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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Intercession

John 17

Christians often complain that their prayers are not heard. This is especially true when they are trying to pray for someone else. It seems we can all see the reasons in our lives why God would not grant what we want for ourselves (most of us can spot selfishness). But why won’t God grant our prayers for others?

Jesus gives us a grand lesson here. He is about to go the Crucifixion. This is his last prayer for his disciples, and it is a model for intercession. We shall see it in three steps:

·         The intercessor and God

·         The intercessor and the object of prayer

·         The requests of the intercessor

The Intercessor and God

(John 17:1-5 NIV) After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. {2} For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. {3} Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. {4} I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. {5} And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

One thing strikes us right away: “the time has come.” So many of us will not pray in God’s time – only in our desperation.

Glorification

We see the word “glorify” and wonder about it. We almost never use it in conversation, so it has lost its meaning to us. In this sense, it the acknowledgment of who God is. If you want a meaningful relationship with any person, you must know who they really are. If you know God, you will glorify Him. God is glorified in many ways:

·         Lazarus was allowed to die so that God might be glorified.[1]

·         The Resurrection was specifically intended to glorify God.[2]

·         Christ here tells us that He will return to his preexistent glory. The Ascension is not an afterthought, but the return to glory (from which He will come again).

·         Christ tells us he has glorified God by completing the work God gave Him to do.

That last is important for us. The way we glorify God – the way we acknowledge Him as God, so important to our relationship – is by obedience to Him. So perhaps this is the first problem we have in our prayers?

Eternal Life

Christ tells us that he has been given authority to dispense eternal life. Such authority is granted by God – another acknowledgement of who He is – but in Jesus’ case we know that He has eternal life in himself.[3]

Do we see God as the giver of eternal life? Or just the giver of local blessings?

Christ establishes here a principle: that God chooses who is to obtain eternal life. We are “elected” by God. This is important for our prayers. We must admit that we have done nothing – and could do nothing – to obtain eternal life ourselves. He chose us, not the other way around. Do we approach him on this basis, or on the basis of what we’ve done for him lately?

And what is this “eternal life?” Consider well the answer. There is a difference between what a thing is, and what it is made of. Christ here tells us what it is:

·         First, to know God.

·         Next, to know that He is the one and only true God.

·         Finally, to know that Jesus is the one He sent.

So many of us have so many “gods” in our lives. They may not be the idols of old, but gods they are nonetheless. Know the one God, and his son Jesus.

Our standing for intercession

We are said to be a royal priesthood. This passage is often referred to as a High Priestly prayer. Recall what the High Priest did first, before presenting the prayers and offerings of the people: he purified himself.

·         He acknowledged who God is; we must do so, also.

·         He acknowledged who he was. This we must do in the form of confession and repentance.

·         He asked for sanctification, but not on the basis of his worthiness. He asked at the command of God. We must ask for it too – on the basis of the blood of Christ.

The object of intercession

Now that we have established our relationship with God, let us do likewise regarding those for whom we wish to intercede.

(John 17:6-10 NIV) "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. {7} Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. {8} For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. {9} I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. {10} All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

Relationship

Just who are these people to me? Jesus answers that by noting that the disciples were given to him by God. So when I pray, I must tell God why I care about these folks.

·         Maybe they’re students of mine. God has given them to me as to an under-shepherd.

·         Maybe they’re family or friends.

·         Maybe they’re just someone for whom I feel a burden.

God asks why do I care to make sure that I do.

Their status with God

OK, that’s their relationship to me; what’s their relationship to God? Jesus here tells his Father that these are the ones who have kept his Word. They are the ones who know that everything Jesus did was from the Father. In other words, these are the ones who are on good terms, if you will, with the Father.

This is an important question. If the one I am interceding for is living in sin, I must intercede first about that. Between a broken arm and a broken life, always start by praying about the broken life.

Their history with God

Jesus now recalls to His Father that these are the disciples; the kingdom has been glorified through them. My deeds are not a standing to intercede; their deeds in the kingdom bring them closer to my Father. I’m sharing my personal interest, as a child of the King, with my Father.

The Mediator

All of this has been a form of mediation. We know that Christ is the mediator of the new covenant between us and God. We, as the imitators of Christ, must also mediate between God and our fellow men. It’s exactly what a royal priesthood would do.

The Requests

Christ now presents his requests to his Father:

(John 17:11-26 NIV) I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one. {12} While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. {13} "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. {14} I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. {15} My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. {16} They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. {17} Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. {18} As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. {19} For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. {20} "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, {21} that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. {22} I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: {23} I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. {24} "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. {25} "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. {26} I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

If you make a request of your human father, he might ask you three questions:

·         What’s the situation now?

·         What do you want?

·         What are you, personally, doing about it?

The situation

Christ explains that while he was with them,

·         He “kept” them safe.

·         He protected them.

·         He gave them the Word of God.

·         He sent them into the world.

But now he is leaving. Up until this point he has nurtured them, protected them and keeping them safe. He has instructed them in the Word. He has also assigned them a task in the kingdom. In short, he has done what a teacher and master should do. (A good test for Sunday School teachers!)

Likewise, when we intercede, we need to review the history a little. Sometimes this makes our requests a little clearer!

The requests

Sometimes when we ask, we ask for the wrong things, as well as asking in the wrong way. Note what Christ asks for his disciples:

·         He asks that they be sanctified in the truth. They are to be in the world, but not of the world.

·         He asks that they may experience his joy. Note that he does not ask this “after they die,” but in this world.

·         He asks that they be kept from the evil one (lead us not into temptation!)

·         He asks for their unity. Why? So that they will be happy? No, so that the world will know who He is.

·         He asks that the Love of God be placed in them.

There’s a great lesson here. The disciples, with the exception of John, will all die violent deaths. They will suffer greatly for the cause of Christ. Christ does not ask to keep them from suffering; rather, He asks that they will triumph in their suffering.

·         We need to know that “stop the pain” is not necessarily what we should ask. Sometimes, yes. But look at the circumstances with God’s eyes.

·         Rather, we should look at what God wants for them and pray for that. “In His will” means just that.

What am I doing about it?

Christ is not content to ask; He must also “do.” There are two things he mentions here:

·         He says he is “leaving.” He is; he is leaving to go to the cross, on which no greater love could be displayed.

·         He is also sanctifying himself, preparing himself.

The lesson for us is this:

·         Are we willing to “do” as well as pray? Are we showing it in our actions? Do we really love those for whom we pray?

·         Are we also willing to make the spiritual preparations – the sanctification – necessary to speak to God? Or is it just a casual thought to be tossed off in the “sweet minute and a half of prayer?”

Summary

If I am to intercede successfully, I must

·         Be in the right relationship with God,

·         Acknowledging who He is, and

·         Acknowledging who I am.

·         Be a mediator between God and those for whom I pray

·         Ask my Father

·         In light of what has gone before

·         In the best understanding of His will for their lives

·         Actively assisting my prayers, physically and spiritually.


[1] John 11:4

[2] 1 Peter 1:21

[3] John 5:26

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