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The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:13

John 17:13  “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

We continue to slowly pick our way through this amazing chapter that records what is surely the greatest prayer ever prayed, the real Lord’s prayer.  I make no apologies for going so slowly, because in almost every word and phrase there are treasures that we need to unearth and hold up to the light and examine from every angle.

I actually read recently that John 17 was the passage of Scripture that the Puritans preached on more than any other, and some of the commentaries on John 17 that originate around that time  are hundreds and hundreds of pages long; some more than 500 pages.  I don’t think we’ll even come close to that!

It just shows how God’s people have, down through the centuries, found in this chapter something special that gets us so close to the very heart of God as revealed in the prayer of Christ.

Now, as we look at verse 13, there are two aspects of this verse that I want us to consider.

First there is the goal of Jesus’ prayer, and secondly there is the manner in which he prays, and in taking them in this way we are actually reversing the order in which Jesus speaks these words.  That’s completely legitimate because we are not in any way going to distort the meaning of what he says, but by doing it in this way we will, I believe, strengthen the impact of what he is saying.

So, first, the goal of his prayer.

Jesus says, he is praying in this way, “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

Jesus wants his disciples to be filled with joy – but not just any old joy; “my joy”.  Now, to understand what Jesus means by that we need to go back a couple of chapters in John to something Jesus had said earlier that very same evening.

John 15:11 is a very striking parallel to John 17:13.  Notice that here again – and I believe it’s the only other occurrence of these words in Scripture – Jesus speaks about “my joy” and his desire that his disciples, may have “my joy” in them.

Jesus says, in 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you”, by which he is referring to what we have recorded in verses 1-10.  And what Jesus is talking about in those verses is the need to abide in him, as a result of which they will bear fruit and see their prayers answered.

And, “these things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”.

Do you see the logic of what the Saviour is saying?  The way to know the very joy that Jesus knows is to abide in him, to walk closely with him, to live in a close, intimate and vital relationship with him; a life characterised by his words dwelling in us.

10 times in verses 1-11 the word “abide” or “abiding” occurs.   In many ways that is actually what all of this is about. That’s the reason for the use of the vine analogy, because it most powerfully illustrates the relationship between the branch and the vine.

Jesus’ own joy came not from his outward circumstances – after all, they were hardly joy-inducing were they?  Here he is, on his way to Gethsemane and Calvary, and he is speaking of a joy he has which he prays that his disciples might also have.

So, this isn’t an outward, externally based, circumstantially dependent joy happiness.  This is a joy that comes from knowing that, as the hymnwriter puts it, “I am his and he is mine”.

So, back to 17:13, the “my joy” that Jesus prays would be complete in the disciples, must be the joy that comes from abiding in and obeying God.

And the specific context of this statement in John 17 is that in these verses Jesus is praying that the Father would keep and guard the disciples – verse 11 – which basically means that they will be able to abide in and to obey God because God himself will keep them. 

Do you sometimes, wonder, friend, whether you will be able to continue to abide in God and to obey him?  Wonder not!  It’s not that you will be able to do so, it’s that you will be enabled to do so, because the Father will keep you abiding in and obeying him, and as a result of that you will know this deep, unshakeable and unquenchable joy that is Jesus’ own joy.  In other words, your joy comes from your security.

Now we come to the second thing we need to note in this verse, though it is the first thing Jesus actually says – the manner of his prayer. 

Jesus says, “…these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves”, and it’s the first part of that sentence that I want to draw your attention to.

He has just said, again, that he is leaving the disciples and returning to the Father in heaven, but while he is still on earth, and in the hearing of the disciples, he says and prays these things.

There’s another interesting parallel with this verse back in 11:42, in the account of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead.  We read, “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

Jesus explicitly states that he is saying these things and praying out loud for the benefit those who heard his praying.  He wants the people to be in no doubt that the raising of Lazarus is the direct result of the Father hearing the prayer request of the Son; something that they wouldn’t have known if Lazarus simply appeared from the grave.  They had to hear Jesus speak words to the Father and to Lazarus himself.

So, here, back in 17:13, Jesus wants his disciples to hear what he is saying to his Father; to hear the Lord praying for them to the Father.   He wants them to hear him pray that the Father would unite them, and keep them and to fill them with his own joy.

And he does that because that will increase and deepen this joy – his joy – that he wants them to have.

“Father, I want them to hear this prayer because it will bring them joy.”

Doesn’t that fill your heart with joy?  When you hear the Saviour pray for you like this, intercede for you like this, it produces great joy in your heart.  It is a constant source of deep, real, lasting joy.

Friends, this brings a very practical and personal lesson for us.  You see Jesus could have prayed this prayer silently and inwardly, and it would still have been answered, but he wanted to encourage the disciples and increase their joy which would come by hearing him pray this prayer and then see it answered.

It’s one thing to know you are being prayed for and another to hear yourself being prayed for.  So take every opportunity to encourage others by either assuring them that you are praying for them or, even better, pray for them in their hearing.

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