Read John 17:1-26
On the night prior to His crucifixion, Jesus prayed.
Oh, yes, most people know that. In fact, many could even almost cite some of the words of His prayer: “…may your will be done.” That prayer was in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was uttered just prior to His arrest.
There was still another prayer. This one was longer. It came earlier in the evening. It took place in another location…somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden. And it had a different focus. This prayer, the one you read in John 17, is often referred to Christ’s “High Priestly Prayer.” It is His longest recorded prayer, and it gives us insight into His priorities prior to His crucifixion. The prayer is divided into three important sections…each with its requests.
- Christ’s prayer for Himself (vv. 1-5). Jesus asked the Father to restore to Him the glory that they had shared in eternity past.
- Jesus prayed for His disciples (vv. 6-19). He asked the Father to keep them in His name…and to keep them from the evil one.
- Jesus prayed for all future Christ followers (vv. 20-26). He prayed that they would be one.
(Insert pregnant pause here.)
You see the significance of that third prayer focus don’t you? Jesus was praying for believers of every generation and location. He was praying for believers who call Grace home today…and for those at the church down the street, around the corner, on the other side of town, and half way around the globe today. And His prayer was for unity. Agreement.
This isn’t an agreement that discards differences. Instead, it is one that weights their value. Do they lie at the core of the gospel? Our devotion to Christ? The integrity of the Scriptures? Those are high value. Are they more on the fringe? Do they have more to do with methodology? Yes, we may hold to those with good reason, but are those differences ones that should result in name calling and suspicion?
I hope you noticed what is at stake. Christ’s prayer for our oneness was rooted in part in His desire “that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (v. 21).