The prayer we call “The Lord’s Prayer” was given in response to our Lord’s disciples in response to their request, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) It is not really the Lord’s own prayer, but rather a model prayer for His followers to pray, and the prayer that is used in worship in most churches today, usually as a unison prayer following the pastoral prayer.
The actual “Lord’s Prayer” is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 17. It is the prayer that came hot from His own heart during that last week, before His betrayal and arrest, prior to His death and departure. His hour had finally come. How many times He had told His disciples, “My hour has not yet come;” but now Jesus knew He was facing that dark hour, when He would complete His task, the purpose for which He had come into the world, to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). This is the prayer that was the pouring out of His own soul to God the Father, a prayer that has three distinct parts:
- First, Jesus prayed that He might be glorified.
- Second, He prayed that His followers might be sanctified. T
- Third, He prayed that His Church might be unified.
In these three petitions, we are given a glimpse into the heart of Jesus during the dark hour of His soul. This prayer allows us to get in touch with His feelings and deepest concerns as He faced the cross. It enables us to share His burden, not only for Himself as His earthly mission was drawing to a close, but also for His disciples and for us (i.e. for all those who would be brought to faith in Him by the witness of His men, those He had been training to continue His ministry after His departure).
He was concerned for His own glory: “Father, glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee” (v. 1). Yes, He had been glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration, when “…his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” (Matthew 17:2) Moses and Elijah had also appeared on the mountain top, representing both the Law and the Prophets, affirming that everything that had been written about Him there had now been fulfilled. But all that was preparatory, for His final hour had not yet come, the hour when He would be lifted up (John 3:14), the hour when He would be glorified in the presence of God the Father with the glory He had “before the world was created” (v. 5).
Now, in His so-called “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus prays that the whole world will behold His glory, that all will ultimately know that He is Lord, following His crucifixion and resurrection, after He has ascended, just as He had descended. (John 3:13) He prays that He will be glorified after His departure, after His return to His pre-existent glory as the second Person of the God-head in the kingdom of heaven.
How is He to be glorified? That is the question that should be uppermost in our minds as the followers of Jesus today. The answer should be obvious. There is only one way for Him to be glorified, and that is IN US! That is IN HIS CHURCH (v. 10).
That is why Jesus prayed that we might be sanctified, sanctified “in the truth” (v. 17) — sanctified in the truth about Him, who He is, what He accomplished in His death on the cross and by His victorious resurrection, and the truth about what He is doing in the world today, and will continue doing until His second advent. That is why He prayed that His Church might be unified, that the Body of Christ “might be one” just as He and the Father are one (v. 11, 20-21). That is why He prayed that we might be kept from the evil one, who only seeks to divide and destroy (v. 15), so “…that the world may believe.” (v. 20-23)
Why should the world believe when the Body of Christ is so divided? It was Jesus who said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25). That us a stern warning the followers of Jesus need to hear and heed today, when there are so many disciples of discord in the Body of Christ who feel qualified and perfectly justified in supporting schism and separation, saying such things as: “If you don’t agree with us, then we can no longer fellowship with you.”
Where did any followers of Jesus ever get the idea that there are members of the Body of Christ they don’t need? Certainly not from the New Testament, which tells all of us plainly that there is no member of Christ’s Church we do not need! In fact, the members we think we need least may very well be the members we need most!
The Apostle Paul was plain spoken when he admonished a church that was divided against itself, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’…On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we consider less desirable (less honorable, less acceptable, less respectable) we clothe with greater honor (are treated with greater respect)”— Paul pleads for unity in the midst of great diversity, that the members of the Body of Christ “…may have the same care for one another.” (I Corinthians 12:12-27)
When that happens, wherever that happens, the world will believe, for non-believers will not be able to explain that kind of unconditional love, that kind of compassionate caring, that kind of inclusive fellowship apart from Jesus! They will be compelled to exclaim in absolute wonder, “Behold how those Christians love one another!”