Green Tree Bible Study 14: Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples (John 17:6-19)

By Dr. Robert E. Picirilli

Imagine what it would be like to hear Jesus praying for you! That is exactly what happened during the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17. Verses 6-8 identify the disciples as the persons being prayed for. Jesus here describes the disciples as men given to Him from His Father (v. 6). Jesus passed on to these men the information His Father had given to Him. In this way Jesus demonstrated to them that He came from the Father (v. 8). So the prayer was prayed aloud primarily for the disciples benefit.  There are three main petitions made on their behalf in the course of the prayer.

In His first petition, Jesus requests that God keep the disciples secure in His name (vv.9-13). Jesus was concerned about there well-being. He was preparing to leave the world to return to the Father, but the disciples would remain in the world (v. 11a). On earth, Jesus had kept them safe (vv. 12, 13). He wanted the disciples to be assured that His departure was not going to leave them vulnerable. He wanted them to be confident in the joy and power of the Lord.

In His second petition, Jesus requests that God keep the disciples safe from the evil one (vv. 14, 15). He wanted the disciples to know they would face fierce opposition from the world. The world will hate them, He said, as it did Him (v. 14). And behind that hatred is the evil one himself, the enemy of Christ and His followers. The disciples are not to be removed from the conflict, but kept in it (v. 14).

In his third petition, Jesus requests that God sanctify the disciples in the truth (vv. 16-19). To be sanctified is to be set apart as a possession of the Holy God. This is to be accomplished by the Word which is the truth (vv. 17, 19). The battle between God and the evil one is truth against falsehood. The disciples will be identified by and fortified in the truth Jesus has revealed to them.

Again, they are not to be removed from the battlefield. Indeed, they are sent into the world as Jesus Himself was (v. 18). This applies to us, too. Consider a Christian’s relationship to the world. He is not ofthe world (v. 6), but still present inthe world (v. 11). And since he is not of the world (v. 16), the world will hate him (v. 14). And most important of all, he is sent into the world to tell the truth of the gospel (v. 18).