Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer

Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” (John 17) is only about 650 words. It takes only 3 minutes and 30 seconds to read it aloud. But it will take all eternity for us to fully understand it!

I recently found it helpful to break down Jesus’ petitions and propositions into the following categories:

The Father Gave the Son... John 17
authority to give eternal life v. 2
people out of this world vv. 2, 6, 9, 24
work to accomplish v. 4
words v. 8
his name vv. 11, 12
glory vv. 22, 24


The Son Gives Believers... John 17
eternal life v. 2
Father’s word vv. 8, 14
manifestation of Father’s name vv. 6, 22
glory v. 22


The Son Asks the Father to... John 17
glorify him vv. 1, 5
keep believers in the Father’s name v. 11
keep believers from the evil one v. 15
sanctify believers in the truth v. 17
make believers one v. 21


Jesus’ Followers and the World John 17
they are sent into the world v. 18
they are in the world v. 11
they are not of the world v. 16
the world has hated them v. 14
their unity with each other and union with God may cause the world to believe that the Father sent the Son v. 21


Another fascinating part of Jesus’ prayer is the various ways in which the theme of “indwelling” serves the cause of unity. Jesus teaches that:

  1. The Father is in the Son (vv. 21, 23)
  2. The Son is in the Father (v. 21)
  3. Believers are in the Father and the Son (v. 21)
  4. The Son is in believers (vv. 23, 26)

Of course, if we do not recognize that these are different sorts of “indwellings,” we’ll quick descend into heresy! But it still may be instructive to see this illustrated:

Jesus’ high priestly prayer is worthy of our greatest study, as we seek to learn from and imitate our great co-heir as he approaches our Father.

For more thoughts on this prayer, listen to D. A. Carson’s talk on The Supremacy of Christ and Love in a Postmodern World, which will also be a chapter in the forthcoming book, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World.

Justin Taylor is Vice President of Editorial at Crossway Books and an elder at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. He blogs at Between Two Worlds and is co-author of the newly released The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived.