The Son’s Prayer In John 17


Part Three: The Son Asked For The Apostles (Verses 6-19)

By David Anderson

All believers in Christ are included in this second part of the Son’s prayer because He said, “I do not ask* for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (v.20 ESV). That means each and every successive generation of believers. Therefore, from now on whenever I refer to the apostles or other disciples, I am including every believer of the Christian era.

He was urgent in prayer because He was about to leave His chosen followers behind in the world. His concern for their well-being was expressed in His words, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You” (v.11). Then more fully He said, “While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (vv.12-13). Additionally, in verse 14, He underlined the continuing hatred they would face from the world because, like Him, they are “not of the world.”

With these thoughts on His mind, the Lord Jesus made His own the focus of His prayer. “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours” (v.9). He was confident that the outcome of their witness to Him would be that His name would be magnified, therefore He said, “I am glorified in them” (v.10). In verses 10-12 He asked for their safety and security as they served Him in the world – that they would be preserved, that is, kept in the good of the Father’s name.

We realize how much the Son wanted them to grasp about His Father when we read John 13-17. In these chapters the name Father is mentioned 53 times, which approximates to half of the total occurrences in the gospel of John. Twice in John 17, in verses 11-12, the Lord referred to Father as the name He was to especially make known to His own people. To be kept in the name of the Father is to be in the knowledge, understanding and benefit of its meaning. We must remember that our salvation depends solely on who the Father is in His nature and on what He does. “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father … 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. I and the Father are one” (10:17-18,27-30).

The Lord Jesus was conscious that He was leaving His disciples behind in a hostile and evil world, which would hate them because it hated both Him and His Father. He had already warned them about the true nature of the world and its attitude towards them:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated Me without a cause’ (15:18-25).”

While He was with His disciples He prayed about this attitude of the world and the situation His own would soon face. He prayed that during His absence they would have the experience of being completely full of His joy (17:13). Then He asked the Father for their protection from the hatred of the world and from its ruler, the Evil One (vv.14-15). He also stated that this necessitated their sanctification – that they would be practically separated to the Father by obeying His Word, which is truth (vv.16-18). The Son was sending them into the world in the same way He had been sent by His Father (v.18).

John 17:19 records the special action that the Lord Jesus took on their behalf. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (NKJV). He set Himself apart for them in heaven as their High Priest to enable them – and by extension us – to be holy in lifestyle. Verse 19 is the assurance that He continues to intercede for us even now, and it is the reason why John 17 is often called “His high priestly prayer.”

We need to understand however that it is only as we obey the Word of God – not to be conformed to the world – that we will be practically separated to God’s service (Rom. 12:2). Let us heed John’s warning in his first letter: “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (2:15), which are very appealing to the flesh, or sinful nature. If we fail to do what John has urged we will not have the Father’s love within us, for we will not experience the reality of family life with God (2:15-17).

*The ESV uses “ask” in verses 15 and 20 but “pray” in verse 9 to translate the Greek word erotao. W. E. Vine wrote: “erotao (#2065, Strong’s) more frequently suggests that the petitioner is on a footing of equality or familiarity with the person whom he requests … In this respect it is significant that the Lord Jesus never used aiteo in the matter of making request to the Father. ‘The consciousness of His equal dignity, of His potent and prevailing intercession, speaks out in this, that as often as He asks, or declares that He will ask anything of the Father, it is always erotao, an asking, that is, upon equal terms (Jn. 14:16, 16:26, 17:9,15,20), never aiteo, that He uses. Martha, on the contrary, plainly reveals her poor unworthy conception of His person, that … she ascribes that aiteo to Him which He never ascribes to Himself, as in John 11:22’ (Trench, Syn. Sec. xl)” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words). Therefore, I have used the word “asked” in the sub-titles of each part of this series to reflect the fact that the Son speaks as an equal with His Father throughout His prayer.