"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am '(John 17:24).
In His parting address, Jesus gives His disciples the full revelation of what the new life was to be when the Kingdom of God had come in power. They were to find their calling and their blessedness in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in union with Jesus, the heavenly Vine, and in their witnessing and suffering for Him. As He described their future life, the Lord had repeatedly given the most unlimited promises as to the power their prayers might have.
Now in closing, He Himself proceeds to pray. To let His disciples have the joy Of knowing what His intercession for them in heaven as their High Priest will be, He gives them this precious legacy of His prayer to the Father. He does this because, as priests, they are to share in His work of intercession, and they must know how to perform this holy work.
In the teaching of our Lord on this last night (John, chapter 17), we recognize that these astonishing prayer-promises have not been given for our benefit, but in the interest of the Lord and His Kingdom. Only from the Lord Himself can we learn what prayer in His Name is to be and what it can obtain. To pray in His Name is to pray in perfect unity with Himself. The High-Priestly prayer will teach everyone that prayer in the Name of Jesus may ask for and expect everything. This prayer is ordinarily divided into three parts. Our Lord first prays for Himself (verses 1-5), then for His disciples (verses 6-19), and last for all the believing people of all ages (verses 20-26). The follower of Jesus who gives himself to the work of intercession, and who would like to know how much of a blessing he can pray down upon his circle in the Name of Jesus, should in all humility let himself be led of the Spirit to study this wonderful prayer as one of the most important lessons of the school of prayer.
First of all, Jesus prays for Himself, for His being glorified, so that He may glorify the Father. "Father! Glorify Thy Son. And now, Father, glorify Me." He presents reasons for His praying this way. A holy convenant was concluded between the Father and the Son in heaven. The Father promised Him power over all flesh as the reward for His work. Now Jesus had done the work, He had glorified the Father, and His one purpose was to further glorify Him. With the utmost boldness He asks the Father to glorify Him, so that He may now be and do for His people everything He has undertaken.
Disciple of Jesus! Here you have the first lesson in your work of priestly intercession, to be learned from the example of your great High Priest. To pray in the Name of Jesus is to pray in unity and in sympathy with Him. The Son began His prayer by clarifying His relationship to the Father, speaking of His work and obedience and His desire to see the Father glorified. You should pray like this. Draw near to the Father in Christ. Plead His finished work. Say that you are one with it, that you trust it, and live in it. Say that you, too, have given yourself to finish the work the Father has given you to do, and to live alone for His glory. Then ask confidently that the Son may be glorified in you.
This is praying in the Name, in the very words, and in the Spirit of Jesus, in union with Jesus Himself. Such prayer has power. If with Jesus you glorify the Father, the Father will glorify Jesus by doing what you ask in His Name. It is only when your own personal relationship, like Christ's, is clear with God-when you are glorifying Him and seeking everything for His glory-that, like Christ, you will have power to intercede for those around you.
Our Lord next prays for the circle of His disciples. He speaks of them as those whom the Father has given Him. Their distinguishing characteristic is that they have received Christ's Word. He says He is now sending them into the world in His place, just as the Father had sent Him. He asks two things for them: that the Father would keep them from the evil one, and that He would sanctify them through His Word.
Just like the Lord, each believing intercessor has his own immediate circle for whom he prays first. Parents have their children, teachers their pupils, pastors their flocks, and all believers have those whose care lies on their hearts. It is of great consequence that intercession should be personal, pointed, and definite. Our first prayer must always be that they receive the Word.
But this prayer will not work unless we say to the Lord, "I have given them Your Word." This gives us liberty and power in intercession for souls. Don't just pray for them, but speak to them. When they have received the Word, pray for their being kept from the evil one and for their being sanctified through that Word. Instead of being hopeless or judging, or giving up on those who fall, let us pray, "Father! Keep them in Your Name! Sanctify them through Your truth!" Prayer in the Name of Jesus accomplishes much: "What ye will shall be done unto you."
Next our Lord prays for a still wider circle. "I pray not only for these, but for them who through their word shall believe." His priestly heart enlarges itself to embrace all places and all time. He prays that everyone who belongs to Him may everywhere be one, as God's proof to the world of the divinity of His mission. He then prays that they may always be with Him in His glory. Until then, He asks "that the love wherewith Thou last loved me may be in them, and I in them."
The disciple of Jesus who has first proved the power of prayer in his own circle cannot confine himself within its limits. He then prays for the universal Church and its different branches. He prays especially for the unity of the Spirit and of love. He prays for its being one in Christ, as a witness to the world that Christ, Who has made love triumph over selfishness and separation, is indeed the Son of God sent from heaven. Every believer ought to pray that the unity of the Church, not in external organizations, but in spirit and in truth, is manifested.
Jesus says, "Father! I will (or I desire)." Based on His right as Son, the Father's promise to Him, and His finished work, He can do so. The Father had said to Him, "Ask of me, and I will give Thee." He simply availed Himself of the Father's promise. Jesus has given us a similar promise: "Whatsoever ye will shall be done unto you." He asks me in His Name to say what I will, what I desire. Abiding in Him, in a living union with Him in which man is nothing and Christ is everything, the believer has the liberty to take up that word of His High Priest. In answer to the question, "What wilt thou? "to say, "Father! I will all that You have promised."
This is nothing but true faith. It honors God that I have such confidence in saying what I desire is indeed acceptable to Him. At first sight, our hearts shrink from the expression. We feel neither the liberty nor the power to speak in such a manner. But grace will most assuredly be given to each one who loses his will in his Lord's. Whoever gives up his will entirely will find it again renewed and strengthened with a Divine strength.
"Father! I will. " This is the keynote of the everlasting, ever-active, all-powerful intercession of our Lord in heaven. It is only in union with Him that our prayer is effective and accomplishes much. If we abide in Him, living, walking, and doing all things in His Name; if we take each separate petition, tested and touched by His Word and Spirit, and cast it into the mighty stream of intercession that goes up from Him to be presented before the Father; then we will have the full confidence that we receive what we ask for. The cry "Father! I will "will be breathed into us by the Spirit Himself. We will lose ourselves in Him and become nothing, finding that in our impotence we have power to succeed.
Disciples of Jesus! You are called to be like your Lord in His priestly intercession! When will we awaken to the glory of our destiny to pray to God for perishing men and be answered? When will we shake off the sloth that clothes itself in the pretense of humility and yield ourselves wholly to God's Spirit, that He might fill our wills with light and power to know, to take, and to possess everything that our God is waiting to give?
Lord, teach us to pray.
O my Blessed High Priest! Who am I that You should invite me to share Your power of intercession? And why, O my Lord, am I so slow of heart to understand, believe, and exercise this wonderful privilege to which You have redeemed Your people? O Lord! Give me Your grace, that my life's work may become praying without ceasing, to draw down the blessing of heaven on all my surrroundings on earth.
Blessed Lord! I come now to accept my calling, for which I will give up everything and follow You. Into Your hands I will believingly yield my whole being. Form, train, and inspire me to be one of Your prayer force, those who watch and strive in prayer, who have power and victory. Take possession of my heart, and fill it with the desire to glorify God in the gathering, sanctification, and union of those whom the Father has given You. Take my mind and give me wisdom to know when prayer can bring a blessing. Take me wholly and prepare me as You would a priest, to stand always before God and to bless His Name.
Blessed Lord! Now and through all my spiritual life, let me want everything for You, and nothing for myself. Let it be my experience that the peson who has and asks for nothing for himself, receives everything, including the wonderful grace of sharing Your everlasting ministry of intercession. Amen.
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