The Last Night of His Life, Jesus Prayed for YOU

“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:13-17, NIV)

The Prayer That Sent a Message

Just before he was betrayed and arrested, Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Since he knew what was coming, I would imagine that he prayed for what was absolutely most important to him, wouldn’t you? So here’s what he said:

I think it’s significant that Jesus prayed for those who would follow him; and when Jesus prayed for his followers, what he said is revealing. In verse 20 he made it clear that he prayed not only for the disciples who were with him in the garden, but for you as well. He said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”

Remember the Alliteration

These few verses of Jesus’ prayer echo down the corridors of history to reveal His position, His purpose, His prediction of persecution, His protection, and His process. “I come to you”: Jesus is petitioning the Father, and places himself under the Father’s authority. Jesus prayed often (Mark and Luke both remark upon this habit), and he prayed for all of us who would someday believe in Him.

He is on God’s mission, and he makes it clear that God is in control, acknowledging the Father’s ability to take his disciples out of the world or to protect them in it. “I speak these things in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Wow! Jesus came to provide JOY!? How many joyful people do you know? His stated purpose was to share his own joy and have it fulfilled in his followers.

What Did Jesus Want For Us?

In John 15:11 he said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” If you are one of his followers, that applies to you. Are you joyful? Is joy being fulfilled in you and because of you? Isn’t it cool that He prays for our joy? Of all of the characteristics of eternal life, this is my favorite. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit; it is a characteristic of the Kingdom of Heaven; it’s the natural result of the resurrection! It’s the reason Jesus came to earth, and it is essentially why we are here.

Stop for a moment and just choose to feel joyful no matter what your circumstances. It may seem almost impossible, but it is a choice available to us regardless of what is going on around us. The joy Jesus refers to is not dependent upon comfort or affluence, or having perfect circumstances. Perhaps that is why He also prayed over believers who will experience persecution both from the world and from the evil one. “The world has hated them because they are not of the world” is both an acknowledgement of what his disciples experienced and a prophecy about what is happening today.

Set Apart in Prayer

If you experience opposition as a Christian, take heart! It means you are not of the world, and that Jesus held you in his heart that stressful night in Gethsemane. Jesus prayed protection over you, and asked his Father to protect all of His children from the evil one. No matter how dark our circumstances, Jesus’ prayer seems to indicate that there is hope beyond the difficulty. Has life got you down? Ever feel discouraged or alone? Jesus has been there, and he knows not only how you feel, but what you need.

prayed for

Jesus asked the Father to reserve us to himself, and told us how that happens. “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” Sanctified means “set apart”. Are you? Is your life entwined with things of the Spirit or things of the world? Do you read social media or watch TV more than you read God’s word?

Connect the dots here. Jesus says he spoke these things “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. But I have given them Your word…” The process for sanctification comes from the Word of God, and so does Joy! Has life got you down? The more time you spend with God’s Word, the greater both your sanctification and your joy will be. Dive into the deep waters of Jesus’ prayer for you and you will find them both.

He Prayed for US

Agonizing in the Garden, facing his greatest trial,
Jesus knelt there in the night and prayed hard for awhile...
Knowing what he had to face and what he had to do,
Jesus took some time to intercede for me and YOU.
He prayed for our protection from what Satan might employ;
Then asked the Lord to sanctify us, and to give us joy.
He prayed for us as he prepared for Calvary's rugged slope,
Knowing that his work would bring us joy and give us hope!
If life has brought you trials, and your heart has been dismayed,
Embrace the joy that Jesus promised to us when he prayed.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Greatest Performance in the Very Biggest Game

A great performance is always pretty impressive. If you are an old-school NFL fan like me, you remember the AFL New York Jets upsetting the mighty NFL Baltimore Colts back in January 1969. Both teams were champions in their respective Leagues, but only one could win the Super Bowl. The AFL team had never won before, and Jets quarterback Joe Namath sent shock-waves through the sports world when he boldly predicted victory for his team. It seemed brash at the time, but the Jets went out and proved him right.

performance

Men work hard to make it in the NFL. There is an elite group of billionaire owners and millionaire athletes who compete fiercely as they try to find every edge that might help them win. In addition to the game itself, before they play the Super Bowl, the NFL gives out its annual awards. They extoll the accomplishments of players both on and off the field. Each team nominates a player for the Walter Payton man of the year award. It is good to see some of the athletes giving back to the community. (It helps offset the stories of political protests, arrests, drug use, and domestic violence.)

Gladiators

With its inherent dangers and the high risk of injury, the NFL has become our modern equivalent of the gladiators in ancient Rome. Players literally put their bodies on the line to try to win championships. Toughness in the NFL (and in many professional sports) means that men will play through pain and injury to achieve glory. Fans look upon them as heroes for staying on the field of play even when they are put through tremendous physical stress.

I was trying to imagine what those players headed to the Super Bowl were doing and thinking, making the final preparations for their huge moment in the spotlight, when they would be putting their training, their skills, and their determination on the line for team and personal glory. Would they be fine-tuning their technique, confident that they have prepared physically in every way? Perhaps they would be visualizing success, or meditating on their assignments… Would they succumb to outside influences, or be distracted from their goal by all of the hype?

Perfect Preparation Empowers Perfect Performance

What kind of performance would they give on the biggest stage of their careers? I was reflecting on the adulation and status we confer on such men, in some cases rightfully so. They are men who work hard, are committed to a goal, who embrace team virtues, and who put themselves at risk to attain glory. People are so fanatical about their teams that we call them “fans”. You’ve seen them. They dress up and carry signs. They follow and support their athletes with passion and emotion. (Ok, they are a little bit crazy…)

I know there are still Cowboys’ fans who still are STILL mad that Jackie Smith dropped a wide open touchdown pass against Pittsburgh in 1979! (He was so frustrated by his poor performance that he kicked his legs out as he lay on his back in the end zone.)

performance

Based on the effort and the risk and the high stakes involved, it seems natural to us that the men who make such preparations and take such risks should be considered heroic. Their performance certainly has a lot riding on it.

The Highest Stakes

Then it occurred to me: there was once a man who also faced the biggest day of his career, who was committed to a goal, and who put himself completely at risk to not just attain glory but to reflect it and give it away. The night before he had to compete in perhaps the toughest contest of all time, and certainly the biggest game, he was preparing as well. Perhaps we need to re-calibrate our perspective on what it means to be a hero.

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38, NIV)

The Most Pressure

Jesus knew what was coming, and he knew the price he was about to pay. I’ve often thought that the fact Jesus knew he would be resurrected from death did not diminish the pain and agony that was coming. He knew he faced the devastation of being separated from the Father. And I don’t want to sound like I doubt God’s power or plan, but I’ve always thought that BEFORE the cross, God had never experienced death, so that there had to be some sense of risk involved… what if it didn’t work? What if something went wrong?

While Jesus struggled with the weight of what he was about to do, and prepared for the suffering he knew was coming, he thought of YOU. He said: “My prayer is not for them 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.” (John 17:20, 21, NIV)

Two things. If you are willing to be fanatical about an athlete who gave his greatest performance in the biggest game, then think about Jesus. Become a fan. He thought about you. Second, take a moment to reflect upon the fact that he prayed for you: Be worthy of that prayer! You, too, are playing in a high-risk game, and it has nothing to do with football.

The Ultimate Game

Every year the League allows its teams
The chance to play upon the field of dreams;
They work all year to win the coveted prize,
To show their skills before a billion eyes…
The pundits say that history is made;
But isn’t it really just a sport that’s played
Between two groups of men who play a game?
The big things in this world will be the same,
With war, corruptions, hunger, lies and fear–
And they will play this game again next year…

There was, however, once the fiercest test,
When one competitor had to be his best.
The heat was on, but he was cool as ice,
When it was on the line, he paid the price
And showed mankind the ultimate sacrifice.
One athlete made a difference on this earth:
Our calendar revolves around his birth,
And he competed right until the end.
I’m proud to call him Savior, Lord, and friend.
He sometimes called himself the Son of Man:
He won the ultimate game, and I’m a fan.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread