“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” – John 17:9
John chapter 17 is a beautiful, inspiring, and touching piece of biblical history. This is Jesus’s actual prayer to the Father for His followers, both then and to come. When we think of Jesus praying we often think of the “Our Father”, but it’s important to remember that the our Father was not actually Jesus praying. The disciples had asked Jesus how we should pray and Jesus gave the Our Father as an illustration or instruction in how we ought to pattern our prayers.
For example, in the Our Father He shows that we need to express thanks and worship, pray for forgiveness of our sins (trespasses), acknowledge our forgiveness of others, submit to His will, and cry out for His return. These are all principles that our prayer life should readily consist of, but are not things that He Himself needed to pray.
Jesus prayed to the Father for Himself in the garden of Gethsemane crying out for mercy, then submitting to the Father’s will, then for strength and was strengthened for the trial to come. However in John 17 we see Jesus praying not in a teaching mode, or in a petition for help and strength, not seeking for wisdom, (which we should all do daily) but in intercession. We see Jesus praying a genuine prayer to the Father, for us!
“But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7:24-25
Those who have believed in Jesus’s Words and have come to salvation and restoration of the Father through his atoning blood now have Jesus as their High Priest! This means that Jesus Himself intercedes on their behalf and this chapter is a glimpse into that eternal intercession! But hold on! The scriptures tell us that Jesus is our High Priest (the head of all the priest) but it doesn’t stop there, it also says that we (who are redeemed) are all priest under His order also.
“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:5-6
So then if we are priest also then what is our job? A portion of that answer can be found in our opening passage from within Jesus’s own prayer. Jesus says something very strange in verse 9. He tells God the Father that He is praying for His followers, but not for the world. You see, as High Priest, Jesus ever liveth to make intercession “for us” (His Priest), and then as His priest we (the redeemed) live to make intercession for the lost!
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;” – 1 Timothy 2:1
While we do help to bare the burden of Christ in praying for the saints, we also exclusively carry the mandate to pray without ceasing for the lost. The Bible is very clear that except for the prayer of repentance, God does not hear the prayers of a sinner. However, if you are a saved, sanctified, blood bought, Holy Ghost filled child of God, then He does here yours. Therefor, you can “intercede” on their behalf. In other words, they cannot stand boldly before the thrown of God and make petitions or plead for mercy, but you can. So do it for them! The fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much!
“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” – John 9:31
So redeemed mothers, pray for your unsaved children, the Lord hears you! Godly father’s, pray for your ungodly leaders, the Lord hears you! Sanctified Church, pray for the apostate church, the Lord hears you! Christian families, pray for your community, the Lord hears you! Saints of the living God, pray for the lost, the Lord hears you! Pray and keep praying for them, even as Christ keeps praying for you!
“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil of it.” – John 17:15
“Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” – Joel 2:17-18