Jesus prayed for us , Jesus prayed for others
Samuel C. Degner
One of Jesus’ prayers in Scripture stands out from the rest. While most are just a verse or two long, this one spans almost all of John chapter 17. Yet if the length is what draws our attention at first, it’s the content that keeps it.
JESUS PRAYED ON BEHALF OF OTHERS
The Teacher gathers his students in an upper room for one last Passover meal together. He knows that, in a few hours, one of them will betray him. Before dawn breaks, he will be on trial before the leaders of his people. By the next sunset, he will be dead. It’s the night before the biggest day of his life.
So he prays. We’ve come to expect nothing less! But what does he ask?
Well, what do we ask before the big moments in life? In the locker room, the athlete prays for success before the big game. On Friday night, the bride prays that her wedding will go well the next day. As he bows his head in the pulpit, the pastor prays for a smooth delivery of his sermon. So we would expect Jesus, on the night before the biggest moment in history, to ask for a successful completion to his work.
Which he does. But that only takes him five verses. Then he spends the rest of the chapter praying for others, not for himself.
Can you imagine that? How often does the athlete think to pray for his teammates? Does the nervous bride remember to include her attendants, friends, and family in her petitions? Does the preacher also pray for his people as he steps into the pulpit? It’s not that it’s wrong to pray for ourselves. It’s just that sometimes our thoughts and prayers become so narrow that we miss opportunities to remember others before God.
So it is with wonder that we watch Jesus step into the High Priest’s role that Thursday evening and offer up petitions to his Father on behalf of his people.
JESUS PRAYED ON BEHALF OF YOU
On this night, with the weight of his work already bearing down on him, Jesus does not fail to lift up his disciples in prayer. He asks his Father to protect them and set them apart by his Word. He prays that they will be filled with joy.
Then he prays about you. He doesn’t say your name, but he has you on his heart. He prays that you will be one with your brothers and sisters in the faith. He prays that you will be one even with him and the Father! He prays that you will be with him where he is and see his glory. Yes, on the biggest night of his life, Jesus prays for you.
And could the Father refuse his Son’s petition? Through Baptism you have been united to the Father and the Son and to your brothers and sisters in the holy Christian church. One day you will see Jesus’ glory as you eat and drink with him in his Father’s kingdom. This is your confidence because Jesus prayed for you—and not just about you but in your stead. This prayer and all of his other flawless words and actions rise up to heaven as incense, filling the Father’s nostrils with a pleasing aroma whenever he thinks of you.
Now Jesus has made you a priest to serve God. It is your privilege to offer up petitions to the same Father on behalf of others, just as the Son did. You can do so eagerly, knowing that he hears them for the sake of Jesus, who prayed for you.
Contributing editor Samuel Degner is pastor at Bethel, Menasha, Wisconsin.
This is the fifth article in a nine-part series on Jesus and his prayer life.
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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 102, Number 3
Issue: March 2015
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