It is true that God loves the entire world. But just as every parent has an attraction and special love for their own children, Jesus also has a special love for “those whom the Father has given him.” It is apparent that the Father has given “love gifts” to His Son (Jn 17:6,11). These gifts were possessed by the Father in eternity past (Eph 1:4), but given to the Son for Him to save. Jesus has a special love for those who have “believed” in Him. In fact, He doesn’t pray for the world, but prays for believers alone. Jesus has an incredible love for His own sheep who have been called out of the world and this love is the basis for every believer’s safety in the world.
While we are left in the world, and may experience every potential harm (Acts 14:22), Jesus prays for us (John 17). The High Priestly prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for His disciples (v. 6-19), and for every believer in the Church age (v. 20-26) was one of the most thrilling prayers ever prayed. And the content of that prayer is certainly the content of Christ’s prayer for us even now as He sits at the right hand of the Father “interceding for us” (Rom 8:34). We often forget that the ministry of Jesus extends beyond the atoning work that He accomplished on the cross. For sure the major earthly atoning and forgiving work of the cross was the central focus of His love toward us. But we must never forget that Jesus’ ministry continues for us in heaven as He prays for us! John 17 gives us an indication of exactly what Jesus is praying for us right now!
Prayer for Glory: We often wonder why we are not taken straight to heaven once we are saved. Jesus certainly wants us to be with Him, and that is His ultimate goal (Jn 17:24), but He specifically leaves us here knowing that “[He] is glorified in [us]” (Jn 17:10). The purpose of saving us is that we might magnify the glory of Jesus to the world. Jesus leaves us in the world with the task of telling others the truth of the Gospel (2 Cor 5:18-21). Paul said that we are to live “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15). We are to be the light of the world set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt 6:14). Jesus is praying for us right now that we would glorify Him.
Prayer to be Kept: While on the earth, Jesus promised that the will of the Father who sent Him was that He would “lose nothing of all that He [had] given [him], but raise it up on the last day” (Jn 6:39). When He prayed in the garden, He prayed to the Father specifically that those whom the Father had given Him would be “kept” (Jn 17:11). While Jesus was with the disciples on the earth He “kept” them and “guarded” them so that none of them were lost, except for Judas, which was prophesied according to the Word of God (Ps 41:9, Ps 109). Currently Jesus is praying for all of us that we would be preserved in our faith. He is praying that we would not be lost. And we can be sure of this, that the Father hears His prayers and answers Him. Yes we will have tribulation in the world, but we can have assurance that we will be saved in the end because Jesus is praying for us!
Prayer for Joy: Furthermore, Jesus is praying right now that we have His “joy fulfilled in us” (Jn 17:13). This joy transcends the pains and difficulties of this life. This joy is much bigger than happiness that is tied to the circumstances of our lives. This joy is given to us by the Holy Spirit and is a supernatural gift. It is a joy that is rooted in hope! This hope looks forward to the promises that will be ours in heaven, where we will receive not only eternal life, but an eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-9).
Prayer for Protection from the Evil One: Not only is our soul protected by Jesus, but Jesus is praying for us specifically that we would be protected from the evil one (17:15). The evil one is certainly Satan and his demons. When Peter was on the earth, Jesus reminded him that Satan demanded to “sift him like wheat.” But Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:31-32). Satan has no authority or power of his own, but has to be granted permission to do anything. Satan is simply a pawn in the hands of the omnipotent Father who does what He is told. Satan’s number one goal is to destroy our faith. He only attacks our health, wealth, and possessions in order for us to lose faith. This was his goal with Job (Job 1-2). But we can have confidence that we will stand firm against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11), because Jesus is praying for us even now.
Prayer to be Sanctified: The last prayer that Jesus prayed for us in the garden was a prayer for sanctification. He prayed, “sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). To be sanctified means 1) to be “set apart for God as a peculiar people and for God’s service.” As the special people given to Jesus, we have been set apart and taken out from the world. To sanctify also means 2) to be made holy (Lev 19:2). So, Jesus’ prayer for us is that we would be taken out of the world and be purified, cleansed, and made to look like Jesus. Unlike justification which happens in a moment, sanctification is a life-long process. And the primary means for that sanctification is the Word of God. It is the Word of God that is able to train us for all godliness.
Remember Whose We Are
So then we are safe in this world because we are “love gifts” given to Jesus by the Father. The Father loves us as much as Jesus loves us. They have no intention of losing any of us who are true believers. Jesus gloriously finished His earthly task and currently continues with his heavenly ministry of prayer for all who are His. And those prayers of Jesus are that we be kept, protected from the evil one, and sanctified in this world. We must never forget whose we are and what Christ has promised for us. When we know that we are safe in this world, we will live more productive lives. The joy that Christ has promised us will also be experienced.