Written by: Chris du Preez
Prayer is one of the most important components of any Christian’s relationship with God. Just as Bible study is the means of feeding one’s spirit and soul, prayer is the means of speaking to God on a daily basis. Prayer and Bible study complement each other. However, this writer will focus on prayer as the main topic of this essay. In this paper this writer will establish the importance and result of prayer on the basis of Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17:11 – 19.
Firstly, this writer will explain the nature of the problem and why it is significant in his ministry context today. The problem that is being addressed is the lack of prayer in the Church. Secondly, this writer will provide a detailed exegesis by explaining what the author said to his audience, by attempting to reconstruct the historical situation for which the passage was written, and by describing the literary context of the passage with an emphasis on the author’s flow of thought.
This author will explain the hermeneutical principles derived from the text by using language that is relevant to his audience, and if there are any implications in the passage, he will show how the implications is implied in the text and consistent with the hermeneutical principles.
Finally, this writer will apply the text to his contemporary setting by showing the relevancy of the passage by analyzing the similarities and differences between his cultural setting and that of the biblical passage, and by describing how the meaning of the text needs to be applied to his situation in order to bring resolution to the problem.
The Nature of the Problem and Its Significance
Prayer is one of the most important disciplines in any Christian relationship with Jesus. Andrew Murray (2011, 11) defines prayer as follows:
Prayer is both one of the means and one of the fruits of our union with Christ. As a means is of great importance. All the things of faith, all the pleadings of desire, all the yearnings of a fuller surrender, all the confessions of shortcomings and of sin, all the exercise where the soul gives up self and clings to Christ, find their utterance in prayer.
Reading this definition of prayer, a person can see how important prayer truly is. However, the nature of the problem in the Church today regarding prayer is the fact that there is a lack of prayer. Today there are many ways the enemy uses to keep the Church from praying since the 21st century is fast paced and it is also known as the technological era. There is television, newspapers and even the internet. Once a war breaks out the whole world hears or reads about it in any way possible, whether it is over the internet or whether the news breaks over the radio or television. The point is that God’s people get so occupied with what is in the media or on the internet that they start to neglect their prayer life and intimacy with the Father. The more they neglect their fellowship with God, the more vulnerable they become for the enemy to get a stronghold on them.
The nature of the problem is very significant in this writer’s ministerial context because prayer has never been more necessary than today. It has always been a necessary component of a Christian’s walk with Christ. However, today there are wars, Christians are being martyred for their faith and so on. That should be reason enough to force the Church of Jesus Christ to their knees but it is not happening. The enemy uses the technology to keep the Church from praying because he knows that as soon as the people of God starts to pray in one accord like the disciples prayed in the early Church, the breakthroughs will come This writer will provide practical suggestions that a congregation might want to implement. Jesus is the prime example because He never had a lack of prayer in His life. It is time for the Church to get back to maintaining the type of prayer life that God expects of His people. Jesus was connected to the Father on a daily basis. God expects the same of His people. In order for the people in the Church to be connected with God on a permanent basis, it is important to know what the importance is of prayer in the life of the Church, whether it is in a corporate environment when the people of the Lord meet together for prayer services or individually in their homes as part of their personal intimate devotion time with God, by looking at a passage from God’s Word that speaks about prayer in the life of the Church. If there is one passage that a person can learn from regarding prayer, it is Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17. The focus now shifts to the exegesis of John 17. Due to space in this essay, this writer won’t analyze the whole passage from John 17. He will exegete John 17:11 – 19.
Exegesis of John 17
The Author’s Intended Message to his Audience
Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard (2004, 173) state that “an author intends only one meaning for a text; so this original, historical meaning is the legitimate object of exegesis.” However, it is important to understand the general meaning behind the whole of John 17. When reading John 17, it becomes clear that Jesus is busy praying. When a person looks closer at the passage, three things becomes clear that Jesus is praying for. Firstly, in John 17:1 – 5, He is praying for Himself. Since He knew that His time to be crucified was close, He said to the Father that it was almost time for Him to return and take up His rightful place of authority that He willingly laid aside to come and pay the price for humanity’s sin. Secondly, in John 17:6 – 19, Jesus is praying for the twelve disciples which God has given to Him so that they can be equipped to take the Gospel into the world in order for Jesus’ name to be made known. Finally, in John 17:20 – 25 Jesus prays for all the believers that would come to know Him by hearing the Good News of His crucifixion, death and resurrection.
Alexander and Alexander (2011, 639) summarize the meaning of the text:
Jesus’ work is complete (4), all but the final hour. He passed God’s message on. He has made God known. Now there remains only death and the glory he set aside to become a human being. But his followers (the disciples and those who believe through their teaching, 20) will be left bereft in a hostile world. So he prays that God would protect them (15); that their lives be shaped by the truth of God’s word (19); that they may display such unity among themselves that the world will be shaken out of its unbelief (21); and that they may, in the end, be with him in is glory (24).
In order to understand John 17, it is important to analyze the events that occurred before Jesus separated Himself to pray the prayer which is referred to as the “High Priestly Prayer”. Therefore, in the following section this writer will attempt to reconstruct the historical context that led Jesus to pray the prayer in John 17.
The Historical Situation of John 17:11 – 19
Before Jesus went to pray He taught His disciples on a number of topics and He also gave them warnings of things to come. It is important to analyze these teachings that He gave in order to understand where Jesus’ prayer fits in. In John 15, there are three teachings that Jesus gave to His disciples. Firstly, in John 15:1 – 8, Jesus uses the metaphor of the vineyard and the gardener to describe the importance of being in constant fellowship and in union with Him in order to bear much fruit. Secondly, in John 15:9 – 17, Jesus also teaches His disciples how their love for Him and obedience to His Word are linked. If they love Him, they will obey all that He has commanded them.
Thirdly, Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:18 – 25 how the world will hate them because of His name and how they will have to suffer because of their faith in Him. However, in 15:26 – 16:16 He tells them about the Holy Spirit that He will send to them once He has taken up His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. He also described what the role of the Holy Spirit will be. From verses 17 – 33, Jesus prophesies about His death, resurrection and His ascension to the Father where He would take His place of glory. However, He also prophesied about the day of His return.
These teachings that Jesus gave to His disciples, was essentially the farewell discourse i.e. the last teachings of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This was the foundation of one of the most important prayers Jesus would pray during His earthly ministry. Carson (1991, under the prayer of Jesus) states that “indeed, there is ample evidence that prayers of one sort or another were frequently connected with ‘farewell discourses’ in the ancient world, both in Jewish and in Hellenistic literature (e.g. Gn. 49; Dt. 32 – 33; Jubilees 22:7 – 23).”
Besides the teachings being the foundation for the prayer, there are other factors that a person should consider regarding the historical background of Jesus’ high priestly prayer. One key point is that Jesus was about to start His final journey to the cross so that He could pay for the sins of humanity. However, He knew that following His farewell discourse that He gave His disciples, He had to pray one final time. Tenney (1985, 197) states that “the preparation of the disciples for the shock of the cross and the report to the Father that he had finished his work concluded the earthly ministry of Jesus.”
He also wanted God to protect them from the enemy because for the first time He experienced what it felt like to be frightened. He was not frightened for Himself because He knew that what He was about to do was completely necessary. However, He was frightened for the disciples. He was frightened that they might backslide to the world. Another major emotion that led Him to pray this prayer was love. It was the love that He had for the Father, for His disciples as well as for believers in generations to come. Now that the basic meaning of John 17 and the background of the passage is identified, the focus shifts to John 17:11 – 19.
The Literary Context of John 17:11 – 19
Even though John 17 is filled with theological truths, the emphasis will be on John 17:11 – 19 where Jesus prays for His disciples. Keener (1993, under Jesus prays for His Disciples) states that “this passage addresses the inevitable conflict between Jesus’ followers and the world.” Essentially, Jesus focuses generally on the fact that they would stay behind to carry on with the work He started. While He takes up His rightful place on the right hand of the Father, they would go out into the world to make disciples (See Matt. 28:18 – 20). In John 17:11 (ESV), Jesus prays and He says “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.” In this verse, there are a few clauses that can be highlighted. Firstly, in verse 11a Jesus says to the Father that He is no longer in the world. It is only a matter of a few days until He is crucified, resurrected and taken back up to heaven and that He is leaving His disciples behind. Blum (1983, 332) states
Jesus would soon depart to the Father and leave His disciples in the world. They had to stay in the world to carry out God’s plan in spreading the good news of redemption and in planting the church. With the formation of the church, the history of the world has become, in a sense, “a tale of two cities”; the city of God and the city of man.
Secondly, Jesus asks the Father that He protect them by the same name that He has given God the Son. Just as they are being protected by the Father, they should also be united in the same way as the Son is united with the Father. According to Lewis (2014, under Jesus’ prayer to the Father) “Jesus asks that the disciples be protected in the name of the Father, the power and presence of ‘I AM’, and in that protection they will have unity.” In other words, Jesus asks the Father for the kind of protection that would produce unity amongst themselves and a unity between them and the Triune God.
According to John, Jesus says to the Father in John 17:12 – 13 (ESV) that “while I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” In verse 12, Jesus says to the Father that while He was with them, He protected them from the enemy and his temptations and none of them stayed off. However, in order for the prophecies to be fulfilled about Him redeeming humanity from their sin, Judas Iscariot had to fall away so that he could betray Jesus to the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. Harris (2005, under Jesus prays for the disciples the Father has given them) states that “Here Jesus affirms that indeed none of them have perished (ajpwvleto) except one, the ‘son destined for destruction’ (oJ uiJoV” th'” ajpwleiva”), that is, Judas Iscariot.”
Jesus continues in verse 13 by restating the fact that His time on earth is limited and that while He was on earth, He encouraged them not to lose hope and to keep their faith in Him so that their joy might not be taken by the enemy when they are persecuted for the name of Jesus. Russell (2010, under knowing the fullness of Christ’s joy) finds that “instead of being taken up with His own impending sufferings and death, His concern is rather for the joyfulness of the disciples He is about to leave behind in a hostile and dangerous world. He does not want their joy to be turned to sorrow.”
Jesus continues in John 17:14 – 15 (NIV) “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. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” Verse 14 contains a climactic parallelism. Stein (2011, 120) explains that “instead of repeating that thought or giving an example as in synonymous parallelism, it advances the thought an additional step. As a result, although the two thoughts are related, the second raises the first to a higher level and brings it to a climax.” In other words, Jesus says that the world hates and will continue to hate His disciples. He does not end there. He gives a reason why the world hated His disciples. The reason is because they have accepted Jesus’ invitation to become His followers and they also believed His teachings about God’s Kingdom.
Based on the statement that Jesus made in verse 14, Jesus says that He does not want God to take them out of the world because once He has returned to the Father, they need to carry on with the mission that He started. However, what Jesus does ask from the Father is that He protects them from the evil one – Satan. Nonetheless, Henry (2010, 1840) makes a very good argument when he says that “He (Jesus) did not pray that they might be protected from suffering, but that they might be protected through it.”
In John 17:16 – 17 (NIV) Jesus continues to speak to the Father and says “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” In verse 16, Jesus reiterates to God that they are not of the world just as He is not from the world because of the fact that they accepted the teaching that He gave them and they believed that He was the Christ. Burge (2000, under Jesus Prays for His Disciples) finds that
Jesus’ third concern has to do with holiness (17:17 – 19). There is a spiritual dilemma that pertains to all disciples: They live in the world, and yet Jesus can say that they are not “of the world” (17:14, 16). This points not to their location geographically, but to their position spiritually. As we have seen throughout this Gospel, the “world” is not a place on a map but a spiritual domain, an atmosphere of darkness and unbelief (3:19). It possesses values inimical to God. It is not the domain of a disciple’s spiritual identity any more than it was the domain of Jesus’ identity (7:16). A better translation of 17:16 reads, “They do not belong to the world.”
Jesus then continues in verse 17 that the Father should sanctify His disciples by the truth and He says that God’s Word is truth. In Greek the word “sanctify” is translated as hagiazō and it is usually rendered as “make holy, sanctify, consecrate.” Mounce (2006, 611) explains that “in the NT this verb expresses the action of including a person or a thing in the sphere of what is holy in either a ritual (ceremonial) and moral sense.” In other words, Jesus asked the Father to make the disciples Holy through the truth of His word. The question is, how would the Father sanctify the disciples by His truth? Jesus gave the answer in John 16:13 – 14 (NKJV) “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
In John 17:18 (NKJV) Jesus says “as You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” In verse 18, Jesus refers to the mission that He would send His disciples on whereby they have to into the whole world to make more disciples for the Kingdom of God by preaching the Gospel to the whole of creation (Matt. 28:18 – 20; Mark 16:15 – 16). Michaels (2010, under the Prayer for the Disciples) states that
He speaks of the disciples’ mission to the world in the past tense, as if it has already started, or even been completed, and yet it will not “officially” begin until he tells them after the resurrection, “just as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (20:22). It is commonly suggested that the pronouncement is worded in this way for the benefit of the readers of the Gospel, who would hear it in relation to their own ongoing mission in the world, and this is undoubtedly the case.
In other words, Jesus says that just as He was ready to return to His rightful place that is at the right hand of the Father, His disciples are also ready after they have spent three years with Him while He has been equipping them for the task at hand. Before He ascends back up to the Father, He would give them their mission to go out to the world to make disciples. However, this is also a mandate for any future generation of Christians that they should take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of their generation.
Finally, Jesus says in John 17:19 (NKJV) that “for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” In this final verse, Jesus says that before He could send them into the world, He has to sanctify His disciples. Therefore, He also has to sanctify or consecrate Himself. Ridderbos (1997, under Jesus Petition for the Preservation and Sanctification of His Own in the World) makes the following statement:
This points to Jesus’ own share in that consecration: “For their sake I consecrate myself [present tense], so that they may also be truly consecrated.” 10:36 also mentions Jesus’ “consecration”, but in connection with his having sent by the Father (and hence in the sense found in 17:17). Here Jesus active self-consecration on behalf of his own is undoubtedly his self-surrender on their behalf. He consecrates himself as a sacrifice for his own.
In other words, Jesus had to surrender Himself as the sin offering in order for His disciples to be sanctified for the mission that they would receive from Him after His resurrection. In turn, He would also be sanctified and take His place at the right hand of the Father. Even though this is a prayer that Jesus prayed for His disciples that God picked out the world for Him, it is also a prayer for His disciples today. Therefore, when it comes to prayer in the Church, this model prayer presents many hermeneutical principles that can be applied to the Church today. The focus now shifts to the next major of discussion.
Hermeneutical Principles derived from John 17:11 – 19
When a person studies John 17:11 – 19 in depth, there are several hermeneutical principles that explicitly can be extracted from the text. However, there are also hermeneutical principles that are implied in the text. For the sake of this paper, only the hermeneutical principles will be identified that pertains to the importance and results of prayer within the Church.
Prayer unites God’s people with each other and produces spiritual breakthroughs.
The first hermeneutical principle that this writer identified was that prayer unites God’s people with each other. In John 17:11 the first request that Jesus made was that His disciples were united with each other just as the second member of the Godhead were united with the other two members of the Godhead. How would this happen?
This would happen through prayer. Right through the book of Acts a person finds instances where the early Church would be united in prayer. To illustrate this principle, two instances will be highlighted.
In Acts 2:1 (ESV) Luke writes that “when the day of Pentecost came, they were all gathered in one place.” In this verse, one reads that all 120 disciples, which included the twelve apostles, were gathered together in the upper room. One might ask what they were doing. Were they having fellowship? Were they celebrating one of the apostle’s birthdays? The answer is that they were waiting for the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised them. However, they did not sit and do nothing. They were united in prayer while they were waiting for the promise of the Father that Jesus spoke to them about.
Another instance is from Acts 4:23 – 24 (ESV) “when they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God.” In this passage, one can see yet again that the members of the early Church were united in prayer. In this instance they prayed for boldness so that they can carry on to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When they asked for boldness they received it. What it comes down to is this. When the Church is united in prayer, it produces results because there comes break through. It is not wrong to pray individually, but corporate prayer is so much stronger as was evidenced by the early Church. The focus now shifts to the second hermeneutical principle.
Prayer ensures that God’s people remains united with Him and with His will for their lives.
The second hermeneutical principle is that prayer ensures that God’s people remain united with Him and with His will for their lives. To be united with God is even more important than being united with the Church. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV) “pray without ceasing”. Paul also says in Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV) always pray “with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”.
Being in constant prayer allows a person to remain united with God and with the will His will He has for their lives. Therefore, Paul says in Romans 8:28 (NKJV) that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Therefore, when any Christian prays, he should pray Matthew 6:10 (NKJV) that says “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Essentially, when a Christian prays this, it first applies to the Church of which he is a part of and then it applies to his individual life. The focus now shifts to the next hermeneutical principle.
Prayer allows God’s people to ask for His providence of protection through times of suffering and protection from the attacks of Satan.
When people do pray, they tend to pray that God would take away the suffering because they do not like to go through the times of suffering. However, they tend to forget that there will always be times of suffering. What prayer does allow for is to ask for God’s providence of protection through the times of suffering and protection from the attacks of Satan. There are evidence of God’s people asking for God’s providence of protection through times of suffering and from the attacks of Satan.
Firstly, when Jesus was on earth, He taught His disciples to pray as well as all of the disciples in the generations to come. In Matthew 6 He taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. One of the things He taught them to pray for is in Matthew 6:13 (ESV) when Jesus told His disciples to ask God to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” In John 17:15 (ESV) Jesus asks the Father in His Priestly Prayer that for God to “keep them from the evil one.” The reason why God’s people can ask God to help them not to give into the temptations that the devil sends their ways is because He does not tempt His people to sin. In actual fact, God’s character is so holy that He hates every kind of sin, no matter how big or small it is. According to Wilkins (2008, 1832) “Although God never directly tempts believers (James 1:13), he does sometimes lead them into situations that “test” them (cf. Matt. 4:1; also Job 1; 1 Pet. 1:6; 4:12).”
Secondly, The Bible teaches a person that there will always be times of suffering. It is never about the suffering itself, but it is about how Christians go through the suffering. One thing that needs to be understood is the fact that nobody can go through times of suffering without God. However, the sad thing is that people do. If people try to depend on themselves in times like these, they will soon realize that they cannot make it on their own. There are two people in Scripture that understood the principle of suffering and that it taught them to draw closer to God in those times. These two people were David and Paul.
Firstly, David went through times of suffering when he had to hide in order for him to stay alive when King Saul tried to kill him. He always depended on God to deliver Him from every situation. However, these were times that he drew even closer to God. In Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) David writes that “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” In this verse, David says that it does not matter how tough times get in times of suffering, nobody is alone because God goes with everyone through their suffering times. He also says that in times of suffering, God would protect them from the evil attacks of Satan. The focus shifts to the next hermeneutical principle.
Prayer and meditation allows the Word of God to become a reality in the life of God’s people through the illumination of the Word by the Holy Spirit.
The next petition that Jesus makes to the Father, in John 17:17, is to sanctify His disciples in His word and that His word is truth. Here a person can see that prayer and meditation plays an important role in a person’s Christian walk with Jesus Christ. However, before it can be established what that role is, there are two key points that a person should understand regarding the Bible.
Firstly, the Bible was not just written by humans. God was the ultimate author even though He utilized human authors and their vocabularies, backgrounds, circumstances and cultures. In 2 Peter 1:21 (NIV) Peter says that “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” What Peter is saying here, is that the Bible ultimately was written by God. However, He used people to assist Him with the writing process. This one of the reasons why prayer and meditation is so important when studying the Bible. According to Oss and Schreiner (2008, 2420) “‘They were carried along’ implies that the inspiration of Scripture was invisibly directed by the Holy Spirit, though without overriding the personalities of the human authors. Thus Scripture is fully the Word of God, even though it is recorded in the words of human beings.” Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit inspired human authors to write what He intended them to write by using their vocabularies, cultures, circumstances, and so on; He must also illuminate the meaning of the Bible to any Christian, whether he is a pastor of a church congregation or whether he is a lay person.
Secondly, the author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) that “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” What the author of Hebrews writes here is that the Bible is not just a book full of stories that is meant to entertain the reader. It is meant for God to speak to the readers of the Bible and to show them how they need to live to be in accordance of God’s will for their lives.
Based on these two reasons, a person can clearly see why the prayer and meditation is important in Christian’s life. As any Christian – clergy or layperson – studies the Word of God prayerfully and meditate on the truths that he comes across, it allows the Holy Spirit to show the person how Scripture applies to them today. It allows the Holy Spirit to make the Word of God to become a living reality for the person that combines Bible study along with prayer and meditation. The focus shifts to the final hermeneutical principle.
Prayer allows any individual to remain in step with God regarding their role in the Great Commission.
As Jesus prayed and spoke to the Father, He said in John 17:18 that “as You have sent me, I have also sent them into the world.” This referred directly to the Great Commission that He would give to His disciples before He would ascend back to heaven to take his rightful place on the right hand of the Father. In Matthew 28:18 – 19 (NKJV), Jesus actually gave the disciples, and everyone that would become disciples after them, the Great Commission when He said that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
This passage is a clear mandate that every believer has the responsibility to go and make disciples. However, the Bible also teaches that not everyone is made to stand behind a pulpit and preach or go from country to country on missionary work. Everyone has their own unique gifts in the spreading of the Gospel. Paul writes in Romans 12:6 – 8 (NIV) that
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it to the proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others; let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
In this passage Paul give many different spiritual gifts that people can use to be instruments for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, without constant prayer and communication with God, there is no way that a person can know what his role is in the Great Commission. Therefore, prayer allows any individual to remain in step with God regarding their part in the Great Commission.
The question that now remains is how can a church, that needs to build up their prayer life, can apply the principles that were drawn from John 17:11 – 19. The last major section of discussion will provide possible applications of the principles.
The Application of John 17:11 – 19 to this writer’s contemporary setting
The similarities and differences between this writer’s setting and that of the biblical passage.
When comparing the setting of this writer and that of the biblical passage, it becomes clear of one similarity. That is the fact that the message of the Gospel is the only factor between the modern era and the biblical era that will never change. Just as Jesus paid the price for the people’s sins in the time of Peter and Paul; He also paid the price for the people’s sins today. However, there are more differences between this writer’s setting and that of the biblical passage.
Firstly, today people hear of what is going on in the world through many different types of media, such as television, radio, newspaper and even the internet. In the time of Jesus the media did not exist. Therefore, by the time they heard of a war that might have taken place, it might already have been over or it was still taking place. Secondly, today there are cars, airplanes, and boats. In the time of Jesus there were carriages that were pulled by horses, and boats. However, majority of the people had to walk to their destinations. For that reason it took days or even months for people to get to where they needed to be. Today a person can get to Cape Town from Johannesburg in a matter of two hours by flying in an airplane. Based on the circumstances today and the fact that people can hear about what is going on in the world much faster because of the media and modes of transport that can get news teams where they need to be, it is evident that prayer is needed more today even though prayer was needed in every generation within the Church of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, even though John 17:11 – 19 applied in the time of Jesus, it is applicable today, even more so. The next section will discuss how the meaning of the text needs to be applied to this writer’s situation in order to bring resolution to the problem.
The applications of the meaning of John 17:11 – 19 as resolution to the lack of prayer
The first two application is general application from the text. The rest of the application will be based on the principles that was discussed in the section above. Firstly, any church that wants to cultivate a healthier culture of prayer in their congregation members, might want to implement prayer support groups that will their members that struggles to pray or don’t know how to practice prayer. The pastor could even implement a training course on prayer.
Secondly, an assembly might want to create prayer groups on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp so that people can post their prayer request. Everyone that has access to the prayer groups can see these request and they will be able to pray for those who need prayer.
Regarding the specific principles that has been drawn from the text, the Church might want to implement meetings during the week that will be devoted for prayer. It can be at the Church or it can be at divided between the members’ homes. That will unite them as a Church and it will keep them united with God and His will for their lives. When a congregation experiences times of suffering and persecution or a couple of its members are going through times of suffering, the pastor might want to arrange special prayer meetings so that they can pray for the specific problems and ask God’s guidance and hand of protection over them as they go through these testing times. This will result in them drawing closer to God.
When studying the passage in the Bible, the life group leaders of a congregation should encourage their members to meditate and pray about the passage so that the Holy Spirit can illuminate its original meaning to them and how they can apply it to their daily lives. Before they know it, each member will do it with every Bible passage and the Bible will be God’s living Word for their lives.
Finally, when doing teachings on the body of Christ, the Great Commission and what each member’s role is in God’s mandate to the church that they should make disciples, the pastor might want to run special prayer groups that would focus on asking God to show them what their spiritual gifts are and where they fit in regarding His broader plan of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world.
In conclusion, this writer has found that a lack of prayer is a major problem in the Church today. It appears people think that prayer is not needed because of the television, radio, the internet and so on. However, due to the news that is being communicated on these media platforms about wars, crime and violence and so on, prayer has become even more necessary today. In order to determine why prayer is necessary in the Church, John 17:11 – 19 was analyzed in detail. In this portion of text, Jesus was praying for His disciples. He made the following petitions to the Father in this prayer.
Firstly, He asked the Father to unite the Church just as they are united. Secondly, He asked the Father to keep them united with Him and to reveal His will for their lives. Thirdly, He asked the Father that they remain in the world for the work that is at hand but that He protects them during times of suffering and from the attacks of Satan. Fourthly, as the disciples study the Word of God, Jesus asked the Father to make His Word a reality in their lives through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, Jesus asks the Father to equip the disciples for the Great Commission He is about to give them before He ascends back to heaven to take up His rightful place at the right hand of the Father.
Based on this passage of Scripture, this writer could draw five hermeneutical principles from the text. Based on these principles, this writer could also identify applications from the meaning of the text. These applications can be implemented to resolve the lack of prayer in a congregation. If it is implemented successfully, the Church will begin to live by the principles that this writer identified from John 17:11–19.
Alexander, Pat and David Alexander. 2011. Handbook to the Bible. Cape Town, South Africa: Lux Verbi.BM.
Blum, Edwin A. 1983. John. In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament. Eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C. Cook.
Burge, Gary M. 2000. John – The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text … to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Carson, D.A. 1991. The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Harris III, W. Hall. 2005. Exegetical Commentary on John 17. Bible.org. https://bible.org/seriespage/20-exegetical-commentary-john-17 (Accessed 23 July 2015).
Henry, Matthew. 2010. The New Matthew Henry Commentary. Ed. Martin H. Manser. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Keener, Craig S. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVaristy Press. Kindle Edition.
Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard. 2004. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.
Lewis, Karoline M. 2014. Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries – John. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
Michaels, J. Ramsey. 2010. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Mounce, William D., ed. 2006. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Murray, Andrew. 2011. Power in Prayer. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Bethany House Publishers.
Oss, Doug and Thomas R. Schreiner. Notes on 2 Peter. In ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Eds. Wayne Grudem and Thomas R. Schreiner. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.
Ridderbos, Herman N. 1997. The Gospel according to John: A Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Russell, Brian A. 2010. The Greatest Prayer Ever Prayed: A Devotional Exposition of John 17. London, England: Grace Publications Trust. Kindle Edition.
Stein, Robert H. 2011. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Tenney, Merrill C. 1985. New Testament Survey. Ed. Walter M. Dunnett. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Wilkins, Michael J. 2008. Notes on Matthew. In ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Eds. Wayne Grudem and Thomas R. Schreiner. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.