Prayer is such a difficult spiritual discipline. We often find ourselves with our heart in the right place but the words to say come with lots of difficulties. I found this illustration funny.
A mother listening to the evening prayers of her sleepy little daughter is astonished and amazed to hear the following:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And when he hollers let him go,
Eenie, Meenie, miny, mo.”
As we continue to go deeper into this series on prayer, it seems only fitting to take a look at one of Jesus’ most famous prayers. This prayer in John is referred to by many as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer found in John 17. Over the next two weeks, this will be our focus.
This prayer was for special people. “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me because they belong to you”(v. 9). In reading this beautiful prayer through, one big question comes to minds; Who are the people described as “them,” or as “they?” Who are these favored individuals? Those who share a Savior’s prayers and are recognized by a Savior’s love? Who have their names written on the stones of his precious breastplate? Who have their characters and their circumstances mentioned by the lips of the High Priest before the throne on high? The answer to that question is in the words of our text.
The people for whom Christ prays are an “unearthly people.” They are a people somewhat above the world. “They are not of the world.” Just like our Savior, not of the world. They were a people set apart for a holy purpose which we will get into more next week so stay tuned.
A Prayer for Security – (v. 11-13)
Now I am departing the world; I am leaving them behind and coming to you. Holy Father, keep them and care for them – all those you have given me – so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I have kept them safe. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. “And now I am coming to you. I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my joy.
This section is unique because it is the only place in the Gospel of John where we find Jesus using the term “Holy Father.” One Bible scholar, Darby, suggests that Jesus uses this term because he wants God to watch over us like a Father would.
I love that image of an Almighty God with all his power and might watching over each of us with the affection of a loving Father. That should give us a great sense of peace and calm. When all else around us is uncertain and at times scary, we have a Father protecting us, with a never sleeping watchful eye.
For those asking the question, “But some Christians under attack and have not some died? Where was the Almighty God when those atrocities happened?”
The prayer is not that God would stop evil from ever happening to Christians, it is to protect them giving into the darkness around them. Jesus expresses this in his request, “Holy Father, guard them.” Christians are in direct contrasts with the world which is unholy. The request for God to protect or guard is in harmony with God’s will. We see that God defends the disciples against all unholiness while they are still in the world. God is holy in that he is absolutely separated from and actively opposed to all sin. God seeks, by his grace, to save men from sin, to separate us from the world and keeps us set apart for himself, separate and holy. Jesus prays to the Father, “…guard them in your name, which you have given me.”
There are two different forms of the word “keep” used in verse 12. One meaning more “I preserve” the other meaning more “I guarded”. Jesus is only reminding the Father:
“While I was in the world, I guarded them as a means to their preservation. Now I am no more in the world, and I come to you, Father to preserve them in your name.”
You almost see this from a parent’s perspective. You raised your children, kept them safe. Now they are about to go off to college leaving the safety of your house. You guarded them while they were with you. Now you are asking God the Father to protect them because you can’t do it anymore. That is the essence of what this prayer is capturing. “Lord, watch over the ones you have placed in my care. I can no longer protect them.” We see in this prayer the loving heart and concern of our Savior, Jesus Christ. What an abundant blessing our prayers lives could be if we prayed for others with the compassion of Jesus.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1044). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
Other blogs in this series on Prayer: