Revival and Reformation

The authentic prayer

A. Jane Sabes, PhD, is a former principal of Newbold College of Higher Education, Bracknell, England. She is a certified chaplain residing in Oklahoma, United States.

We regularly refer to “Our Father which art in heaven . . .” as the Lord’s Prayer. The longer Matthew 6:9–13 version is embedded within the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus spoke to the gathered crowds. Luke 11:2–4 is an abbreviated version of that same prayer. On this occasion, Christ modeled a prayer in response to His disciples’ personal quest for a more intimate communion with heaven, as had their Teacher.

But the real, authentic prayer of Jesus with His Father is recorded in John 17. In this exchange with His Father, Jesus anchors His prayer in ten central points. Let us listen in on His prayer that we, too, might emulate our Savior.

  1. Jesus begins the conversation with His Father by stating, “You have assigned Me tasks that were intended to bring You glory, and I now have completed those assignments” (vv. 1–4, my translation). We must live with such inten-tionality that we, too, can declare that, rather than pursuing our own goals, we are fulfilling and will complete our heaven-designed purpose.
  2. Christ continues with, “I want to thank You, Father, for the ones You have given Me to care for, to lead them to eternal life” (v. 6). This claim of gratitude for the ones given, Christ is truly laudable considering the fact that He was shepherding impetuous Peter, doubting Thomas, slow-of-heart Philip, and deceitful Judas. This encourages us to express gentleness, tact, and gratitude for those within our sphere of influence, even those possessing undesirable traits.
  3. “Being committed to revealing You to the world, I have spoken only the words that You have given Me” (v. 8). Just imagine the breakthrough that would occur in our lives and ministry if our singular focus were to reveal Christ to the world.
  4. Jesus then offers a somewhat surprising statement. “I am not praying for the entire world but rather, specifically for those You have placed in My care” (v. 9). Here, we find that Christ’s energy and focus are on those within His immediate sphere of influence.
  5. Christ then reaffirms the claim: “All I have is Yours and all You have is Mine” (v. 10). Peter best captured this concept when pointing out that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, ISV).
  6. His prayer next takes inventory of how He has expended resources of time, teaching, and tender care of His sheep. He reports to His Father that “I protected those You gave me, kept them safe, did not lose one, well, except Judas” (v. 12). Oh, that such might be spoken by us on that great judgment day when we will give an account of those whom we have been assigned as shepherds.
  7. Jesus now adds, “Father, as you sent Me to tell others the good news, so now I send them, that they may have the full measure of joy that comes from bringing others to you” (vv. 13, 14). Indeed, Jesus understood the depth of delight of bringing others into a relationship with heaven.
  8. However, being fully aware of the opposition that the disciples would encounter in sharing the good news, Jesus asks of His Father, “My request is not that You remove them from the earth but that You sanctify them, protect them from the evil one” (vv. 15–17).
  9. “I in them and You in Me, that We may be one in order that the love You have for Me may be in them” (v. 23). We can safely say that this is the apex of any prayer or life—living in love, living in harmony, living as one.
  10. Jesus then concludes His prayer with an uncompromising declaration, “I want those whom You have given Me to be with Me throughout all time and eternity” (v. 24).

Think for a moment of the sharp contrast between this prayer of Jesus and that of ours. When approaching the Father, our prayers so often express a desire to recover from a health concern, avoid a financial crisis, deal with an annoying supervisor, or receive more rewarding employment—something we want God to “fix.”

In sharp contrast, Jesus’ prayer apprises His Father regarding His earthly assignment, reports on the use of His God-given resources to complete His work, and envisions the future and that of His sheep. In brief, this authentic prayer is about a faithful life lived with heaven in view. May our thoughts, our prayers, undergo a revision, a tailoring to be like that of our Savior.

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A. Jane Sabes, PhD, is a former principal of Newbold College of Higher Education, Bracknell, England. She is a certified chaplain residing in Oklahoma, United States.

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