John 17 #1 The Battle Prayer of Christ

Introduction: We are about to step upon holy ground.  It is always uncomfortable to step into the presence of one who is praying, but we are about to enter into the communion between the Son of God and his Heavenly Father. We do so only because God has deliberately willed this most precious and holy moment to be shared with us. This prayer reveals the heart of God. But, it is much more than a pleasant peek into the heart of Jesus, it is a prayer of war! That is why he prays for himself, for his disciples and for you and me. There is an enemy who stands opposed to the glory of God and the joy of his people. The intercession of Jesus will insure his victory over the devil on the cross; the disciples’ protection and the success of their mission; and our salvation and safe passage into eternal joy in God. It is an incredible, powerful prayer! This devotional will be life changing.

 If you choose to join me in this devotional study, I would suggest that you read this chapter each day with a pencil and pad. You will be amazed how the Spirit of God uses a concentrated study of a single passage when it is devoured for an extended period of time in an atmosphere of prayer. Glorious insights will leap from the pages of this most holy text, grabbing your heart while giving you hope. Our devotional will have thirteen installments. Each one will be written with prayer that Jesus Christ will be magnified in your eyes and that you will grow in your delight and in your strength to fight. If that sounds good to you, if you are ready to grow, let’s begin.

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:  “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  John 17:1

Phillip Melanchthon wrote, “There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son of God himself, ” John Stott has a similar view and pens, “The best we can do is paddle in the shallows.” To read these words is to enter into a holy place we are not prepared to go. It is an intimate communion between the Son of God and his Heavenly Father. It happens at the crucial moment in history, when the Father’s plan to glorify himself through the death of his Son is about to be consummated. Given all that is at stake, the crucifixion of Jesus, atonement for sins, defeat of death, victory over the devil and the glory of God fully manifest, this prayer is indeed hallowed ground.   

“After this,” refers back to what has been called the Upper Room Discourse, where Jesus gave his final words to his beloved disciples. He ended this discourse by telling them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33] There is no way to “sugar coat” the truth. Christ’s disciples are at war. But, it is a war that has been won. This prayer will reinforce our confidence in battle. 

We are not told where this prayer took place. Ray Stedman has suggested that it was given in the Kidron Valley just before they went up into the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. We simply don’t know for sure. But, what is clear is that it was a public prayer meant to be heard and recorded. This is not the first time Jesus’ prayer was recorded. At Lazarus’s tomb Jesus said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” [John 11:41-42; John 12:27-28]. Prayer reveals the heart. This is especially true when approaching the time of our death.   

The fact that Jesus prayed at this moment is significant itself. The Father was in control. Jesus was on his way to the cross. Still, Jesus prayed that his mission would be completed. It is another example of God’s will, which was determined in eternity past, being initiated by prayer. Jesus was not caught up in fatalism but a fellowship of love and obedience. In the same way, we must not think that just because we are doing “God’s will” that it will automatically happen without prayer. Prayer must accompany the Word. John Calvin said it this way: “Jesus here shows teachers an example, so that they should not only occupy themselves in sowing the Word, but by mixing their prayers with it should implore God’s help, that his blessing should make their work fruitful.” In other words, if it was important for Jesus to pray, how much more should we, his struggling servants, pray. Spiritually dead sermons, lessons and lives do little to win battles. “Prayer is the price of power, and the church is not likely to recover its lost authority until this basic biblical truth is recovered.“ [John Stott] Our lives take on spiritual authority only when we pray.

Jesus addressed God as Father. That was a shocking innovation to the Jews of his day. God was high and lifted up, unapproachable in his holiness. Actually, Jesus calls him “Daddy,” the Aramaic equivalent of a son’s joyful greeting to his beloved father. It displays not only a reverence but a holy intimacy between the Son and the Heavenly Father. Through Jesus, we can now go to him with that same kind of reverence and intimacy and pray, “Our Father, in Heaven.” [Matthew 6:9; Gal. 4:6]     

The “time” or the “hour” is the strategic destination of Jesus mission. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” [John 12:27-28] The “hour” is the moment Jesus brings glory to the Father by dying on the cross. The cross became the place where the name of God was most clearly manifested. His holiness, his wrath toward sin, his justice, his love for sinners, and the incredible cost he would pay to accomplish his plan, is as mind boggling and as it is heart-warming. There simply is no other event in all of history that compares in its beauty and splendor. Jesus came to earth to show the Father and the cross was his final and clearest revelation.

The other night I watched the induction to the Hall of Fame of a man who many believe to be the greatest basketball player who ever lived. It was a great moment for this man. But, he ruined it. Instead of taking the time to thank all of the people that helped him achieve his lofty success, he used that time to get even with anyone he perceived failed to give him the honor due him. How sad! 

The One who has every right to compel honor, didn’t. His prayer, “Glorify your Son,” may seem like he was also self-centered until we hear the point of petition, “that your Son may glorify you.” The glory he was seeking went through the cross and resulted in the glory to the Father. To glorify means to display the beauty, wisdom or power that have been hidden. It is not an attempt to make God look better. That would be blasphemy. It is like a telescope which brings the glory of the universe closer so it can be seen and enjoyed. So, Jesus’ life and death had one overriding purpose: to magnify the beauty of the Father by obeying him, even to the point of death on a cross.    

Do you see the unbelievable way God brings glory to his name? He does it by honoring others. The Father honors the Son while the Son honors the Father. God honors us by serving us, not because we deserve it but because he is gracious. Because of the cross, we have been set free to serve just as Jesus does. “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” [2 Cor 5:15] Our lives have no value except in bringing glory to God through our devotion to Christ. Christ’s life, death and intercession have enabled us to live for him. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” [1 Cor 10:31]
Use this day to win the battle over a selfish, useless life. Turn you attention from your problems and find somebody to serve and in doing so, honor Jesus Christ who served by dying for you.

“God I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” Jim Elliot