God created heaven and established His throne there so that the angels could worship Him. His meeting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, everyday, establishment of Tabernacle in Israel and later the Temple in Jerusalem, coming of the Son of God as man and after His resurrection the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all believers is about God’s desire to have a close relationship with mankind. This close relationship with God is maintained by us through prayers and worship every day.
Prayers are offered to seek God’s heart while opening our own heart to Him and the best example is that ‘Hanna spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard’ (1 Samuel 1:13 & 15). She told Eli, the High Priest, who thought her to be drunk, I ‘have poured out my soul before the LORD’ and God heard. In the Scripture we have Abraham’s prayer for intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18), Moses’ prayer to LORD God for forgiveness for the Israelites (Exodus 32) and Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8) for dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Lord Jesus provided a Model Prayer for all believers’ which we term as ‘Lord’s Prayer’ (Matthew 6:9-13. The Lord Himself took to prayer early in the morning (Mark 1:35), the whole night on the mountain (Luke 6:12) but the only fully listed prayer of the Lord is in John 17
Solomon’s prayer contains five requests: first, for God’s presence (1 Kings 8:57); second, verse 58 for desire to do God’s will in everything (turn our hearts to Him); third, verse 59 for help with each day’s needs; verse 58 for the desire to obey God’s decrees and commands and five, verse 60 for the spread of God’s kingdom to the entire world, the whole earth.
David could see the whole of creation declaring the glory of God, ‘Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech not language where their voice is not heard’ (Psalm 19:1-3). God has established His throne in heaven to allow the angels to sing His glory and fellowship with Him (Revelation 4:8). His visits to Adam and Eve every evening in the Garden of Eden were to enable them to be in His Divine presence (Genesis 3:8). Moses called out to the Israelites for offerings to make the Tabernacle for God’s presence in their midst (Exodus 35).
God is love and He desires to express His love for us through fellowship with Him (1 John4:8). Apostle James’ advice to us is to ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’ and it is the basic essence of prayer and worship (James 4:8). The LORD’S promise to Moses was to ‘rain bread from heaven for you. and the people shall go out and gather a certain quota everyday’ (Exodus 16:4-5). On the sixth day they were to collect double to last for two days. The prayer is ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11) is also a reflection of the same command of God. People did not listen to Moses and kept the manna until the next day to avoid the daily exercise of collecting it ‘and it bred worms and stank’ (Exodus 16:19-20). God desires daily conversation with His people to give daily blessings and if we are Sunday Christians we are eating the stale spiritual food, for otherwise the Holy Spirit would not be dwelling in us and would be a visiting teacher.
What is the right posture in prayer? – When Moses entered the Tabernacle, the Pillar of Cloud descended and ‘God spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’ (Exodus 33:10-11). A friend speaking to a friend is an informal talk. Lord Jesus has taught, ‘Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3). A child coming before his Father in heaven may or may not be fully aware of His Sovereign state but will appear before Him without any fear. However, the Jewish culture of that time adopted kneeling as the posture during prayer with hands raised upwards in a state of complete submission.
Scripture does show kneeling before God as the posture for prayer among the Israelites (Psalm 95:6 & Daniel 6:10). But the Son of God prayed while sitting, standing, kneeling and in a prone position. Prophet Elijah ‘bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees’ to pray for rain (1 Kings 18:42). The Lord went ‘out to the mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God’ (Luke 6:12). It may be rather difficult to remain in a kneeling posture all night and being like a child or a close friend it is not the posture of the body but the posture of mind, heart and soul that would matter.
More important than the posture is the attitude during prayer. We have to be like Lord Jesus and He is our intercessor in heaven (Romans 8:26) and on earth in our fallen state (weaknesses) we do not know how to pray but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with ‘groaning which cannot be uttered’. The prayers are addressed to God the Father and the other two members of the Holy Trinity pray to Him for us and bring up our prayers before Him. In like manner King Solomon prayed for Himself, for the Israelites as also for the foreigner living among them, covering various situations of life in the future.
Genuine prayer provides a look deep inside a person’s very being, his heart, mind and soul and John 17 provides a rare and unique opportunity to get acquainted with the Messiah’s heart. The important points of this prayer match the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) in that it is repeatedly directed to God the Father; God’s name is recognized and concern for that being glorified; importance of the work of the kingdom of God is recognized and there is request to ‘keep from evil’ in both prayers. His mission being nearly over the Lord ‘lifted up His eyes to heaven’ before He should lay down His life and as per Charles Spurgeon ‘to pour out His soul in life before He poured it out unto death’. It is not a prayer of one in despair but of faith and confidence and victory while acknowledging the reality of conflict.
Important aspects of learning from Lord Jesus’ prayer – It is not about what He said but shows the constant attitude of the Lord’s mind and heart informing us about the idea of His future intercession in heaven. The uniqueness of this is while we pray to ‘Our Father in heaven’ the prayer of the Savior is not about one who is inferior praying to a superior but there is co-equality of the Speaker and the Father. It is not about bending the Father to Him but it is rather an expression of the very purpose of the Holy Trinity. This is a prayer when ‘the hour has come’ to fulfill the mission of glorifying the Father through glorification of the Son through His crucifiction, resurrection and ascension. The long hours from Gethsemane, His arrest, mistreatment by the Jewish elders, scourging, crucifiction and right through to the resurrection, He calls it but one short hour.
There are three beneficiaries of this prayer, Lord Jesus, the twelve disciples and all others who would respond to the call to follow the Lord. He first defines His need and then goes on to mention the task He was assigned and then the need for answer to the prayer. Seeking glory from the Father first is not being selfish but concern for the Father’s glory and the same was evident on His learning about Lazarus’ sickness, ‘God the Father must be glorified as also the Son’ through that event (John 11:4). He then speaks of the source and nature of eternal life that He had come to restore. After their disobedience, Adam and Eve hid from God and started covering themselves with leaves (Genesis 3:7-8). This very act of hiding from God is eternal death and they ceased to get intimate knowledge of God.
The Son of God defined eternal life as knowledge of God, ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ’ who was sent by God (John 17:2-3). While repeating the first request filled with faith, He clarifies the claim, ‘the glory which I had with You before the world was’. He spelt out His eternal relationship with the Father and His deity and only He could seek that as a right for He emptied Himself of that glory to become man (Philippians 2:7).
The Lord then prayed for the second beneficiary, the disciples, for He had encouraged the disciples as much as possible. On the evening of their separation and desertion, He committed them to the Father’s tender and loving care. First, He clarifies His mission for the disciples and their response, the Word of God has been given and they have received the same (John 17:6-8). Second, He specifies the reason for His prayer for the disciples. They belong to the Father and He has given them to the Son and require His care (verses 9-10); Third, His first special request for the disciples, ‘Holy Father, keep them through Your name’ for that is the only real protection for anyone (verses 11-12). Four, Lord justifies the prayer ‘that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves’ and to protect them from the devil. Five, Lord Jesus’ second special request for the disciples, ‘Sanctify them’, meaning to set them apart and this can only be done by ‘Your truth, that is Your Word’ (verses 17-19). The Great Commission is the same, as the Father had sent the Son and so are the disciples sent with the power and authority of the Word.
Then (from verse 20 onwards), our Lord expresses His love and prays for all of us, the future believers, for He knows the great turbulence awaits them from then onwards till the end times. The first request (Verse 21) is for unity among the first lot and also among all believers so that thus being of one accord in faith they may live. Second, He prays for glory of the church as a whole (verse 22) for the glory of the Second Adam that He had received from the Father, that glory He has given to the believers. This glory may be of oneness of mind like the Father and the Son.
How do we receive the glory of the Son of God? – His glory is in His presence with us, His Word, the Holy Spirit, His power in us to enable us to do the works He did, His leadership of moving ahead of us and His preservation of all believers. God’s glory is manifestation of the essential light of God’s presence and His very nature which is spiritually discerned and rejoiced in.
Third, He prays for the basis of this unity of believers be founded in love (verse 23). Since the unity of the Church is to be of faith in Lord Jesus, they must experience the same love of the Father as He being the Son, and this is received by us in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Four, He desires for the effect of that oneness of disciples to be their being one in and with Him (verse 24) and that they may be with Him and behold His eternal glory. The word ‘desire’ is His longing for gathering His people to Him in heaven as promised to us in (John 14:2-3). Five, He prays to be with His people even where He is. Another point of this part of the prayer is that ‘they may be with Me where I am’. He was not yet in heaven but He declared as if He already was there and He expects the same from us, of being seated with Him in heavenly places, even while being on earth. Apostle Paul identifies this same oneness to include being blessed with ‘every spiritual blessing in Him’ also (Ephesians 1:3 & 2:6).
And then is the final triumphant declaration, ‘I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it’ (verses 25-26). From this flows the Gethsemane Park prayer and His silence before His persecutors in fulfillment of the prophecy ‘as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7). His silence was more eloquent in glorifying the Father that Pilate was afraid (John 19:7-8); and the Centurion standing near the cross, said, ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God’ (Mark 15:39). This declaration of the Father’s name started by angel Gabriel to Mary, continues through His life, crucifiction, resurrection, ascension and glorification and even now in the presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer and the message of the Gospel.
How should we pray, that we receive answers? The most important aspect of Lord Jesus’ ministry on earth has been His total dependence on God the Father. He repeatedly asserted, ‘I can of Myself do nothing…. I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me’ (John 5:30). His final prayer seeking glory is to glorify the Father in heaven, nothing for Himself. The second part is of His ministry in heaven, He intercedes for us while endowed with all power and authority (Romans 8:34). The second person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, also does nothing for His own glory, helps believers, reminds us of Lord Jesus’ Word and teaches us. Right from the process of creation He was in place but acted only on God’s Word and the same is so today.
The answers to our prayers are also conditional to the same fact, ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (John 14:13). The first part of our prayers must center on glorifying God and the second being intercession for others who are suffering and need our prayer support. Only then must we seek fulfillment of personal needs. Lord Jesus prayed and gave account of what He had done till then and with every request there was a justification clause with the basic thread in the prayer being bringing glory to the Father in heaven. We want answer to our prayers but we do not want accountability.
Apostle James, head of the first church in Jerusalem further clarified the reasons for our lack, first, ‘because you do not ask’ and second, ‘you ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss’ (James 4:2-3). God created everything before creating man and found it all to be ‘good’, for it was all there to meet every need of man to enable him to give glory to God. Scripture lists out such wonderful blessings for those who walk in obedience to God and also contain the curses on the disobedient (Deuteronomy 28). God does not want to curse His children but He does desire complete obedience, for who will go out of the way to help a wayward child, except to make him return in humility.
Lord Jesus prayed for the believers to ‘be with Me where I am, that they may behold the glory which You have given Me’ (John 17:24). The glory was to be given after ascension to heaven and He was yet to be crucified and resurrected, but He believed in the accepted reality of His prayer. Prayer of faith without doubting will be answered, for a double-minded person is not sure of his need/demand as also about the willingness and ability of the giver (James 1:6-7). An appeal made to various authorities, including God the Father, is definitely never answered unless the Father in His mercy does.
Lord Jesus’ prayer is absolutely specific and any point needing special attention only is repeated. Being specific provides clarity to mind; defines our needs properly; lays stress on our intimacy and dependence on God; makes us more alert to answers to the prayer and increases our faith. Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho, was asked by the Lord, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ and his answer was absolutely specific, ‘that I may receive my sight’, and he was blessed (Mark 10:51). A prayer giving various options to God, either this or that or something else is like shooting an arrow blindfolded with hope of hitting something while also doubting His capability to fulfill the prayed for desire.
We were chosen by Him, redeemed by Him and live because of His mercy and yet we desire our own glory and will to prevail. The prayer is ‘Hallowed by Your name, Your will be done on earth as in heaven… For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever’ (Matthew 6:9-13). Like our Savior Lord we must remember and register this fact in our minds permanently.
Apostle John indirectly revealed in the Gospel written by him, the love of Lord Jesus for him as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. He was sure of God’s love for the Son, the love of the Messiah for him and in that his own love for both God the Father and God the Son. Filled with this confidence, he could lean on the Lord, on His bosom, at the Last Supper. When in faith, we are sure of His love for us and our dependence and love for Him, we become absolutely confident of receiving the answer also. This is what Lord Jesus did and we are expected to do.