In times of stress and cultural chaos—pandemics, protests, political strife, and more—Christians rightly remind one another of the importance of prayer. A deepening prayer life is often needed, tested, and enriched in times of crisis.
Thus begins Tim Shorey’s excellent article on “The Prayer Life that Mattes Most (It isn’t Yours)“. His summary of the five primary requests of Jesus in his John 17 prayer is insightful. Below is the much of the rest of his article:
… Scripture reminds us that there is a prayer life that matters most in times like these . . . and it’s not ours. It’s the prayer life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Best Pray-er of All
That Jesus is a perpetual, nonstop pray-er is clearly taught in Scripture (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 2:17–18; 4:14–16; 7:23–25). He always lives to make intercession for us. To intercede is to approach one person on behalf of another, bearing a request or need…
Best Prayer of All
If Jesus is the best pray-er of all, then what is the best prayer of all? I know of none better than John 17:1–26, which many have called “the true Lord’s Prayer” or “the High Priestly Prayer.” This is Jesus praying passionately—for us. As Jesus (in John 18–19) stepped into the darkness surrounding the arrest, trial, travesty, bloodying, and brutalizing that would lead to his death, he knew the trauma this would inflict on his disciples. So he paused and prayed for them—in their hearing. And in so doing I suspect he intended to offer them—and us—a preview of what he continues to pray on their (and our) behalf (John 17:20). I see five primary requests in this prayer.
1. “Father, Fortify Them”
Jesus prays that in the face of a hostile world and evil enemy, we will be guarded and protected, spiritually secured by the Father’s hand—“though all hell should endeavor to shake” (see John 17:11–15).
2. “Father, Sanctify Them”
Jesus prays that we will so know the truth that it will make us holy, setting us apart from the world and sin, and consecrating us in devotion to God (John 17:16–19).
3. “Father, Unify Them”
4. “Father, Multiply Them”
Jesus prays that the testimony of a holy and unified church will lead the world to know and believe the truth (John 17:18, 21–23; 13:34–35); that the church will be multiplied because our unified love will have been a compelling witness to the world.
5. “Father, Glorify Them”
Jesus prays that we will see his glory (John 17:24), in part that we might share his glory (John 17:22). Since it is by seeing glory that we are transformed into glory (2 Cor. 3:17–18; 1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:20–21)—Jesus prays this hope would become reality in a glorified church.
His Prayers and Ours
From this best of all prayers we learn what things burden our Savior’s heart—that we be fortified, sanctified, unified, multiplied, and glorified. This prayer also teaches us to rearrange our own prayer priorities. Rather than only requesting material prosperity or political victory or physical health, we too should pray for the security, holiness, unity, increase, and enhanced glory and beauty of the church.
When life is hard and disaster looms everywhere, remember that Jesus is praying for us. From this best of all prayers offered by the best of all pray-ers, we gain peace and hope. We are assured of this: the church will be fortified, sanctified, unified, multiplied, and glorified. For Jesus has prayed that it would be so, and his prayers never fail.
Tim Shorey is lead pastor of a multiethnic congregation in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. He has written Respect the Image: Reflecting Human Worth in How We Listen and Talk. For more information, visit www.timothyshorey.com.