A torrent of words have been generated over the years in commentary on Jesus’ well-known prayer in John 17:1-26.  Any further attempt to explore the passage may then be, at best, superfluous or at worst presumptuous.  However, acknowledging those possibilities I would nonetheless like to suggest a few things about the passage that seem to be relevant in this rapidly-changing world.

  1. We know that consistent if not constant prayer were Jesus’ way of life. The accounts of His long nights of prayer and His constant reference to listening to and watching the Father which shaped His thoughts, words, and action all attest to this.
  2. Apart from His response to the disciples after their request for prayer instruction – the great Our Father prayer – the John 17 prayer is the only prayer of Jesus we have recorded. This suggests that, if Jesus had a priority prayer “agenda,” we might assume that this prayer would reflect that priority.
  3. There was an urgency to this prayer as it dealt with what was immediately ahead; His personal struggle with the approaching events; yet His commitment to the Father’s will and fulfilling the task to which He had been called. His life on earth was coming to an end and it was, in effect, 11:59:59 – the final hours.
  4. This is the second person of the Trinity speaking; the one who spoke and the worlds were created; the one in whom we live, move, and have our being. This is not idle chatter nor words one might consider optional.  While all Jesus words are true, the crucible of the situation suggests even greater gravitas for this passage and, with, that more careful consideration on our part.
  5. As He prayed for His followers, “those you gave me out of the world,” what He did and did not pray for in this urgent prayer seems extraordinarily significant. He did not pray that His followers would be great evangelists; that their theology would be pure; or even that their lives would be blameless — free of sin.  What He did pray for was their relationships – that they might be one.
  6. His prayer reflected the reality that since Genesis 1-3: man’s sin had destroyed the beauty and unity of God’s design — destroying relationships with God; man with himself, with others, with the created order, and with eternity.
  7. The unity for which He prayed was not theoretical but, rather, one that was tangible and visible to the world around us – something very different from the norms of estranged, broken relationships.
  8. He indicates that the unity of His followers was to be a principal sign to the world of His own personal credibility. The world can believe that He is who He claimed to be by seeing the radical difference of transformed relationships among His followers.  His life is to result in visible unity – His power alive and at work in us!  In short, Jesus’ reputation, in a very real sense, is bound up in how the world sees our relationships.
  9. These factors suggest that tangible, visible unity among believers is not an option – another goal among many. Rather, it is a priority of the highest order as suggested in Psalm 133 where God’s blessing is associated with the status of His people’s relationships!
  10. These factors have certainly influenced my own priorities for years. But, more significant, they have been demonstrated time and again as partnerships of God’s people have come together focused on seemingly “impossible” spiritual challenges.  And, as these individuals and their ministries have joined hands, we have repeatedly seen breakthroughs – people coming to Christ and His church emerge where, in many cases, there had been no church in 2,000 years.