The High Priestly Prayer, the prayer from Jesus in John 17, is a majestic prayer where we learn that Jesus prays for himself (v. 1-5), his disciples (v. 6-19), and his future disciples (v. 20-26). It’s the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Bible. As others have noted, this is the true Lord’s Prayer, as the often-cited Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:1-13) was given in response to teach others how to pray, whereas the High Priestly Prayer is a genuine prayer where we learn how Jesus prays. There are a myriad of noteworthy items on this prayer from Jesus, but perhaps what strikes me the most is that Jesus prayed for me (and you, too, if you are a Christian).
The gist of Christ’s prayer for his future disciples is unity for the purpose of mission: that we would be one, reflect the Trinity, and unbelievers would come to know the true living God through our example: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
When Jesus says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” he’s saying, “I don’t want to just pray for my current disciples, but also my future disciples.” In other words, he prays for you. What a staggering thought. Over 2,000 years ago, before your parents or grandparents were alive or before you had your first breath or thought, the Lord Jesus Christ lifted up his eyes to heaven, talked to his Father, and included you in his prayer.
When in seasons of suffering, sometimes Christians ask: Does God even care for me? Does he see me? Am I ever on his mind? Well, those questions are beyond the scope of this post, but derivative from the prayer of Jesus for his future church is that you were on Jesus’s mind before you were even born. So yes, he does care for you.
But it gets better.
The Intercessory Work of Christ
We know the rest of the story in John’s Gospel. Jesus is betrayed, arrested, beaten, crucified, and rises from death. We know that he ascends to the Father and sits on his heavenly throne, having accomplished the work God gave him to do. Jesus has been sitting at the right hand of the Father for over 2,000+ years. Have you ever wondered: What in the world does Jesus do all day? Does he sit on his throne and receive worship from his people and creatures? He does, but he also does far more, for our Lord is a productive one. And one item on Christ’s to-do list in heaven is to pray for his people. This means that for the one who has trusted in Christ, Jesus prays for you in heaven.
Here’s one supporting text: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34; also see Hebrews 7:23-25).
Interceding for us. Present tense. Happening now.
Dane Ortlund on the Intercessory Work of Christ
Consider Hebrews 7:25: “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” This, too, speaks of the intercessory ministry of Christ. Speaking on this text, Dane Ortlund writes:
“Here’s what this means. The divine Son never ceases (note the word ‘always’ ) to bring his atoning life, death, and resurrection before his Father in a moment-by-moment way . . . Christ continues to intercede on our behalf in heaven because we continue to fail here on earth . . . One way to think of Christ’s intercession, then, is simply this: Jesus is praying for you right now” (Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly, p. 83-84).
Louis Berkhof on the Intercessory Work of Christ
In his book, Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof has a few dazzling pages on the intercessory work of Christ for believers (400-405). We know that Jesus prays for us, but specifically, what are his prayer requests? Berkhof writes, “Christ’s ministry of intercession is also a ministry of loving care for His people. He helps them in their difficulties, their trials, and their temptations (403).” Imagine that. Jesus prays for you as you face the trials and temptations of life.
“It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end.”
Although personal prayer is essential, your ability to kill sin, pursue holiness, and persevere until the end is not determined by your effort alone. For those who belong to Christ, we have the sweet assurance of knowing that not only did Jesus pray for his people 2,000+ years ago, but continues to pray for us right now.