The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17:1-26

John 17:1-26 is often referred to as “The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus”, found only in the book of John, and is the longest prayer given by Jesus presented to us in the New Testament.  In a three-part series, teacher and preacher Bob Deffinbaugh from Community Bible Chapel in Richardson, Texas, walks through this “Priestly Prayer” for us.  Deffinbaugh breaks up this long prayer into three different sections, which became three separate sermons, Part 1 (John 17:1-5), Part 2 (John 17:6-19), and Part 3 (John 17:20-26).  These three sections of course also find natural separations within the scriptures; Part 1 being “Jesus’ Requests for Himself” (17:1-5), Part 2 is “Jesus’ Intercession for the Apostles” (17:6-19), and finally Part 3, “Jesus’ Intercession for Future Believers” (17:20-26).[1]

As with everything that was recorded from Jesus by the Apostles, the Priestly Prayer gives us great insight into a life of prayer, how Jesus used prayer himself, and how prayer was also used to immediately benefit those who were standing nearby and heard Him pray.  One of the more fascinating points, at least to me personally, is the last, in which Jesus said some prayers so others would hear him praying for them.  This can have a very healing effect on those we are praying for, and as seen in scripture here, sometimes praying for those who are present in the room with us is important.  Jesus of course did not say all his prayers specifically so others would hear (and this should certainly not be confused with a heretical or pharisaical type praying), like His prayer in Gethsemane, but this is clearly what Jesus did in some cases as seen in John 11:42.

Jesus’ Request for Himself (17:1-5)

In Part 1 of the Priestly Prayer, Deffinbaugh describes the way Jesus speaks to the Father as a “conversational prayer”, a term that was somewhat of a catch phrase in the later half of the 20th century church.  The term used here for “Father” in the Greek is pater, which Jesus uses three other times in this particular prayer.  In this case, pater is defined more as the relationship of paternity, the nearest ancestor, or the natural father, than a general male figure.  As many others have pointed out in addressing this prayer, pater is an indication that Jesus was in direct conversation with his own Father.

Almost as a side note, Deffinbaugh leaps into a complex conversation that compares the Priestly Prayer with the Prayer in Gethsemane, and briefly examines how the Synoptics handle the Prayer in Gethsemane, while John only records the Priestly Prayer.  His conclusion basically comes down to the uniqueness of John’s gospel, but the comparison is well worth the time that more extensive research requires.

Jesus’ Intercession for the Apostles (17:6-19)

Part 2 of the Priestly Prayer reveals how much Jesus cared for his disciples, and to what extent he had gone to make sure they were properly trained by their “master.”  As Deffinbaugh explains, Jesus’ method of discipleship was effective and at this point, coming to an end.

In the days of our Lord, there were no printing presses, no Bible concordance programs on CD-ROM, no Internet web sites from which to download good Bible study materials… books were exceedingly rare.  Much learning took place by means of discipleship. A disciple followed his chosen “master” around, serving him, listening to him, and learning from him. This is the way our Lord taught, or “discipled” His disciples. They accompanied Him virtually everywhere He went. They listened and asked many questions, and they learned.

Jesus provides us here with yet another example of how we should pray ourselves.  This was Jesus’ last known prayer before his arrest, but he took this time between the upper room and Gethsemane to show how we can pray without ceasing.  Jesus prayed for his disciples before they even were his disciples (Luke 6:12), while they were being discipled (John 6:15), at the end of his ministry here (John 17:6-19), and then even when he was in heaven (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25).[2]

Jesus’ Intercession for Future Believers (17:20-26)

In the final section of the Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays for unity between the future Believers who will belong to the one body of Christ, the Church.  Jesus points out that the ultimate fellowship with God will increase in eternity, whereas the goal of salvation is the future glorification, which is at least in part, to actually be with Jesus in eternity.  The Priestly Prayer as a whole gives us many lessons about prayer, but as Deffinbaugh concludes, “our Lord’s prayer reminds us that our faith should be proclaimed and practiced”, just as Jesus does right before he is arrested and executed.

Deffinbaugh’s discussion on the prayer was certainly extensive, and for such a difficult section of scripture provided some good insight, and if you have the chance I would highly recommend at least a quick read through his sermons linked above.  His individual sections were at times slightly scattered, as with the brief discussion on the Synoptic Problem, one that is very complex, and something difficult to examine with such a short discourse.  Overall a very detailed explanation of John 17:1-26 and he offers very enlightening conclusions after each section.


[1] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, , The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Vol. 2, 2 vols. (Chicago, IL: David C Cook Publishers, 1983), 330-334.

[2] Ibid, 331.

2 thoughts on “The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17:1-26

  1. Pingback: Look in the Rearview Mirror God is Pursuing a Relationship With You | Scott Fillmer

  2. Pingback: Look in the Rearview Mirror God is Pursuing a Relationship With You « ScottFillmer.com

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