His Prayer for Us

John 17


If you have a Bible, please open it to the book of John, Chapter 17. Today, we advance in this Gospel and we take our first glimpse at the wonderful prayer Jesus offered on the last night of his life. It is my opinion that you can divide this prayer into three parts. First, you find Jesus praying for himself. It is what we call petition. v. 1-5. Second, he asks the father to bless his apostles. That’s what we would call intercession. It is found in v. 6-19. And finally, there’s the third part. It begins in v. 20 and goes to v. 24. It’s still intercession; but this time the object changes. He no longer prays for the apostles; he prays for you and me. What does he ask for us? Let us read in v. 20. “…” See, we are the ones he prays for since we are the ones who believe in Him through their words! Read through verse 23. You see, on the last evening of His life, Jesus was concerned for you and me. He was concerned for the Verviers Church of Christ, the Paris Church of Christ, the Conway Church of Christ. And so He took of his precious left-over minutes and He said, “Please Father, make them one. Help them to be united in me!” Don’t miss the importance of this! There are lots of things the Son of God could have been doing at this point. There are lots of goodbyes He could have made right then. I am sure the apostles could have used a few more explanations. But Jesus was right here, obviously, thinking a prayer for our unity was more important.

If this is true, what is going to be one of my primary goals in the church? Unity. We all ought to strive towards it – putting forth every effort to bring it about. A unity of the kind you find in families. A unity of the kind you find in a football game or in a battalion – where every member knows and feels they belong to the group. Where every member is linked by a fatherhood figure or a commitment. I don’t think Jesus, here, was talking about a unity where there would be no conflicts. He wants that, yes. He wants us to be like he and His dad, perfectly in unison. But he knows we are men. He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows it takes a whole lot of efforts and mistakes on our part. Look, there is a reason why he defines the Church as a family in the scriptures. All of you know what it’s like to be a family. All families are linked by a father or a mother. But all families have their struggles. Hopefully, when the problems come, this parental figure is enough to carry us over the hurdle. In the same way when turmoil comes in the Church, my commitment to God, my relationship with Him, ought to keep alive in my chest the desire to be one with you and you with me. But don’t take what I say as an excuse to keep discord in the body. Again, Jesus understands, but he wants so much more than that. In His prayer, Jesus is not simply talking about “coexisting” under one banner! There is no joy in that. When he calls a man and a woman to unite in holy matrimony, He isn’t simply talking of sharing one bed, is He? If God gives us children, He isn’t doing it for us to simply live under one roof. There is no joy in all of that and God wants us to enjoy our relationships. What He wants is families, spouses and churches walking side by side in deep fellowship with each other. He wants people delighting in each other’s company. That’s the way He was with God, wasn’t it? Well, that’s the way he also wants us in the Church! So today, I want to put some thoughts into what unite families (whether spiritual or carnal families). I want to come up with some practical pointers that will help us be one. Let me share a few quick observations before we go to the scriptures and learn from them. It is my observation that these factors often destroy the unity of physical, carnal families.

  1. A lack of respect for different opinions
    Unity seldom exists where every member of the family is forced to have the same opinion on every subject.

  2. A harsh leader
    Unity in a family never exists where the head of the family is harsh, extremely dominant and forceful. I have tried that approach before and some of you have to. But I’ve noticed that every time I’ve been this way, frictions arose all around me. It wasn’t the way of unity.

  3. Deception
    Have you ever seen families where members tried to hide things from each other? When a member lies and uses deception to get his way? Sometimes, it will even go as far as involving other siblings in the dishonest game to cover up for the evil deed. When that happens, inevitably, it always results in broken trust. And you know trust is essential to live together.

  4. Selfishness
    Selfishness will always destroy unity. When one parent is only concerned for himself and starts reaching out for what he wants, regardless of what it costs to others, it breaks all relationships apart. When one child gets what he wants, no matter how it disturbs mum and dad, no matter how it destroys brother or sister, seldom unity will survive in that kind of environment.

  5. Criticism
    Oh, look at those families where members are critical, have that negative spirit. What do you see there? Children who want to remain long in that environment? Mates who are thrilled to be married? No, they are all looking for a way out. When all members can see is what should have been done, how this would be better if, you are in trouble in regard to unity.

But, on the other hand, take a family that is doing very well. A family that is close and enjoys each other’s presence. What do you see? Love. You find free outpouring and expression of love. Members share how much they care for each other and how much they value their relationships. And it’s not only done by words or by hugs. You also see a genuine concern for each other’s needs. Someone is distressed; someone is troubled and the others stop and minister to the need. I’m not too good at doing that, but God has given me two wonderful women who do that in my life. My wife and my daughter. When I am troubled, my wife always stops what she is doing and she takes the time to talk things out with me. I appreciate that. It makes me feel committed to her. It indebts me to her. But, not only her. You should see my daughter. She does that as well as her mum. I am sick sometimes and when I have to lie down, she’ll come and pet my head or lean her head on me. She gives me tender love. That makes me feel one with her. Praise God for that. United families care for each other’s needs. They freely love each other and they encourage one another. It doesn’t matter what the score is, what the performance was like, what the grade turned out to be. What is said are words of appreciation for the effort. And with these words of encouragement, you’ll find oneness and members who blossom. And I am sure you could add other things to the list I have made. There are hundreds of things we could talk about today. But I want to stop here and show you a few scriptures that show unity in the Church is characterized by all of that also.

Turn if you would to Eph. 4. In Eph, Ch. 4, Paul directly commands the brethren to be united. With 32 verses, he penetrates the heart of the matter and hits the nail on the head. I don’t know of a place in the Bible that so efficiently deals with the subject. Read with me what he says. V. 1-6 “….” You see what Paul starts showing here is that everything we know about God is oneness. The whole message of Christianity brings man together. It doesn’t divide. There is not 10 ways to look at the will of God.

But somebody will say, “A fine job the Bible does at bringing the religious world together!” “Look how many churches there are in our community!” Let me suggest it’s not the Bible’s fault we are divided. It is our creeds; it is our traditions; it is our cultures. We have become the laughing stock of the world because we have failed to give preeminence to the Bible. And it happens in our own churches! Folks, let’s be careful of that because we aren’t exempt. We once were known as people of the book with book, chapter and verse. I fear we have gotten away from that. And as Isaiah says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge!” The word of God always unites. It’s the only supernatural element that has the power to bring barriers down.

But, that’s not all. In v. 15, Paul also says the body needs love to grow. You can have a people with the right message; but if there is no love, there won’t be oneness. You need both of these elements for the people of God to unite. Perhaps, it’s why, on four different occasions, on that night, Jesus would tell his apostles, “Love one another.” How much love do I have for you and you for me? I think Paul knew we had a tendency not to translate concepts into practical steps. So he goes on and now defines that love that can unite us. In v. 25, he says this is what a loving church, a unified church looks like.

  1. First, “…..” Don’t you see here one of the elements we talked about earlier for family unity. Honesty. Paul says, “Be honest to each other!” There is no room in this pulpit for deception. There is no room in our classroom for anything but truth. From our leadership to the four corners of this church, we ought to be truthful to each other in our message and in our actions. But there is more.
  2. V. 26. “…” You see, anytime you get a diverse group of people together, there is going to be differences of opinions. You are going to have statements made and tempers flaring. There will be problems that will produce anger. There isn’t a family in this auditorium exempt from that. But God says, “When you are angry, solve your problems quickly. Don’t handle it in a bad way.” Anger really is a problem. So many times I hear of churches dividing and losing their unity because of unreconcilable anger. It all starts as a little problem. And it lingers; and it lingers; and it lingers until finally, it is big and all infected. Then it’s almost too late to contain it and cure it. That’s why God says, “When you have anger due to problems, you solve it quickly. Don’t even let the sun go down, don’t give a foothold to the devil.” Jesus had the same idea in mind when he said, “If you go to the altar and you remember there is a problem…” Take care of your problems quickly and then you’ll have unity.
  3. Be sensitive to each other. I see that in verse 28 and 29. Let us read. “….” I think what Paul was saying, here, was I ought to be concerned about you. I ought not to steal but to provide in your time of needs. But really, it goes so much beyond all of that. What I see here is a call to sensitivity. A call to respect you. You see a church where people respect each other and are sensitive to each other’s needs and you see a united church. A church where people take care of each other is a church where Satan won’t be able to drive a wedge. So how much do I care about your needs! I ought to if I want to fulfill Paul’s command to keep the unity. But it doesn’t stop there.
  4. Paul says in v. 30. “…..” The fourth point I see here is I ought to encourage you with my tongue. My task is to build you up, to seek the positive in you. I wonder how many of us are truly encouragers in the heart. Here is a little test. This morning, before you came to church, what nice thing did you say to your family? Since you have been at church, who have you praised for something? Do you ever say to your Bible class teacher, “Good job!” or do you go home and complain how boring so and so was again. There is a difference there. It’s major. One attitude kills and divides. The other builds and unifies. Then drop to v. 31-32. He says, “……” Be kind to each other. It’s difficult to feel bad about someone who is kind to you, isn’t it? It’s difficult to ignore those people who are tender-hearted and compassionate towards you. Do you want to set the environment for unity in the church? Then be kind and above all, forgive! That’s such a big one. We, as a people of God, need so much forgiveness. As a father and a husband, I do so many mistakes and I need that forgiveness. In this job, right here behind the pulpit, I’m not always the man I should be and I need a lot of forgiveness. But you do too. And in a house where there is no forgiveness, there will never be unity. In a church where there is not a lot of forgiveness, there will not be a whole lot of unity.


So today, you have what Paul thought would provide unity in our midst. The choice is ours.

Today, which kind of church are we?