The Lord's Prayer

A look at John 17 and Christ's intercessory prayer for His disciples.

W. G. C. MURDOCH, Professor of Systematic Theology, SDA Theological Seminar

The seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John records the Lord's prayer. The other prayer that is commonly known by this name is the prayer that Christ taught His disciples. That was not His own prayer, since He was without sin; He had no need to petition the Father, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." This prayer (John 17) is the intercessory prayer for His disciples, which Christ offered on the night of His betrayal. We have been counseled that we should "study prayerfully the seventeenth chapter of John. This chapter is not only to be read again and again; its truths are to be eaten and assimi­lated."—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 80.

Each one should be on his guard studying and practicing the seventeenth chapter of John.... We are to make this prayer our first study.—/bid., p. 239.

Christ had just celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room. Judas had already left, and Christ was alone with the eleven. Soon He was to go to His death upon the cross, and it was in the face of this vicarious sacrifice that He revealed His heart in this won­derful prayer to His Father.

"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee" (John 17:1). This was the greatest hour in all the history of the world. It was the hour for which Christ had become incarnate. It was the hour of great trial, but also the hour of great triumph. It was the hour of shame and reproach, but also the hour of victory and glory. It was the hour to which the Father and the Son had looked forward from time eternal. The task of saving men from sin had been almost completed; Christ says, "I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do" (John 17:4). Without Christ's work having been com­pleted, no sinner could be saved. There have been many hours of destiny, but this was the greatest hour in human history—in fact, the greatest hour of all time in the universe of God.

Glorious Unity in the Trinity

"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). In the ages past, God and Christ had been associ­ated in a unity of glory. Paul says of Christ, "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3). Christ had suffered that glory to be eclipsed. In taking upon Himself human flesh, the bright­ness of that glory had been veiled. The close companionship between Him and His Father had been broken, because He had voluntarily entered into a contract with His Father to be­come a surety and a Saviour for man's salva­tion. Now that this had almost been accom­plished, He again desired to be enthroned with His Father, not only as a king but as a glorious high priest. The risen Christ was more glorious than He had ever been before. The prophet declared: "His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.... he had horns coming out of his hand {"bright beams out of his side," margin]: and there was the hiding of his power" (Hab. 3:3, 4).

The Union Between Christ and His People The unity that exists between God and Christ is similar to that which will be found between Christ and His people: "All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them" (John 17:10). There is nothing that Christ could have done for us that He has not done. Think of these remarkable thoughts in this intercessory prayer:

Verse 12—I kept them.

Verse 13—I want them to have My joy. Verse 14—I have given them Thy word. Verse 15—I have prayed that Thou wilt keep them from evil.

Verse 17—Sanctify them.

Verse 18—As Thou hast sent Me, I send them.

Verse 20—I pray not only for them but for all who will believe on Me through their min­istry.

When we meditate upon what Christ has done for us, we realize that His love is beyond our comprehension. He came to this world for us; He lived for us; He suffered for us; He died for us; He presented Himself as a sacrifice for us; He sent His Spirit down to us; He is pre­paring a place for us; He is coming for us; and His great desire is to be glorified in us. We can come to Him as we are, when we will, where we will, and for whatever we will, and we can always be sure of His welcome.

Listen to Jesus, follow His counsel and you will not go astray from the wise and mighty Counsellor, the only true Guide, the only One who can give you peace, happiness, and fulness of joy. . . . What­ever others may think of us or may do to us, it need not disturb this oneness with Christ, this fellowship of the Spirit. You know we cannot find rest any­where but in Christ—Ellen G. White letter 10, 1894; Sons and Daughters of God, p. 298.

The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one.—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 269.

Our Relation to the World

"And the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). The world that so many men covet, the society they crave, the ap­probation they seek, the applause they desire, and the companionship for which they long are foreign to the life of the Christian. Today there is a great deal being said about social acceptability, and some would teach that to have a mature personality one must follow the popular pattern of behavior and keep with the crowd. But the Christian cannot choose as closest friends those who do not love God. The followers of Christ are pilgrims here. Their citizenship is in heaven; their home is above.

The world and Christ are at variance, because the world will not be in union with Christ. The world will also be at variance with Christ's fol­lowers.—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 44.

Unity Among Believers

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.... I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:21-23). This is the very heart of the prayer. The followers of Christ may dwell in the unity of the Spirit and of love. This unity will con­vince the world that Christ came from God. This will be the only Bible that many will read. The character of Christians will reveal to the world the truth of the gospel. What an oppor­tunity we have to be living epistles, "known and read of all men"! Nothing gives the world greater occasion to scoff at Christianity than bickerings and contentions among the professed people of God. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to an­other" (John 13:35).

The people of God will draw together and present to the enemy a united front. In view of the com­mon peril, strife for supremacy will cease. . . . The love of Christ, the love of our brethren, will testify to the world that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him. Then will the message of the third angel swell to a loud cry, and the whole earth will be lightened with the glory of the Lord.—Ibid., vol. 6, p. 401.

Christ knew that the greatest dangers to the church of God would not come from the enemy without but from the believers within. Speaking of His disciples in this connection, the messen­ger of the Lord wrote:

Union is strength; diviSion is weakness. . . . The severest trials awaited them, but Jesus saw that their greatest danger would be from a spirit of bitterness and division.—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 236.

We need to learn the lesson of self-abnega­tion. Pride and love of supremacy will have no part in the life of the true follower of the meek and lowly Jesus. There will be no striving for the highest place. We will all feel that the high­est place that we can occupy will be at the feet of Jesus. A spirit of brotherly love will be mani­fest by all who have Christ abiding in their hearts. When we have entered into this com­plete oneness with Christ, there will also be a unity with one another that we have not yet witnessed.

The precious time that should be spent in speak­ing of the Saviour's power to save, is being spent by many in carrying evil reports. Unless they make a decided change, they will be found wanting. Unless they have an entire transformation of character, they will never enter heaven. . . . The truly converted man has no inclination to think or talk of the faults of others. His lips are sanctified. . . . Remember that those only will enter heaven who have overcome the temptation to think and speak evil.—ELLEN G. WHITE in The Review. and Herald, Nov. 24, 1904. (Italics supplied.)

Christ's Longing to Have His People  With Him

"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory" (John 17:24). The greatest desire of Christ is that His redeemed saints may be with Him. With eagerness He longs for the time of waiting to be ended. When He looks upon us clothed in the purity of His righteousness, He will feel amply rewarded for the great sacrifice He has made on our behalf. We should recognize how precious we are to God and at what infinite cost He bought us.

The Lord is disappointed when His people place a low estimate upon themselves. He desires His chosen heritage to value themselves according to the price He has placed upon them. God wanted them, else He would not have sent His Son on such an expensive errand to redeem them.—The Desire of Ages, p. 668.

Christ is anxious to show us His glory. He longs to take us to His heavenly abode and re­veal to us the glory which, with our mortal eyes, we cannot now behold. In mercy He has veiled that glory so that "now we see through a glass, darkly." But at that time there will be no veil between, and we will behold Him in all His beauty. That glory which He had with the Fa­ther before the creation of this world will then be supplemented because of the glory that will come to Him from the redeemed. Angels cannot bring such glory to Him. The anthems of the seraphim are not able to sound forth such praises as the pardoned sinners can.

In the intercessory prayer of Jesus with His Father, He claimed that He had fulfilled the condi­tions which made it obligatory upon the Father to fulfill His part of the contract made in heaven, with regard to fallen man. . . . He declares Himself glorified in those who believe on Him. The church, in His name, is to carry to glorious perfection the work which He has commenced; and when that church shall be finally ransomed in the Paradise of God, He will look upon the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Through all eternity the ransomed host will be His chief glory.—The Spirit of Proph­ecy, vol. 3, pp. 260, 261.

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W. G. C. MURDOCH, Professor of Systematic Theology, SDA Theological Seminar

March 1957

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