Jesus' Prayer For His Apostles

W. Terry Varner
February 2, 2014

The second prayer in John 17 is found in 17:6-19. It is a prayer for His apostles. His ministry will soon fall to the apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. His prayer for His apostles is interesting has many important thoughts for us to consider.

Jesus prays for the unity of the apostles. In John 17:11 Jesus asks God to keep the apostles to be united. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are”; i.e. that they may continually be one! This is a reoccurring petition within His majestic prayer, compare John 17:21, 22, 23. To maintain their “oneness” or “unity,” Jesus says, “I have given to them the words which You gave Me; they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me” (17:8; cf. 17:14). His word was verbally (word) and plenary (all) inspired and inerrant therefore all-sufficient informationally (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Jesus prays for His apostles. Jesus declares that the apostles did not choose Him, but rather He chose them. “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you that you should go and bear fruit. ... I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:16, 19). The passages which discuss Jesus selecting or choosing His apostles are Matthew 10:1-5; Mark 3:14-19; and Luke 6:13-16). Interestingly and not contradictorily, Jesus declares, “They were Yours, You gave them to Me” (John 17:6). The apostles accepted His call (John 17:7); i.e. they recognized that Jesus’ mission, teaching, and work had been done to honor and glorify God.

“I pray not for the world” (John 17:9). This must be understood within the context of John 17:6-19 which is His prayer for them. He care for the world—He died on Calvary to save the world. The world as hostile to Him personally; however, God does not reciprocate such feelings toward the world. He personifies the world as (1) hating Him (John 15:18), (2) hating His followers (John 15:18; 17:11, 14), (3) rejoicing at the problems and difficulties of His followers (John 16:20), (4) not knowing Him (John 1:10), (5) not knowing the Father (17:25), (6) not knowing the Spirit (John 14:17), (7) ruled by Satan (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and (8) being in unbelief (John 17;21, 23). Evidence that Christ is interested in the world is found in His words, “that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:21).

Jesus’ prayer for His apostles involve three areas. The content of prayers tell us much about the one praying and for whom they pray. Consider for what Jesus prayed for His apostles.

He prays for their joy. It is remarkable that in the shadow of the cross, He could pray “that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). It was the “joy” that no man could take from them (John 16:20-21). The Christians’ joy is found in Christ, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 3:1).

He prays for their safety. Jesus says of His apostles they are “not of the world” (John 17:14) and “the world has hated them” (John 17:16). He wanted the Father to “keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

He prays for their sanctification. Sanctification means “to be set apart from a profane to sacred use.” They, and we, are sanctified “by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Word of God directs, guides, unifies, and sanctifies believers.