Friday, February 22, 2008

Study on Prayer - week 4

As we come tonight to the 4th of our studies on Prayer, we’re taking a completely different track by looking at what is called “The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus” found in John 17. In my studies of this chapter, I really wish we’d done a 4 week study of this chapter like we did of Luke 15. There’s just so much here that we won’t have time to get into. So, this is going to just be an overview of the chapter.

As I told someone the other day - my desire in teaching is to give people the “want-to”! I want you to “want to” read and study God’s Word!

To understand what and why John wrote, you have to know when, and to whom he was writing. The gospel was written around 85 AD., about 10 years before John would be exiled to the island of Patmos. It was written in an era not so different from our own.

To the mostly Gentile-Christian men and women living in the (so-called) “modern” world around the Aegean Sea, the Temple in Jerusalem was just a pile of rubble. Fifty years, 500 years, or 2000 years - old fashioned is old fashioned, and the past is the past and they didn’t see how any of that related to them.

F.F. Bruce in his book “The Message of the New Testament” says, “The climate of opinion by which this generation had its thinking moulded was not greatly concerned about historical fact: eternal truth was the important thing. Historical fact was tied to time and place… and an insistence on historical fact obscured the universal relevance of eternal truth.”

In other words, “why do I need to know that Bible history stuff? Just tell me about Jesus!” Sound familiar?

That’s why John wrote. He said, in effect, “You DO need to know that “stuff.” John’s Gospel was very particular about the things it included. Many people feel that it is just a ‘fill-in” of the things the other gospels left out. No, everything written in it is there for a reason.

In John 20:30-31 he writes, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (Emphasis added)

This prayer that we’re studying tonight is called the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. Do you know why? Do you know the function of a High Priest? Do you know what the “Day of Atonement” is?

We don’t have time to get into all that tonight (that’d make a good study in itself!) But, we do need to know a little. True, we can just read the scripture and see that Jesus is praying for Himself, His disciples, and for us, but unless we understand what His words mean, most of it won’t make sense to us.

On your handout I’ve included scriptures from Leviticus which explains what happens on the Day of Atonement, and from Hebrews which explains how Jesus is that Great High Priest. (By the way, it’s been said that Leviticus is the most “New Testament” of the Old Testament, for what it teaches about Jesus, and Hebrews is the most “Old Testament” of the New Testament for what it teaches of the fulfillment!)

Anyway, this is it in a nutshell - everything about the Tabernacle or the Temple in the Old Testament is just a “pattern” or you might say a “scale model” of Heaven. Everything about…everything, represents some aspect of God’s Holy City - the priests, the Levites, the utensils, the sacrifices, the altar, the incense, the veil - everything is a “likeness” of what will be. I don’t understand it all yet, I just know that it is.

In the Old Testament, the high priest offered the blood of the offering to God for the forgiveness of sin - his own as well as everyone else’s. He “interceded” for the people. And it was on-going.

In the fulfillment of this, Jesus is the High Priest, one completely without sin, interceding for the forgiveness of sin - done once and for all.

In this prayer, Jesus prays for that fulfillment in His own restoration to the Glory of Heaven, (it’s like He can’t wait to get home!) And He intercedes not only for the 11 disciples who are there with Him, but He also prays for us as well. And we’ll look briefly at just what He prays for (which, by the way, gives us an excellent model of how we are to pray for others!)

To set the scene for you…

It is Thursday night of Holy week. Jesus and 11 of His disciples have left the Upper Room in John Mark’s house, and are making their way toward the Kidron valley where they will cross over to the Mount of Olives where a garden with an olive press, called a “gethsemane”, is located (Instead of “The Garden of Gethsemane” it should be “The garden of the gethsemane - it’s a “thing” not necessarily a “place.”…). Jesus often stays here when He is in Jerusalem…

While they were in the Upper Room, they had participated in the Passover meal, what we call The Last Supper, and had their feet washed by Jesus, and then after that Judas left out, but the other disciples didn’t know why. After they sang a hymn they all left out. It was around midnight….

As they walked along, Jesus shared many things with them. He talked almost nonstop - like He has so much to say, in such a short amount of time… and indeed He does.

Then all of a sudden, as they come to the edge of the Kidron Valley, I think Jesus just stops! He lifts His hands toward heaven and just starts praying! I think it caught them off guard. Have you ever been around someone who just, all of a sudden, started praying? And not only that, but as He prays, He is praying for them!

Have you ever had someone pray, specifically, for you? How did it make you feel?

This is a prayer that was meant to be heard. Don’t let anyone tell you that Jesus taught against public prayer. He taught against “showy” public prayer. He taught against “insincere” public prayer, but against public prayer, just because it’s public? No, He never taught against that. There were several times when He prayed that He meant for the prayer to be heard!

Listen to the words of this prayer (read chapter 17) And imagine you’ve been walking with Jesus, listening to His words, and then He stops and begins praying…

I really wish we had time to study this prayer in depth - there is so much here! So we’ll just do a quick overview. First of all we can see that it has 3 parts.

~The first part (verses 1-5) has to do with Jesus’ relationship with the Father. The perspective of the prayer is like it’s from “the other side of the cross.” In other words, He is praying like it’s a “done deal” - like it’s already happened. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think that it was being prayed after the Resurrection! But it’s not… and in just a very few moments we’ll find Him in the Garden on His face begging the Father to let this cup pass…

But that’s not so far-fetched… how many of us have been in situations where we knew the outcome was going to be victorious, but the meantime was hell? The worst part about losing my Mother was not her death, but the 6 weeks prior to that…

Second, Jesus prays for the disciples. Verses 6-19 gives us His intercession for them as He asks God to “keep them” - keep them (verse 11) in unity; keep them (or give them) (verse 13) joy; and keep them (verse 15) safe, or “from the evil one.”

And why does Jesus pray these things for them? (Verse 18-19) that they may be sent into the world, sanctified in truth…

Third Jesus prays for us. Verse 20 says “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word, that they may be one...”

“…that they may be one…” Jesus also prays for our unity. One writer said that all the disciples were different, and all believers are different. He said there is a difference between unity and uniformity. Unity shows its best in diversity, but uniformity is threatened by diversity.

John Wesley said “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion. Therefore a man must find companions or make them.”

Then, in order to attain that “oneness”, Jesus prays for us to have the “glory” that He had. “What is Jesus’ Glory?”

First, Jesus’ Glory is the cross. Remember, Jesus never talked about being crucified; He spoke of being “glorified…” Therefore, our “cross” is our “glory.” Whatever it is that is our cross, is the thing that shows forth our glory. Now, we don't pray for difficult times, situations, or circumstances, but “when” they come (and they will come), then as Christ works in us, we show the glory that is Him in us.

Second, His Glory is His obedience to God. Philippians 2:8 says He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And third, His Glory is His relationship to God. He prays in verse 24 that “they may be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory…” In other words, He wants us in Heaven - in Paradise - with Him…

~Another thing we can see in this prayer is how it follows the model that He gave us in the Lord’s Prayer.

In the opening phrases of the prayer, we see Him coming to God as Father in heaven and hallowing His name. In verse 6 He says that “I manifested Thy name” which means that He taught the disciples about God’s character and authority.

In verses 2-4 we see Him declaring “Thy will be done - on earth as it is in heaven.”

And in verse 14 we see Jesus asking for God to protect them from the evil one…

And in the closing verses we see Jesus affirming, “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever…”

~And lastly, we see in this prayer of Jesus’, the model of how we are to pray for other believers. This prayer seeks the glory of God, even when the price is personal suffering. It affirms that whatever brings God’s glory is ultimately for our good - actually for our “best.” If you have a question about whether you should do something, ask yourself, “Does it bring God Glory?”

This prayer asks for divine protection not from suffering, but from Satan, from spiritual opposition, and from defeat. It seeks a greater unity among true believers, and looks ultimately for a reunion with our Lord.

When we pray for one another, in the way that Jesus prayed for us, we will have unity, we’ll have joy, and we will arrive safely in the Father’s arms - and that’s exactly the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

In closing, I want you to think about the hymn “In The Garden” because our next study will be Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. I want you to think about this week’s prayer and where it was that Jesus prayed it - just outside the Garden - just before taking on all the sin, of all mankind, of all eternity…

Study of Prayer - Week Four
Jesus’ “High Priestly” Prayer
AKA “The Real Lord’s Prayer”

Key statement: When we pray for one another, in the way that Jesus prayed for us, we will have unity, we’ll have joy, and we will arrive safely in the Father’s arms - and that’s exactly the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

John 17 (read it every day - in different translations if possible)
Leviticus 16:3-34 (especially verse 30)
Philippians 2:9-11
Hebrews 4:14-16
Hebrews chapters 8-9 (most important)
Hebrews 10:11-12
(Actually - it would be very helpful if you read the whole book of Hebrews. Read it in an easily understood version such as The New Living Translation.)


Do you understand why this is called “The ‘Real’ Lord’s Prayer”? Do you understand why it is called “The High Priestly Prayer”?

Have you ever just “stopped in your tracks” (or dropped to your knees) and started praying? Have you been around someone who did?

How does it make you feel when you are in the presence of someone praying specifically for you?

Do you see portions in this prayer which follow the “model” prayer?

Can you see where Jesus is praying for you, individually, in this prayer? (As the song says, “When He was on the cross, you were on His mind…”)

How does it comfort you to know, that as He was on His way to the cross, He was praying for you?

Praying the prayer of Jesus - John 17

Father, as Jesus came to you on this night of His crucifixion, He was more concerned with us than He was with Himself. As He recounted all that He had done; as He was counting down the hours until His death, His eyes were still on Your glory and our protection; on Your manifestation and our understanding of it.

He seemed so anxious for us. He knew how hard it was going to be for us sometimes, but even with that, He didn’t pray for You to take us out of the world, but to protect us from the evil one. He so wanted us to know the fellowship and “oneness” that He had (and has) with You. He wanted it to be real in our lives, so that other lives may be touched as well.

And so, Father, we pray that prayer as well. The “world” doesn’t know You, but we know You through the person of Jesus Christ, and we pray that the love with which You loved Christ may be in us as He is in us.

In His precious name we pray, Amen.



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