Praying Like Jesus

John 17

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
April 2021

Today, we want to start with a question.  How is your prayer life?  Many struggle in the area of prayer.  The truth is that one of the best ways to know how spiritual a person really is to look at that person’s prayer life.

Prayer is like a spiritual thermometer.  It gives you your spiritual temperature. The more spiritual you are, the more you know how to pray, the more you pray, the more often you pray, the more passionately you pray.

One of the best ways to learn how to pray is to listen to someone who knows how to pray. Wouldn’t it be great if we could listen to some of Jesus prayers?  In John 17, we get a chance to do that.  We get to hear twenty-six verses of Jesus praying to the Father.  It is like listening to him pray for five minutes.  He knew how to pray.

Jesus was the greatest miracle worker.  No one else went around walking on water, turning water into wine, raising the dead healing the sick.  He was the greatest teacher.  “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46 ESV).  No one ever preached like Jesus preached.  No one ever prayed like Jesus prayed.

Jesus prayed a little different than we do.  When we pray, we usually fold our hands, close our eyes, and bow our heads.  Jesus opened his eyes and did not look down. He looked up.  He lifted His eyes to heaven when He prayed (John 17:1).  He did that on other occasions as well, like when He fed the five thousand.  Today, we want to look at how Jesus prayed.  How do we pray like Jesus?

How to Pray Like Jesus

1) Pray Early

Jesus prayed early. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35 NIV).  Don’t wait until you go to bed at night.

Jesus did not just pray first thing in the morning, He prayed VERY early in the morning.  He prayed while it was still dark before sunrise, while most people were still sleeping. Why should we do that?  It makes God the number one priority in our lives. It means we put him first in the morning (Psalm 5:3).

2) Pray Alone

It is not wrong to pray with others, but we all need to have personal time alone with God.  It is hard to pray and concentrate when there are all kinds of distractions.  Jesus did not just pray early; He went somewhere to pray where He could be alone.

Jesus went somewhere to be alone with God.  Sometimes, He went to a mountain to pray (Luke 6:12).  He left where He was staying and went outside to pray.  He said, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6 NIV).

3) Pray Passionately

Many pray without any passion and without any emotion.  Many prayers are cold and lifeless.  They are just a religious ritual. Prayer by rote. That is not the way Jesus prayed.

He prayed passionately.  He got emotional when he prayed.  He cried when He prayed.  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7 ESV)

That passage mentions loud crying and tears.  Jesus worked up a sweat when he prayed.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44 NIV).  How many of us get emotional when we pray?  How many of us work up a sweat when we pray?

4) Pray Long

Jesus prayed long. John 17 seems like a long prayer, but it was not Jesus’ longest prayer. One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God (Luke 6:12 NIV).  Jesus prayed all night long.  We are lucky if we can pray a few minutes.  Jesus prayed for hours.  He had an all-night prayer meeting.

We need to take care of our body.  We need food but some things are more important than food.  Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34 NIV).  Some things are more important than sleep.

What is the longest we have ever prayed to God?  Two minutes?  Most of us will never pray all night light Jesus did but we should be able to pray more than two minutes.  Prayer is not just about giving requests.  It involves communion with God.  It involves worship.  It involves confession of sins.  It involves fellowship.

5) Pray for Glory

John 17 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible.  It is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible.  It is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth.  It was not a prayer of Moses or Isaiah. It was not a prayer of the great prophet Elijah.  It was a prayer of the Incarnate Son of God.  What was the first thing that Jesus prayed for?  He prayed for glory.  That word is used five times in these first five verses.  He prayed for God to be glorified.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus prayed for God to glorify Him.  Father, the hour has come. GLORIFY YOUR SON (John 17:1 NIV). And now, Father, GLORIFY ME in your presence (John 17:5 NIV).  He asks the Father to glorify Him with the glory that He had before He left heaven, “the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5 NIV).

This was not selfish.  Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, THAT YOUR SON MAY GLORIFY YOU” (John 17:1 NIV).  This is interesting.  We have lots of prayers to God.  We ask for lots of things.  How often do we pray for God to be glorified in our requests?  How often do we pray for God to be glorified on our worst days?

How often do we pray for God to be glorified in our suffering and in our pain?  We pray for God to take away our suffering and our pain.  That is not what Jesus does here.  He said, “I glorified you on the earth (John 17:4) and now I want to glorify You in My death.”

He said, “I finished the work you gave Me to do.”  That is something we all would like to say on our deathbed.  Far too many of us have regrets on our life and wish we had done things much differently.  Have we don’t the work that God gave us to do on the earth?  Do we even know what it is?

6) Pray for Others

Jesus prayed for others.  Most of his prayer in John 17 is about others.  The first five verses are about Himself, but the next twenty-one verses are all about other people.  That to me is amazing.  When we are going through something bad, we focus on ourselves.  I have.  We all have but Jesus did not just focus on Himself.  He was thinking of others on His worst day.

Jesus said seven things on the cross.  Half of them had to do with other people.  He expressed a concern about his mother.  He helped a criminal who was dying right next to him and He prayed for the sinners who crucified him.

That raises this question. How will you respond when it is your time to die? How would you pray if you knew that you were going to die the next day?

How would you pray if you knew that you were not only going to die the next day but die early in the middle of your prime?

How would you pray if you knew you were going to die an extremely violent death the next day?   If you could talk to God, the night before what would you say to Him?

John 17 brings us to the last night of Jesus’ life. He was minutes away from being arrested.  He was hours away from being tortured and killed.  He would be on the cross in twelve hours. He would be dead the next day.  His death is imminent.  He says, “the hour has come” (John 17:1).

What is most on His mind?  What does He pray for?  He prays for believers.  He prays for past believers and He prays for future believers.  He doesn’t pray for everybody.  He doesn’t pray for the world.  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9 ESV).

Here you have the Good Shepard praying for the sheep.  This is where it gets interesting.  We are in the Bible.  When Jesus said this prayer, He was thinking of us.  He had us in mind.  How does it feel to know that Jesus prayed for us and still prays for us?

Jesus prayed for us before we were even born.  What did He pray for?  Let’s look at four powerful prayer requests in this prayer.

Four Prayers for Believers

1. Jesus prayed that we would be KEPT

10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 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. (John 17:10-12 ESV)

We see that word “keep” or “guarded” three times in these verses.  Jesus says, “You gave them to me.  I kept them, while I was on earth.  Now, I am leaving, and I am asking you to keep them.”  Keep from what?  He did not just mean “to keep from harm” or “to keep from danger,” because eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred.

It was a prayer for them to be kept from the Evil One (John 17:15).  It was also a prayer to keep people saved.  The opposite of being kept is being lost (John 17:12).

That tells us a lot.  One, it tells us that every believer is in spiritual danger.  We need to be kept.  It tells us that we can’t keep ourselves safe.  Even the Apostles could not keep themselves.  We can’t keep ourselves.  We can’t keep ourselves saved.

It tells us that we need divine protection to be kept safe.  The ONLY reason that we stay saved is that God keeps us.  All we like sheep go astray every day.  This is a powerful verse for eternal security.  Other verses teach the same thing.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are KEPT by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:4-5 NKJV)

Now to Him who is able to KEEP you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24 NKJV)

Arminians believe you can lose your salvation.  They have an answer to this argument in John 17.  Their answer would be this: Jesus lost Judas.  If He lost Judas, other people could be lost as well.

Jesus said, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost EXCEPT the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12 NIV).

If you say, “None of them was lost, except one,” it seems to imply that one of the ones that God gave Him was lost. Are they right?  No.  You can see that by reading the rest of the verse.

Jesus is not saying that He tried really hard but lost one.  Jesus is not saying that He was a complete failure when it came to Judas.  Not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, THAT the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12 ESV).

Jesus says that the only one who is lost is the “son of lostness” (the son of perdition) and that was part of the divine plan. It was the fulfillment of Scripture.  It did not catch Jesus by surprise.  He was not caught off guard by what he did.  He did not fail when it came to Judas.  This was planned long ago,

In fact, two times in John we are specifically told that Jesus did NOT lose any people that God gave Him.

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose NONE of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (John 6:37, 39 NIV)

This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have NOT lost ONE of those you gave me.” (John 18:9 NIV)

2. Jesus prayed that we would be SANCTIFIED

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:14-19 ESV)

Jesus not only prayed for our security; He prayed for our sanctification.  That is a word we do not use outside of church.  It is another word for holiness.  The word “sanctify” means to “consecrate” or “make holy.”

Jesus does NOT pray for our health.  He does NOT pray for our prosperity.  He does NOT pray for our wealth.  Jesus does NOT pray that we will all be rich.  He does pray that we will be holy.

Sanctification does NOT mean that we never fall into sin.  It does NOT mean that we become sinless.  It means that we become more and more like Christ.  That should be one of the goals of our life.

This is God’s will for your life.  I Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (KJV).   It does not happen instantly.  We don’t just get the baptism and become perfect.  It happens over a period of time.

The primary way we are sanctified is through the Word.  God’s Word is what cleanses us.  It transforms our mind.  Many people are not too big on Bible study.  Some even mock it.  Only Pharisees study the Bible.  God’s Word is what sanctifies us.

The problem today is that many Christians are ignorant.  They don’t know the Word.  They don’t read it.  Some churches do not preach it.  Sanctification comes through truth.  It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).  It is the truth that sanctifies us.  Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV).

Many people think the Bible is a bunch of myths.  It is unscientific.  Skeptics believe the Bible is full of errors.  They believe that it is full of contradictions and lies.  Jesus said that God’s Word is truth, not just true but TRUTH.  God is a God of truth.  God cannot lie.  It is IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie.  Everything God says is true.

Of course, not all Bible study sanctifies you.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses do a lot a bible study and they are not too sanctified.  Just studying the Bible academically is not wrong but it will not sanctify you.  Filling your head with a bunch of bible facts is good but God’s Word has to be applied to your life in a practical way to transform you.

3. Jesus prayed that we would have JOY

Jesus does not just want us to be safe and to be sanctified.  He wants us to have joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that MY JOY may be in you, and that your joy may be FULL (John 15:11 ESV).

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the FULL MEASURE of MY JOY within them. (John 17:13 NIV)

Not all Christians have joy.  Many people walk around defeated and depressed, like some poet.  Some are miserable.  Jesus not only wants us to have joy and He wants us to have a lot of it.  He wants us to be full of joy.

In fact, Jesus does not just want us to have joy; He wants us to have HIS joy and this joy is not based on circumstances.  Jesus already said that believers are not of the word and the word hates them (John 17:14).  This joy is not based on a problem-free life.  It is supernatural joy.

4. Jesus prayed that we would be UNITED

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-24 ESV).

Jesus prays for unity.  Unity must have been really important to Jesus.  He prays for it FOUR TIMES in this prayer (John 17:11, 21, 23, 24).   What kind of unity is He actually praying for?  Let’s notice three things about this unity.

A) This unity is CHRISTIAN

It is a unity of believers.  It is unity of people who believe in Jesus (John 17:20). For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. (John 17:8 NIV).

This is NOT a unity of believers and unbelievers.  It is NOT a unity of believers and the world.  This is a prayer for Christians to be one.

Jesus does NOT pray for all religions to be one, an ecumenical unity, like a unity between Muslims and Christians or Hindus and Christians.

It also is NOT a prayer for some Christians to be one.  We believe in unity of people in our own denomination or in our own church.  We can have unity with them, because we have a lot in common.

We think alike.  Jesus did not pray for all the Baptists to become one or all the Methodists to become one.  He prayed for for ALL Christians to be one.

Apparently, it is possible to have unity, real unity, deep unity with people from another denomination or people with a slightly different theological view than we have or a different political view.

Of course, we also need to keep in mind that not every one in church is a real Christian.  Churches are full of people who are not believers.  Some of them are members.

B) This unity is SPIRITUAL

This is a spiritual unity.  It is not external.  It is not organizational.  It is not denominational.  It is patterned after the Trinity.  We are to be one just like the Father and Son are one (John 17:11, 21). Christians are members of the same family.  They may go to different churches, but they are all children of God.

C) This unity is POWERFUL

That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us SO THAT the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:21 NIV)

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. THEN the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23 NIV)

Unity is powerful.  Unity attracts people to the gospel.  It can cause people to come to faith.  Disunity and fighting among Christians drives people away.  When Christians live in unity, they advance the gospel.


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