THE REAL LORD’S PRAYER, PART 1

A popular wall hanging. But is this prayer really “the Lord’s Prayer?”

A lot of people think the prayer that begins, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” is the Lord’s Prayer, but it really isn’t. Jesus used that prayer during His Sermon on the Mount to show His disciples how to pray, but the “Our Father” is not a prayer Jesus could ever pray Himself; Jesus could never pray, “Forgive us trespasses,” or our sins, because He had no sins to be forgiven. So Jesus could never pray this prayer.

John 17 contains the real Lord’s Prayer. In fact, John 17 contains the longest prayer recorded for us in the entire Bible! It’s a whole chapter long and it’s a profound prayer, from start to finish. We can learn a lot about the nature of prayer by studying how Jesus prayed.

1. A life of prayer

Like none other, Jesus’ whole life was a life of prayer. How many times do we read of our Lord going up the mountain to pray? Sometimes He prayed through the entire night. He prayed when He was being tempted by Satan. He prayed for others. He prayed for Himself.

He is praying right now. He is our great Intercessor at the Father’s right hand and He prays for us. Because of who He his, God the Father hears and answers every one of His Son’s prayers exactly the way He prays them. Of course, God always hears and answers our prayers, too, but not always the way we pray them. Sometimes we pray amiss; we pray for our will to be done, not God’s. But Jesus, the Son of God, always prayed perfect prayers.

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41, 42)

If we want to learn about prayer, let’s look at the Master Prayer.

2. Jesus prayed for Himself, John 17:1—5

It’s not necessarily wrong to pray for yourself. Sometimes it can be selfish and self-serving, but it doesn’t have to be. The fact is, before we can pray for others, we need to make sure we are right with God; we need to make sure our attitudes and thoughts and motivations are right. Before we can pray for the burdens of others, we need to pray for our burdens. So, praying for yourself doesn’t have to be selfish; it can be essential.

Jesus began His great prayer by praying for Himself:

Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. (verses 1, 2)

Notice what the first thing was Jesus prayed for: to be glorified so that He may in turn glorify God the Father. To “glorify” God is an interesting and complex idea. Essentially when we glorify God, we are making Him impressive to others. It has to do with God’s reputation, honor, status, splendor, riches, and prestige. When we give glory to God, we are not giving Him something He doesn’t already possess, we are acknowledging something already present in Him. When God glorifies someone He allows that person to participate in His divine radiance. When we glorify God, something we do and say points to some aspect of God’s nature and character that will leave an impression on those watching us. This is, in essence, what Jesus was asking for. Sinners could not see the Father, but they could see the Son, or more accurately, those who crucified Christ and those onlookers could see the Son. His prayer for glorification, among other things, was that all those people would see the Father’s glory in Him.

In John’s Gospel, we see this often in the relationship between the Son and the Father:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus glorified His Father because He was the only Son and traditionally the only son receives everything from his father. All the Father possesses the Son possesses. This is what Jesus was asking for.

Jesus began with saying “His hour had come.” What did He mean by that? Back in John 2:3,4 He stated that His hour had not yet come. But now, with His Cross in view, the time had come for Jesus to deal with the sins of the world: it was now time to show the world how impressive His Father was in a way changing water into wine could never do. Now was the exact time when the world would see the love of God on full display on the Cross as Jesus took on the sins of the world.

We learn here that Jesus has all authority over everything on earth. Jesus had (and has) the power to force all creation bow down and worship Him, but that’s not what brings glory to God. What brings glory to the Son and to God is when a sinner responds to the call of salvation.

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (verse 3)

This is not only a fact, it is an offer given to every sinner. The offer of salvation goes out to every sinner; there isn’t one shut out. Who are the elect? Simply those who by faith accept God’s call.

Look at Christ’s definition of eternal life: to know God and Jesus. This refers to the kind of knowledge one possesses, not the amount of knowledge. A sinner must know the right things about the right people: God and Jesus Christ. Faith and belief are not enough for salvation. Faith and belief must be in God and Christ. Faith comes from one place:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Faith comes from the Word of God; from knowledge about God and Christ gleaned from the Word. This is why reading and studying the Bible are so important, and why attending a good Bible study is vital: the more you know about God and Christ as revealed in the pages of Scripture, the more sure you will be of your salvation.

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (verse 4)

This verse is not braggadocio. Jesus is summing up in a matter-of-fact way His mission on earth. At this point He had not yet been crucified, but since He is praying in the past tense, obviously our Lord’s mind was made up and He would not be detoured. It would be another two chapters before He would say, “It is finished,” but as far as Jesus was concerned, He was going to be obedient.

This verse is also the basis of His request in verse 5. Jesus had been completely faithful in His mission to bring salvation to sinful man. How faithful had Jesus been? Consider:

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (John 5:19, 20a)

I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. (John 12:50)

In verse 5, Jesus re-states His petition for Himself:

And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

When Jesus prayed “glorify me…with the glory…” He is referring to His status, specifically the status He had in the Father’s presence before His Incarnation. Jesus is not asking for special status or something more than He had before. This is the request from the One who gave up a lot, did His job well, and now He asked to be restored to His former status.

3. Jesus Reminds His Father, John 17:6—8

In verse 4, Jesus mentioned that He had completed the work God gave Him to do. But what exactly was the work? In these verses, the Son reminds the Father of what He did. We may wonder why Jesus felt the need to do this. Surely God knew what Jesus was talking about! While Jesus was praying to His Father, He was not praying in private. His disciples were nearby, probably listening as He prayed. So these verses were partly for their benefit.

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. (verse 6)

There are a number of verses in this great prayer that are very suggestive:

  • …to all those you have given him. (vs. 2)
  • …to those whom you gave me out of the world… (vs. 6)
  • …you gave them to me… (vs. 6)
  • …for those you have given me, for they are yours. (vs. 9)

This is Jesus’ way of talking to His Father about the doctrine of “election,” and He wanted His disciples to hear. A lot of Christians are very uncomfortable discussing “election,” because they misunderstand it. They think because some are “elected” to salvation, some are not. This is not what the doctrine of election is about! The call of salvation goes out to all who are lost.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32)

Everyone” has the opportunity to get saved, but of course not all will take advantage of that opportunity. Those who do become “the elect,” those who do not remain lost.

Far from a cold doctrine, “election” is wonderfully warm. It ought to give those of us who believer great comfort and confidence. Don’t forget the context of this prayer:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This is what Jesus had just told His disciples: you will have trouble. In that context, Jesus mentions numerous times in a prayer they overheard that they had been given to Him. It’s a comfort to know that if you are a Christian, you have been given to God. That’s the beauty of “election.” If you belong to Christ, He is praying for you because you belong to Him.

Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 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. (verses 7, 8)

Here the disciples are mentioned, but it won’t be until verse 9 that He begins to pray for them. In these two verses, Jesus says some good things about His disciples. Though far from perfect, they did see the light, according to Jesus. Jesus, the “living Word,” gave God’s Word to them and they accepted God’s Word through Jesus. Out of that Word, they came to believe. Again, we see the importance of the Word of God as it relates to belief and faith in God. One cannot come to God apart from the Word. One commentator has noted:

The disciples have been able through listening to the “words” of Jesus to keep God’s Word.

The word “accepted” or “keep” in the KJV, means a lot more than appears on the surface. It means to “guard” and “to communicate to the world” the revelation which God has entrusted to the Church. (Strachan)

The disciples, Jesus said, “knew” or “acknowledged” that the teachings from Jesus really came from the Father. We see here that there is a definite relationship between “knowing” God’s Word and “accepting” God’s Word. Or, we might say, between “knowing” and “doing.” The true believer knows God’s Word and puts into practice its teaching, as the disciples are commended for here.

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