The Last Supper has ended. Jesus has comforted, taught and warned his disciples. He has promised and foretold marvelous things. Then, as related to us in John 17, he prays.
This climactic prayer of Jesus is the most direct and concentrated unveiling of the inner counsels of the Godhead in all of Scripture. Here, we may look on in wonder as the Son pleads the longing of his heart to the Father, with whose will the Son is in full accord. Here we are shown, plainly, what is on the mind and in the heart of God. Here is expressed the very essence of the will of God, both his eternal purpose and the passionate love that propels it.
We have received a mighty promise: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him (1John 5:14-15). Perhaps the most fruitful, effectual (and necessary) praying we can do is that inspired and informed by the prayer of Jesus in John 17, which clearly sets forth “the will of God.” Indeed, the passage in 1John continues: If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life (1John 5:16). The promise given in verses 14-15 is directly followed by an example of the nature or quality of prayer John has in mind: not for things of this world, but for restoration and victory in the life of a believer overtaken by weakness, error or sin.
With conditions, God hears our prayers for daily bread, healing, and other temporal needs. But the prayer closest to his heart, prayer which will yield eternal fruit and joy in us and in those we pray for, is that which seeks, above all else, what Jesus Christ himself desires above all else. And that, thank God, can be known. The Word clearly reveals it.
It is good to meditate on John 17, letting the words of Jesus sink down into our hearts.
Some final thoughts:
Jesus did not mouth platitudes. He asked for monumental but real things, with full expectation. In alignment with his desires, so can we. So should we. The fulfillment of the Divine will may, to some extent, await your pleading and mine: The Body grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph 4:16, emphasis added).
Jesus sees the Church, his Body, his Bride, in its totality. In his sight, if any part suffers or lacks, the whole suffers or lacks. We need this perspective in order to pray according to his will. It is natural (and perfectly acceptable) to pray for individuals and congregations whom we know. But we must also dare to bring the whole Church before the throne of grace, for we are a Body, a Family. We are connected and related to every other member through Christ. Let reports of trouble or sin or failure in our Body stir us to prayer for “mercy, and grace to help in time of need.”
Lord, you know those who are yours in the world today. You know and love each one of us. You have called each of us by name. You desire—you prayed, and continue to make intercession for us—that we will be kept from evil, that we will be sanctified and strengthened in our walk with you, that we will grow up together into unity and love that glorify you, and that we will be with you where you are, beholding your glory and delighting in you forever. Please give us understanding and grace, that we may desire what you desire, and that we may pray earnestly that this, your will, be accomplished in each of your children and in all of your children. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done!