Whatever happened to Christ's Prayer on behalf of all Believers!
In the seventeenth chapter of the book of John, Jesus Christ prayed to the Father on behalf of himself, his disciples, and to all believers.
Praying to the Father on behalf of all believers Jesus prayed a prayer which is quite remarkable, and consists of some very important points.
Jesus said, “My prayer is not for them (disciples) alone. I pray also for;
- Those who will believe in me through their message:
- That all of them may be one.
- Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
- May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me:
- I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one;
- I in them and you in me.
- May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn.17:20-23).
What ever happened to this prayer has it become obsolete? Was it offered in van? One thing for sure it was quite evident and very effective during the first century church, scripture confirms that, “All the believers were together and had everything in common” and, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had”(Acts 2:42; Acts 4:32).
Let us take a closer examination at this all important prayer and see how we can better understand and digest it.
1. Those who believe in me through their word (message)!
What Message are we to believe since there are so many conflicting messages?
John the apostle wrote; “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not [practice] live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”(1Jn.1:5-7).
The message is centered on Christian fellowship which according to the book of Acts chapter two verse forty two (Acts 2:42), is made up of three important parts viz.
- Devotion to the apostle’s doctrine which must be founded on Christ, who is the one and only foundation, and the chief cornerstone (Acts 2:42; 1Cor.3:10, 12; Eph.2:20-22).
The teachings or doctrines according to the apostle Paul must be based on scriptures. He wrote; “Now brethren, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you, otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1Cor.15:1-4).
Now according to the scriptures, the duration of time that Christ spent in the heart of the earth was seventy two hours. “For as Jonah was three days [36 hrs], and three nights [36 hrs] in the belly of a huge fish, so the son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt.12:40).
To verify the fact that Christ spent 72 hours in the heart of the earth he said, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light” (Jn.11:9).
The teachings and doctrines of the apostles are designed for all humanity, Jews as well as Gentiles, because they were instructed to, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. And again it is written, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Matt.28:18-20; Lk.24:47).
The teachings or doctrines of the apostles are centered on salvation which, “Is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved” (Acts.4:12).
The teachings or doctrines will produce change in those who believe: Because we are admonished saying, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolater, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1Cor.6:9-11).
- Breaking of Bread
This breaking of bread should not be mistaken with an ordinary meal as some have erroneously assumed. The apostle Paul chastised the Corinthian church on how they conducted themselves at the Lord’s Supper by saying, “First of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it’ (1Cor.11:18).
Their condemnation according to the apostle Paul was, “For as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not” (1Cor.11:21-22)!
But from 1Cor.11:23-32, after revealing to them what he received from the Lord concerning the solemnity, and profoundness of the Lord’s Supper, according to his insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations, the apostle Paul admonished them by saying, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment”(1Cor.11:33).
It is therefore quite conclusive that the breaking of bread which was part of the Christian fellowship, whenever they met as a church, was not an ordinary meal. But rather the participation of the lord’s Supper, which could result in condemnation if taken in an unworthy manner.
There is evidence that the apostle Paul met with believers after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week with the main intent to break bread. As it is written, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).
- Prayer is the third all important ingredient in Christian fellowship. It is our communication with God. It is made up of five important parts viz.:-
- Adoration: which is to exalt the name of God, worship and reverence his name in songs of praise. Like the Psalmist wrote; “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord: let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation, let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and son” (Ps.95:1-2).
- Confession: For, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (iJn.1:8-9)
- Supplications: We are first of all urged to, “Make requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Tim. 2:1-4).
- Intercession: Because, “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:15-16).
- Thanksgiving: We are admonished; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil.4:6-7).
2. That all of them may be one:
This is made possible by walking in the light [truth] as Christ who is the way the truth and the life is light. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
To become one every believer must abide in the truth, and there are five distinctive ways by which all believers can abide in the truth, and become one.
- By partaking of body and blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn.6:56). The apostle Paul wrote; “I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1cor.10:16-17).
- By keeping his commandments. For it is written, “Those who obey his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he abides in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1Jn.3:24).
- By receiving the Holy Spirit: It is written; “We know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (Jn.4:13). Now the Spirit is given only to those who love and obey God’s commandments. It is written: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he abides with you and will be in you” (Jn.14:15-17).
- By confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (Jn.4:15).
- By abiding in love. “He who abides in love abides in God and God in him.” And again Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will abide in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (1Jn.4:16; Jn.15:10).
3. Father just as you are in me and I am in you.
The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father because they are of one Spirit. Jesus Christ came forth from God. We also who are joined to the Lord are one spirit with the Lord. The Lord is the true vine and we are the branches, we proceed out from him, for in him we live, and move and have our existence.
4. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me:
The reason for our calling is for us to have fellowship with Jesus Christ, and God who has called us into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful. True Christian fellowship is with the Father and the Son.
Fellowship with the Father and the Son produces unity. According to the apostle Paul, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.’
‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than your-selves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’ (Phil.21-5).
Hence, the apostle Paul is urging all those who are in fellowship with Jesus Christ to; “Agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among them and that they may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1Cor.1:10).
5. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one;
There are different stages and aspects of the glory of Christ. For example there is the glory of Christ before creation as stated in his prayer to the Father on behalf of himself when he said, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (Jn.17:5).
There is his glory as revealed in the old Testament, his glory in his incarnation, his glory in his transfiguration, his glory in his resurrection, his glory in his exaltation, his glory at his return, and his glory in heaven.
But the glory referred to in his prayer for all believers, is his glory in the resurrection which reflects on his sinless immortal body that has been given to believers for their unity and purification.
6. I in them and you in me
This is the most crucial and decisive moment in everyone’s life. Up to this point everything is by the grace of God. But to have Christ living in us is a decision each has to do individually. Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev.3:20).
Jesus Christ will not on his own come and live in any individual unless he is invited and received. For it is as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name.
7. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me:
This fulfills God’s plan for creating man as planned from the beginning when God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Gen.1:27). It began with the Father, from whom Christ came forth, and God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him; and through him to reconcile to himself all things. The complete cycle of God’s master plan is, Christ in the Father, all things whether things on earth and things in heaven in Christ – Jesus Christ in believers, and God the Father in Jesus Christ in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
My major concern is; why such a meaningful prayer from Jesus Christ himself seems so remote and farfetched, and seems almost impossible to bring to fruition.
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