[20]   Farewell Discourses 5: Prayer (17:1-26)


[D7]    17:1-26........... The high-priestly prayer

Biblical scholars call this chapter the high-priestly prayer or the prayer of consecration.

The prayer is a solemn consecration which looks forward to the cross as the completion of Christ’s priestly work. But it is in a mood of hope and joy, not one of despair. The prayer is great because of “its tone at once of tenderness and triumphant expectation.”

There are 3 passages:

(a) prayer for Jesus’ own glorification (17:1-5),

(b) prayer for the disciples (17:6-19), and

(c) prayer for those who will believe through their ministry (17:20-26).

Common to all 3 sections is the desire that the Father’s purpose be set forward. Some see a connection of this prayer with the Lord’s Prayer as if this prayer is an expanded paraphrase of that prayer.

One repeated prayer for the believers is for their unity which can be taken as a continuation of the mutual love, stressed through the whole section of farewell discourses.

17:1     “The hour” has come: the perfect tense has an air of finality. For man, the cross is a symbol of shame but for Jesus, it is a symbol of glory.

17:2     The authority is given for conferring eternal life. It is connected with the authority in 1:12.

17:3     This is like a definition of eternal life which is simply put as the knowledge of God. To “know” is in present tense pointing to an ever-increasing knowledge, not just knowing once and for all. We can know God only through the One whom God has sent (in aorist tense referring to the incarnation), Jesus Christ.

17:4     “I have brought you glory” (perfect tense) indicates a completed task.

17:5     Here is a clear assertion of Christ’s pre-existence with the Father in glory.


17:6     The “name” stands for the whole person. The revelation was made to those whom God gave Jesus out of the world (the Greek expresses the thought of separation from the world).

17:8     The attitude of the disciples was in 3 ways: (a) they accepted Jesus’ words, (b) they knew for certain the divine origin of Jesus, and (c) they came to believe about the mission of Christ who was sent by God.

17:10   Christ has been glorified in the disciples. The perfect tense points to something that has taken place but here, it is likely that it points to the certainty of the future outcome.

17:11   Just as it was Jesus’ task to die, so was the disciples’ task to remain in the world. Jesus prayed that God would keep them from disunity, but probably also keep them from evil (v.12).

“By the power of Your name” points to the whole revealed character of God. Jesus does not pray that they may “become” one, but that they may “continually be” one. This unity rests on a common attitude, that of abiding in Him and having Him abide in them.

17:12   “The one doomed to destruction” refers to Judah. The Scripture probably refers to Ps 41:9 or Ps 109:4-13.

17:13   Jesus prays that they may have His joy in all its fullness.

17:14   The “Word” refers to the entire message of Jesus. The disciples and the world were on opposite sides.

17:15   It would be disastrous for the world if the disciples were taken out of the world. The place for the people of God is in the world but not of the world. Jesus prays that they would be kept from the evil one Satan because the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1Jn 5:19).

17:17   “Sanctify” means “make holy, separate”. They are to be holy people, separated from the world to be of service to the world. “Sanctify” is not the same as “purify”. To be sanctified is to be made ready for a specific task. The prayer seeks the endowment of the disciples for their mission.

The sanctification is to be “in the truth”,  probably related to “doing the truth” (3:21); or “by the truth” which refers to the Bible.

17:18   With the sanctification comes the mission.

17:19   The sanctification of Jesus by Himself means setting Himself apart to do the Father’s will, referring to His death. [The Greek word hagiazo refers to the sanctifying of priests or of sacrifices.] As a result of Jesus’ death, the disciples will be truly sanctified.


17:20   Jesus prays for all who will believe in Him through the disciples’ message.

17:21   Jesus prays “that all of them may be one”, in unity. There are two consequences: (a) a fuller experience of the Father and the Son, and (b) “that the world may believe”.

17:22   The disciples have the true glory; they are walking in the way of God. In this Gospel, for Jesus the cross is the true glory; here is possibly a call to take up the cross to follow Jesus (Lk 9:23).

17:23   The prayer is for a “perfected” unity, a closer unity. This unity will impress the world.

17:25   The last two verses are a restrospect, a summary.

17:26   Jesus has revealed the Father. He will continue to reveal. This may refer to the revelation in the cross or the work of the Holy Spirit whom He has promised to send (15:26).

We know the love of God because the Son dwells in our hearts. The continuous dwelling may have a double meaning: (a) the love will be “within” them or in their hearts, or (b) the love will be “among” them or uniting them to one another.


§         Jesus repeatly prayed for unity of the believers (v.11,21,22,23). Yet, this is one clear failure of Christians today. This disunity is demonstrated inside each church, inside each denomination, between churches, and between denominations. No doubt, sometimes the disunity is for legitimate reasons such as major doctrinal differences but more often the disunity arises from the overemphasis of minor differences such as preferences. In case of the former, Christians may need to dissociate from close ties (example: homosexuality in the Episcopal Church of USA). In case of the latter, Christians need to be mindful of the spiritual unity and allow others to freely operate according to their preferences (examples: worship style, baptism, speaking in tongues).


Hymns of Life no.275 “Jesus, lover of my soul”

Jesus, Lover of my soul,

Let me to Thy bosom fly,

While the nearer waters roll,

While the tempest still is high;

Hide me, O my Saviour hide,

Till the storm of life is past;

Safe into the haven guide;

O receive my soul at last!

Other refuge have I none;

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, ah! leave me not alone,

Still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed,

All my help from Thee I bring;

Cover my defenseless head

With the shadow of Thy wing.