The High Priestly Prayer for Community
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
[Note: This article was first released in January of 2019, but recently I was inspired to personalize Jesus’ prayer so His people could pray it as well and include it.]
As was Jesus’ first focus upon beginning His ministry upon this earth, so also the community of believers was His final focus before He went to the cross. His last act at His Passover was to pray what we have come to call the High Priestly Prayer. In it, He focuses solely upon His disciples at the time along with those who would come to be His disciples in the future. He prayed it at an event where none but the men of His community were invited: the upper room where they participated in His Passover meal. This was the prayer where He turned them over to the Father’s care and sealed their future in His loving protection.
But it was something else as well, for as was His first official act of His ministry, and also the first official act of the Spirit’s ministry after Pentecost, this prayer was focused on the formation of true community amongst His people. Beginning with verse 11, Jesus prays, “I come to You, Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” Jesus and the Father were One in the perfect bond of intimacy, revealed through the many accounts of Jesus’ acts and words concerning their relationship while with us. In John 5, Jesus said He could do nothing of Himself, but only what He saw the Father doing. How could you not be in constant relationship with someone if you could do nothing apart from experiencing that relationship?
Jesus prays the disciples will form the same sort of intimacy—of community—He and His Father knew when He prays, “That they may be one as We are.” He then includes all who would come to Him throughout time in verse 20, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Once again, we see here the idea of “them being one” as Jesus and the Father were, as they abide “in the Son and the Father” (John 15).
Jesus adds another component when He proclaims the reason for His desire to see them be one in community, “That the world may believe You sent Me.” In John 13, Jesus says the world will know who His disciples are by the love they display, not for the world, but for one another. Notice here in John 17 He is praying for exactly the same thing when He brings up the notion the world would believe the Father sent Him if His people were one. Jesus is no longer with us bodily, but He left the world a way to know He was the Messiah sent from God, through the witness of His community of believers.
Verses 22-23 essentially repeat what has already been conveyed, as Jesus once again petitions His Father to grant His disciples the same sort of oneness and intimacy They, the “Us,” enjoy, and also that the world would know He was sent through the community of the saints. He does, however, raise one new concept which is praying His community would be “perfected in unity.”
Paul makes it clear in His epistles to the Corinthians the only way any member of the body will ever be perfected is in unity within the body:
- To each one a manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good
- The body is where we learn to identify and exercise our spiritual gifts
- The body has many members, who though they are many are one
- It is no coincidence the chapter on love is couched in 1st Corinthians, for that is where we truly learn to love
- It is in the body we are edified and encouraged. In no fewer than three places Paul speaks of all gifts being given for the edification of the community
- Without community we can neither know love, discover and deploy our spiritual gifts, nor make Christ known to the world.
Jesus began His ministry gathering His disciples—His “community”—and ended His ministry with the Passover, where only His community was invited. Then, He sealed His community with this prayer in John 17. For Jesus, it was first and foremost about gathering the lost sheep of the House of Israel, establishing them in community where “they could display the love they had for one another,” thereby making Jesus known in the way He wanted to be known, and then sending them out to evangelize and disciple a lost world. It is only in community the full blessing of God is available to us, and then made known to the world!
One final thought: some use this prayer of Jesus to promote the idea we are Jesus, and that we are one with the Father and the Son. Nowhere in this prayer does Jesus say, “That they may be one with Us, only one in Us.” The only ones we are to be one with is each other. Twice in this chapter He prays we may be one [with each other] as They [the Father and the Son] are. He is desiring we follow the same model He and the Father set, not join it or be it. He prays we would be in Them and Them in us. The “in” Jesus speaks of here is the same “abide in Me and I in you” found in John 15. This does not make us gods. He never prays we would be Them, the “Us,” but that we would be one, together, in Them. Being in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit gives us the ultimate model of community and makes us vessels he can live and work through on this earth. This is a prayer for the community of the saints to be one with each other in Him, not to be Him.
The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is known as The High Priestly Prayer. Well, Peter told us we were a Royal Priesthood. Below is Jesus’ prayer rewritten from a first-person perspective you can pray for your community. I hope it edifies and challenges us all to keep seeking true community, for that is how Jesus said we would be known as disciples and how men would know the Father sent Him.
The Royal Priestly Prayer: a prayer for community
“But you are a chosen race, a Royal Priesthood, a holy nation…” (1 Pet. 2:9)
Father, the time has come. Glorify Your child that I also may glorify You. As, in Your name, You have given me a new identity and authority over the principalities and powers of darkness, let me now share the good news of eternal life in Your kingdom to as many as You bring to me, and me to them. And this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. O God, let me glorify You on the earth, running the race with endurance and finishing the work which You have given me to do. And now, O Father, bring me into Your abiding presence for the glory which You predestined me for in You even before the world was.
Lord Jesus, let me now manifest Your name to my brothers whom You have also brought out of the world and into Your kingdom. They are Yours, You bring us together in the bond of the Spirit, and together let us seek to keep Your Word. Now we know, and have come to understand, that all things which You have given us in Christ are from You, for You give to us the words spoken by Your Son and we have received them, believe that You sent Him, and have known that surely He came forth from You.
I pray for Your house, O God. I do not pray for the world but for the blessing of the Ekkleesia You have bestowed unto us, for we are Yours and all that is Yours is ours, and those You bring are ours and we are glorified together in You. Now, through that made possible by Your Son’s sacrifice and Your Spirit’s presence, we are no longer of the world though we are in the world. I come to You, Holy Father, to pray you keep, through Your name, me along with all You have drawn to Yourself that we may be one even as You and Your Father are one. While we are in this world, be with us and keep us in Your name. Guard our hearts and minds, keeping us in holy community that none will be lost but deceivers and false prophets among us. Let the Scriptures be fulfilled that none of your true children are lost.
But now I come to You that the things You speak will give us joy in the world, and let that joy be fulfilled through You in us. We have been given Your Word to speak, and the world has hated us because we are not of its realm, just as Your Son was not of its realm. I do not pray that You should take us out of the world, for there is fruitful labor yet for us here, but that You will keep us from the evil one. Make us not of the world, just as You are not of the world. Sanctify us by Your truth, yes, Your Word is truth. As You sent Your Son into the world, so also send us out to make disciples of all nations, bringing them into your kingdom. For our sake You sanctified Yourself that we also may be sanctified by the truth.
I do not pray for my brothers and me alone, but also for those who will believe in You through our witness and words, that they all may be one with us as You, Father, are in Your Son and He in You, that we all may be one in the Us, and this so the world may believe You sent Him. And the glory which You gave Christ Jesus on earth, give also to us, that we may be one just as You and He are one: He in us and You in Him, that we may be made perfect in unity, and that the world may know that You have sent us and love us as You love Your own Son.
Father, I desire that all of us You gave to Your Son may abide with Him where He is, that we may continually behold His glory which You have given Him, for You loved Him before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but the Son knows You and now we know that You sent Him and He has declared to us Your name, that Your Spirit will continue to declare it through us, and this so the love with which You love Him may be in us and He in us. Amen.