The Lord’s Prayer (3) – A Prayer for Those Who Believe

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See full series: the-teachings-of-jesus-2020-21

The Lord’s Prayer (3) – A Prayer for Those Who Believe

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: John 17:20-26


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Today, we continue our study of the teachings of Jesus.  Recently we have been focusing on the final teachings of Jesus prior to His crucifixion.  We have noted His final public message as recorded by Matthew (23), His farewell address to His apostles (John 13-16), and the past 2 lessons have examined the prayer of Jesus as recorded in John 17.  In that prayer we have addressed how Jesus prayed for Himself (17:1-5) and His prayer for His apostles and the work they were about to begin in a hostile world (6:19).  Today, we want to conclude our study of this, “The Lord’s Prayer” as He prays for those who believe as a result of the working of His apostles.


  1. His prayer for believers (20-26)
    1. His prayer continued for those who would believe through their words (20) – that’s us!
      1. The apostles had a mission – to take the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:46-48).
      2. The idea of belief is another example of an inclusive term – it would describe the actions of those willing to accept Him. Clearly it describes those who would respond positively to the gospel (cf. Mark 16:16, Acts 2:37-38, etc.)
      3. Through their word – we know about Jesus because of their work.   Galatians 1:11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Acts 3:12ff, Acts 8:35, 2 Peter 1:16ff, 1 John 1:1ff, and of course we have the gospels which were either written by apostles or those closely associated with them (Luke was associated with Paul, Mark likely associated with Peter).
    2. That they all may be one (21) –
      1. We often emphasize this passage and rightly so. It calls for unity.  Here we find the desire for unity by our Lord.  We will address this in a few moments.
      2. And the DEGREE of that unityas You Father are in Me, and I in You.
      3. That they may be one in us – the SOURCE of unity – it draws us together both with one another and with our God and Lord (FELLOWSHIP). More in a few moments.
      4. That the world may believe that You sent Me (21) – the MOTIVE of true unity! It can convince many in the world to follow Him.  And this unity is a fundamental element.
    3. He had given them glory also as He had received it (22)
      1. Just as God had glorified Jesus as His Son in all things, now Jesus gave them glory in Him. We have addressed glory throughout this prayer – it is the idea of greatly magnifying God for who He is.
      2. He gave that glory to the apostles and His disciples – They would teach this glory and MANFIEST it to the world. AGAIN, it is demonstrated in their unity.
      3. That they may be made perfect in one (their unity), that the world may know God had sent Jesus (23) – this unity was going to be a drawing power.
    4. His ultimate desire for them
      1. That they be with Him in His glory – this is reference to eternal life in heaven with the Father (24).
      2. Jesus desires that we spend eternity with Him. Recall in John 17:5, He desired to go home!  But He doesn’t want to be there alone – recall also John 14:1-3.
      3. That they may behold My glory – which had been given to Him by the Father and which he had before the foundation of the world – this is likely His glory which He has in heaven now (Revelation 21:22-23, 22:5). Romans 8:18 – our suffering now is not worthy to be compared to that glory.  See also 1 John 3:1-3 – this is why we endure.
    5. Jesus expresses His concluding thought in vs. 25-26 – He commends them to the Father
      1. First, note that Jesus here describes God as “righteous Father”. In this prayer He has referred to Him as His Father, Holy Father (11) and now “righteous Father” – a reference to Him as one who will judge in righteousness.   Some will belong to Him and others will not.  That is what righteous judgment is about (Romans 2:5-9, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, etc.)
      2. The world has not known You – speaking of the world in general that did not know God and had not submitted to Him.
      3. But I have known You – that was a primary lesson throughout the book of John, some of which we have addressed.
      4. And these have known that You sent Me – Unlike the world, “these” have known the Father and who Jesus was – both His apostles and early disciples, and in a broader sense US! Recall last week how we address our need to know Him and how we can know Him.
      5. Finally, Jesus had declared God to them and would continue to do so, that we may learn to love as He did. As Jesus concludes He appeals to His love which was to be in His disciples as well.
        1. Again the NT emphasizes the importance of this love in our lives – both for Him and for each other. Colossians 3:14 calls for us to put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
        2. We are continually called upon to love Him – Matthew 22:37-39
        3. If we love we will obey Him – John 14:15
        4. If we love Him, we will love each other – provoke His love in us (cf. 1 John 4:19-12 – we love Him because He first loved us, WHICH leads to our loving one another as we ought to).  Recall how just prior to this Jesus had emphasized the importance of their love for each other – John 13:34-35
  2. Some thoughts about unity
    1. Unity is so important – It is clear that God wants us to be united. And so does Jesus.   There are numerous passages that specifically call for unity – Philippians 2:1-2, Ephesians 4:1-3, 1 Corinthians 1:10ff, etc.   And of course, our text as we have noted.
    2. What does it mean to be united as God and Jesus were?
      1. Obviously, we cannot become deity.
      2. But think of the perfect harmony between them – there was total and complete agreement of purpose and even how to accomplish what was necessary.  How often have we noted how Jesus spoke of His agreement with the Father in His teachings and actions? John 5:19, 30, He did the will of His Father who sent Him; John 8:28, 14:10, 24 – He spoke as the Father said.
      3. Thus to be united in this way is to strive to be in harmony with each other – again, consider Philippians 2:2 – we find harmony of mind, love and accord. It’s not enough to just get along (though as humans we have differences that we work through – Romans 14:19), we should be of the same mindset and have similar values and goals.  Romans 12:16 – be of the same mind toward one another; If we could fully achieve this, imagine how much we could accomplish.  Thus it is something to continually strive for.
      4. NOTE: Clearly, this defeats the concept of denominationalism. While many say they are united, it is actually union.   This is equally true of the community type churches that often will not address crucial doctrinal and moral differences in favor of ecumenism (getting along while agreeing to disagree).  This is NOT the description of the unity Jesus prayed for.  Again consider 1 Corinthians 1:10-15.  And lest one say, “But we get along”, understand that the world knows better.
      5. AGAIN, be reminded of the fact that the world watches how we love each other and how united we are.
    3. That they may be one in Us – not only do we need unity to the degree they had, but they MUST be the SOURCE of that unity.
      1. The Bible is clear that there is only one way to heaven. It matters what we believe.   Again 1 Corinthians 1:10, Romans 15:5-6.  You can also consider passages about teaching error – Romans 16:17, 2 John 9, etc.
      2. Let it be clearly understood that the ONLY way for true Christian unity is to be in agreement at the source level.  Anything less is NOT true unity.
      3. We have to be in agreement doctrinally. That is why when we address errors (such as premillennialism, MDR, what the work and organization of the church is, fellowship, the literal interpretation of Genesis 1, etc.), it matters.  Many of these doctrinal issues affect foundational issues (e.g. first principles – cf. Hebrews 6:1-2).
      4. If we cannot agree on the fundamentals, how will we agree on anything (except agreeing to disagree)?
    4. Consider briefly the church – the local congregation is one of the best ways to manifest godly love.  God, in His eternal wisdom gave us the local congregation (Ephesians 3:10-11).   God intended the church to be haven of spiritual strength as we deal with a world that so often acts contrary to His will.  We MUST be united, as most of the above passages are directed.  Consider the warning of Paul in Galatians 5:13-15 – if we bite and devour one another…
    5. Again, be reminded that the world is watching to see how we treat each other and if we are united.  A loving and united brotherhood will go a long way in reaching those who see so much conflict around us.

And thus we see the Lord’s prayer in John 17.   He began by declaring that He had finished His work, then He prayed for those who take His message to that generation, and then finally He prayed for all of us – that HIS word, spoken through HIS apostles would bring us together, even as He and God are united.  Rest assured: Jesus did His part.  Will we do our part?  Think about it!