Jesus’ disciples were lost except for Judas, who never had believed in Him (see also here).
He left us this promise that the Father will keep us. We will not be lost. Through this promise we can have complete joy, even in severe trouble (see also here).
“But He says…I’m leaving. I’m leaving and the glory display of My presence and their surrounding that presence will change and they will remain. O Father, keep them.” – John MacArthur 
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He prays for His own – “Father, set them apart”
Believers in Jesus Christ are left in a world that is hostile to God and hates any who represent Him. Jesus does not pray for us to be taken out of this world, but that God would protect us through this world. His prayer is to protect us from the devil.
Jesus prays that God would sanctify us in this world. Literally, the word “sanctify” means to “set apart”. The truth of God’s word sets us apart from this world. We are in this world, but we are set apart to be used for God’s special purpose.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He prays for His own – “that they be one”
Jesus prays for all believers, that we be one. We have different cultures and different gifts, but we have a common Father. We are kept and set apart by the same God. We have the same hope, that we will be reunited with Jesus Christ.
Jesus prays three times that “they be one even as we are one”. Our unity is patterned after the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are united because we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
We are given close fellowship with the Holy God. As we have this close fellowship with God, we will be united with the other believers in Jesus Christ who share this same fellowship with God.
One of the results of our unity is that we show Jesus to the world. We show the world that Jesus is from God and that we have the love of God.
In the second century, Tertullian wrote that even the heathen exclaimed with admiration, “Behold how these Christians love one another.” 
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
He prays for His own – “that they be with me”
Jesus prays that we would be with Him. When we are with Jesus, we will see his glory. As Jesus promised earlier (see here), He will come back for us. We will be with him for eternity.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Jesus brought these requests to the Father before he finished his time on earth. These are not goals for us to achieve, but requests to God on our behalf. We know that all prayers by Jesus Christ are answered (John 11:42), so we can be sure that these have been done!
We know that the Lord Jesus Christ has returned to Heaven and is seated on the right hand of God the Father.
We know that we have a new relationship with God – he is now our father!
We know that the Father will keep us — nothing will separate us from him!
We know that the Father has set us apart — we are separate from this world and holy to Him!
We know that we are one in Jesus Christ — we all are one body!
We know that when we leave this mortal body, we will be with Jesus Christ!
Jesus did not pray for our action. All action in this prayer is by God the Father.
This prayer is not for what we will do. This prayer is for who we are!
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