Christ the High Priest
Father, I want those you have given me to be
with me where I am.
In His parting address, Jesus gives His disciples the full revelation of what the new life was to be when once the kingdom of God had come in power. In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in union with Him, the heavenly Vine, in their going forth to witness and to suffer for Him, they were to find their calling and their blessedness. In between His telling of their future new life, the Lord had repeatedly given the most unlimited promises as to the power their prayers might have.
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 this precious legacy of His prayer to the Father. He does this at the same time because they as priests are to share in His work of intercession that they and we might know how to perform this holy work. In the teaching of our Lord on this last night, we have learned to understand that these astonishing prayer- promises have not been given on our own behalf but in the interest of the Lord and His kingdom. From the Lord alone can we learn what the prayer in His name is to be and what it is to obtain. We have seen that to pray in His name is to pray in perfect unity with Him. The high-priestly prayer will teach all that prayer in the name of Jesus may ask and expect to receive.
This prayer is ordinarily divided into three parts. Our Lord first prays for himself (John 17:1–5), then for His disciples (vv. 6–19), and last for all the believing people through all ages (vv. 20–26). The follower of Jesus who dedicates himself to the work of intercession and wants to pray down blessing upon his circle in the name of Jesus, will submit humbly to the guidance of the Spirit and study this wonderful prayer as one of the most important prayer lessons.
First, Jesus prays for himself to be glorified so that He may glorify the Father. ‘‘Father . . . glorify your Son. . . . And now, Father, glorify me’’ (John 17:1, 5). He shows the grounds on which He prays. A holy covenant had been concluded between the Father and the Son in heaven. The Father had promised Him power over all flesh as the reward of His work. He had done the work, He had glorified the Father, and His one purpose is now to glorify Him further. With utmost boldness He asks that the Father may glorify Him that He may now be and do for His people all He has undertaken.
You who would follow Jesus, here is 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 making clear His relationship to the Father, pleading His work and obedience and His desire to see the Father glorified. We must do the same. Draw near and appear before the Father in Christ. Plead His finished work. Say that you are one with it, you trust in it, and you live by 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 confidently ask that the Son may be glorified in you.
This is praying in the name, in the very words, 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 on this point, like Christ’s, is clear with God, when you are glorifying Him and seeking all for His glory so 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 mark is that they have received Christ’s word. He says of them that He now sends them into the world in His place, just as the Father has sent Him. He asks two things for them: that the Father will keep them from the Evil One and that He will sanctify them through His Word, because He sanctifies himself for them.
Just like the Lord, each believing intercessor has his own immediate circle for whom he first prays. Parents have their children, teachers their pupils, pastors their flocks, all workers their special charge, all believers those whose care lies upon their hearts. It is essential that intercession should be personal, pointed, and definite. Our first prayer must always be that they may receive the Word. But this prayer will not avail unless with our Lord we say, ‘‘I have given them your word’’ (John 17:14). This gives us liberty and power in intercession for souls—not only to pray for them but also to speak to them. And when they have received the Word, let us pray for their being kept from the Evil One and that they be sanctified through that Word. Instead of doubting or judging or giving up on those who fall, let us pray for our circle: ‘‘Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name’’ (John 17:11); ‘‘Sanctify them by the truth’’ (John 17:17). Prayer in the name of Jesus avails much: ‘‘Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you’’ (John 15:7).
Then follows our Lord’s prayer for a still wider circle: ‘‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message’’ (John 17:20). His priestly heart enlarges itself to embrace all places and all time, and He prays that all who belong to Him may everywhere be one, as God’s proof to the world of the divinity of His mission, and then that they may ever be with Him in His glory. Until then, ‘‘that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them’’ (John 17:26).
The disciple of Jesus who has first in his own circle of responsibility proved the power of prayer, cannot confine himself to its limits. He prays for the church universal and its various 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 wonderfully 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 organization but in spirit and in truth—may be made known.
So much for the matter of prayer. Now for its style. Jesus says, ‘‘Father, I want . . .’’ (John 17:24). On the ground of His right as Son, the Father’s promise to Him, and His finished work, He was able to ask whatever He wanted. The Father said to Him, ‘‘Ask of me, and I will give to you.’’ He simply availed himself of the Father’s promise. Jesus has given us a similar promise: ‘‘Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you’’ (John 15:7). He asks me in His name to ask what I wish.
Abiding in Him in a living union in which man is nothing and Christ is all, the believer has the liberty to take the word of His High Priest. In answer to the question ‘‘What do you want?’’ he is able to say, ‘‘Father, I want all that you have promised.’’ This is true faith. This honors God, to have the confidence to ask whatever you will and know that it is acceptable to Him. At first sight, our heart shrinks from the expression. We feel neither the liberty nor the power to speak like this. It is a word for which alone, in the most entire abnegation of our will, grace will be given, but for which grace will most assuredly be given to each one who loses his will in his Lord’s. He that loses his will will find it; he that gives up his will entirely will find it again renewed and strengthened with a divine strength. ‘‘Father, I want . . .’’ (John 17:24): this is the keynote of the everlasting, everactive, all-prevailing intercession of our Lord in heaven. It is only in union with Him that our prayer avails; in union with Him it avails much.
If we but abide in Him, living, and walking, and doing all things in His name; if we but come and bring 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 borne upward and presented before the Father—then we shall have the full confidence that we receive the petitions we ask. The ‘‘Father, I want . . .’’ (John 17:24) will be breathed into us by the Spirit himself. We shall lose ourselves in Him and become nothing, to find that in our impotence we have power and prevail.
Disciples of Jesus, called to be like your Lord in His priestly intercession, when will we be like Him? When will we awaken to the glory—passing all conception—of our destiny to plead and prevail with God for perishing men? When will we shake off the sloth that masks itself with a pretense of humility? Let us yield ourselves wholly to God’s Spirit, that He may fill our wills with light and with power, to know, to take, and to possess all that our God is waiting to give to a will that takes hold of Him.
Blessed High Priest, who am I that you should invite me to share with you in your power of prevailing intercession? Why, Lord, am I so slow to understand and believe, to exercise this wonderful privilege to which you have redeemed your people? Lord, give your grace that this may increasingly be my unceasing life-work—to pray without ceasing, to bring the blessing of heaven down on all around me here on earth.
Lord, I come to accept this as my calling. For this I would forsake all and follow you. Into your hands I would yield my whole being in believing trust. Form and train me to be one of your prayer warriors. Inspire me to be one with the wrestlers who watch and strive in prayer; Israels, God’s princes, who have power and prevail. Take possession of my heart and fill it with one desire—the glory of God in the ingathering, sanctification, and union of those whom the Father has given you. Take my mind and let this be my study and my wisdom, to know when prayer can bring a blessing. Take me wholly and fit me as a priest to stand always before God and to bless in His name.
Blessed Lord, may it be here, as through all my spiritual life: you being all and I being nothing. May it be my experience that he that has and seeks nothing for himself receives all, even to the wonderful grace of sharing with you in your everlasting ministry of intercession. Amen.