Focal Passage: John 17:9-19
One of the greatest privileges I enjoy as an associational missionary and as a participant in mission projects to Quebec and Jamaica is that of intercessory prayer. At times I am daily visited by fellow believers and congregational leaders burdened with concerns and issues that often fall outside of our accumulated wisdoms and resources.
Usually a soft unspoken prayer begins these precious encounters and a joint prayer ends each session. Rather than be a polite acknowledgement of closure, prayer is that passionate recognition that the redeeming of each situation is possible alone through our Lord.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace. Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away.”
On the night of his betrayal, Jesus warned his disciples that he was going to leave them. Recorded in John 17, we have the true “Lord’s Prayer.” Here he prays for his disciples and those who would follow in faith (in the future). Here Jesus literally brings them (and us) into the very presence of the Father only moments away from being betrayed, arrested and crucified.
In His conversation with his Father He recognizes that though He will be away from His disciples they must remain and live out His presence daily and faithfully. He thus prays for their victory over the world rather than an easy escape from the world. He prays that they with all who would follow be united — “May they be all one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me” (17:21, 23 NJB). He prays for their protection- “protect them from the Evil One” (17:15 NJB). And he prays for their consecration (17:17-19): set apart for a special task as his representatives to the world, and set apart to a special equipping to that task — “Consecrate them in the truth, your word is truth.”
Whenever my wife, Sharon, leaves the women of Elim Church in Jamaica and the special friendships of merchant women in the Montego Bay market area to return home, she asks them what to pray about for them. Each time she receives a plethora of burdens and blessings.
One asked for prayer for a possible cancerous growth, another for a straying child, and still another for God’s visible manifestation for their village or parish. Never is it for financial benefits or economic status — it is for the saving, gracious presence of the Lord.
Jesus prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24).