The Lord’s Own Prayer
One day at a certain place, we are told, the disciples were with Jesus when He was praying, and after He had ceased — I wonder how long He prayed and what was the burden of His prayer? — one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. ‘He did not say, teach us how to pray, but ‘teach us to pray.’ It was not the manner of praying he desired to be taught, but simply to pray. And this Jesus did, both by what He said, and even more by what He did — by His example. They often found Him praying, and that taught them to pray as no words or exhortations could teach them. However, Jesus responded to this request, and taught them a prayer which wherever it is known at all is known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’
But it is rather the disciples’ prayer. It is a prayer He gave them to use, voicing their needs and their desires.
The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of Jesus addressed to the Father as our Great High Priest, the prayer in which He poured out the desires of His heart for the Father’s glory and His fellowship in that glory and in which He voiced His longings for the disciples then with Him, and for us and for all who should believe on Him, the prayer which no doubt constitutes the substance of His ceaseless and eternal intercession for His disciples of all time and everywhere, is recorded in John xvii. That is peculiarly the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus had said to Mary at the wedding in Cana, when she told Him of the empty wine vessels, ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.’ To His brethren who were skeptical of His claims, and who would hasten Him to Jerusalem, there either to prove or discredit Himself, He said, ‘My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. . . . Go ye up unto this feast. My time is not yet full come.’ When the Jews were angered at Him, John explains that as yet ‘No man laid hands on Him because His hour was not yet come.’
But finally, when His pauseless but unhasting ministry was drawing to a close, and He had come up to Jerusalem for the last time, Greek worshippers said to Philip, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’ When this was told to Him, He answered, ‘The hour is come.’
Then with His disciples He went into the upper room and ate the Passover Feast, ate of the Paschal Lamb which ever since that dread night when the Destroying Angel passed over Egypt had pointed in type to Him, the great Antitype, God’s Lamb, whose Blood should cleanse from all sin and shelter from the Destroyer all who believed.
After supper He arose, girded Himself and washed the disciples’ feet, showing them by a kindergarten lesson what, through their dullness and hardness of heart, His words had failed to teach them, that he who would be greatest among them must be, and would gladly be, ‘servant of all.’
After this object-lesson in lowly, loving service, He spoke tender words to them, words of warning, of comfort, of command, of instruction and encouragement. He unfolded to them the Person and Mission of the ‘Other Comforter,’ who should come to them when He was gone, assured them that while He was going away, yet He would come again, He would not leave them comfortless or orphans. While absent in body, He would yet be present in Spirit. If they but loved Him and kept His commandment to love one another, they should have with them evermore His manifested presence, His spiritual presence, in their hearts and minds, made possible and real through simple, obedient faith; they should be loved by the Father, and He and the Father would come to make their abode, their mansion, with them and in them. His joy should be in them, and their joy should be full. He warned them that the world would hate them because it hated Him, and because they were His friends and not of the world. He told them they should be persecuted and have sorrow, but added, ‘Your sorrow shall be turned into joy; your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.’ ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’
They were to be so identified with Him, ‘so mixed up with Jesus,’ as a quaint old friend of mine once said, that His union with the Father, and the love wherewith the Father loved Him, His joy, His tribulation, and His triumph and victory should be theirs. They should share in all that was His. If they loved Him, trusted Him, bore His cross, and shared His sufferings, they should share His glory. If they labored and toiled with Him in tears, they should shout with Him at the ingathering of the sheaves and be jubilant in the Harvest Home. If they sorrowed with Him, they should also joy with Him. He was going to prepare a place for them, and He would come again and receive them that they might be where He was. He would not be in Heaven and leave them behind.
It was His farewell address, recorded by John in chapters xiii. to xvi. It was the final lecture and tender, searching charge to these Cadets of His own choice and training, who were soon to be commissioned and sent forth to conquer a hostile world by their testimony and sacrificial devotion and love, and turn it upside down.
He had spoken at length to His humble disciples, and now He lifted His eyes to Heaven and spoke to the Father. He prayed, and this He did as naturally and as familiarly as He had spoken to His lowly followers.
He said, ‘Father, the hour is come’; the fateful hour for which He had girded himself and waited, the hour to which without pause and without haste he had pressed forward, the hour to which He had looked from the beginning of His ministry, yea, to which He had looked from of old, from the dawn of time when the morning stars sang together, yea, to which He had looked from the deeps of timeless Eternity.
It was the zero hour of the moral world, of the spiritual universe. The zero hour in the great battle for the souls of men, the hour when our Kinsman-Redeemer was to ‘go over the top,’ go over alone, ‘for of the people there was none with Him’; go over and die, die for us, die that we might live and never die. It was the hour of His utter humiliation, when all His glory was stripped from Him and laid aside, and He who knew no sin was made sin for us, and ‘numbered with the transgressors,’ ‘wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities,’ chastened for our peace, and stricken that we might be healed.
Step by step He had descended from infinite heights of glory and honour and power to infinite depths of weakness and reproach and shame. He, the infinitely pure and innocent One, came and united Himself with us as a man and stood in our place, and took upon Himself our guilt, our sin, our shame, our curse.
‘He was made a curse for us.’ ‘He was made sin for us.’
He emptied Himself of His divine, eternal majesty and ‘took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’ This was the hour to which He had looked, to which He had at last come, and for the agony, the loneliness, the shame of which He was now, and had been from the beginning, girding Himself.
But before the dread and awful stroke of this hour fell upon Him, His thoughts turned to His poor, ignorant, weak, imperfect disciples, and with a love that knew no bounds — that forgot self, forgot the shame and agony soon to be poured out upon Him without stint like an ocean flood, even forgot, or for a time ignored, the glory so soon to follow on His return to the bosom of the Father and the bliss of Heaven — He remembered them and prayed for them.
If we wish to know His thought for us, the fullness of blessing He wishes to bestow upon us, the completeness and intimacy of the union into which He wishes to enter with us, and the intimacy of the union and fellowship we are to have with the Father; if we wish to know how His purposes of world-conquest are to be accomplished; if we wish to know the high estate, the glory, to which He purposes to lift us, we should ponder this prayer, make it a daily study, and co-operate with Him for its fulfillment. He is not now talking to His lowly disciples. He is not commanding and charging them, He is talking to the Father for them, voicing their needs, considering their dangers, pleading their weakness, and with supplications and intercessions seeking for them boundless blessings that should make them kings and priests unto God, lifting them infinitely above the paltry pomp and fading glory of all the kings and governors and mighty men of earth.
And through them in answer to this prayer are to flow all the streams and rivers of His grace, and be accomplished all the redemptive purposes of His sacrificial life and death here upon earth, and His risen life and resurrection power revealed from Heaven. He is the Vine, they are the branches. Through them His beauty is to be made manifest, the beauty of Holiness; and in them His fruit is to be found, the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of the life that is eternal, the fruit which is ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control,’ and ‘against which there is no law.’
The petitions of this prayer are few. He first prays for Himself, prays that the Father will glorify Him that He in turn may glorify the Father, prays that He may again be glorified with the glory that was His with the Father ‘before the world was,’ and this petition was heard and considered, and we see the beginning of the abundant answer when the Angel strengthened Him during the agony and bloody sweat of the Garden, after which, with lamb-like submission and serene, unfailing meekness and patience, He calmly faced the mockery and shame of Herod’s men of war and Pilate’s judgment hall, and the deeper and final agony and desertion of the Cross.
We see it further answered in His resurrection from the dead, whereby, says the Apostle, He was indubitably ‘declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead ‘ (Romans i. 4). And we see a yet further and fuller answer when on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost was outpoured in His name, and His lowly disciples became living flames of love and Holiness and power divine. And we see the continuing answer to this petition in every triumph of the Gospel, in every penitent sinner born into the kingdom, and every child of God sanctified, in every hymn of praise sung, and every true prayer offered in His name. We see it in the light of His Cross shining across centuries and millenniums and gradually irradiating the dark places of all life, and the spread of His gospel from that narrow little circle in Jerusalem to all the continents and isles of earth. And as He is glorified, so is the Father.
Then He prays for His disciples whom the Father has given Him, prays that they may be kept from the evil that is in the world. While He was with them in the world He had kept them. ‘The Lord God is a sun and a shield.’ He had been their sun. He had lightened their way, and they had walked in His light and had not stumbled out of the way. He was their shield. He had defended them against wily men and yet more wily devils. No enemy had been able to pluck out of His hand any save Judas, who sold himself to the evil one for a handful of silver.
But now He was leaving them, and they would be exposed to the wiles of the evil one, who would subtly approach them as an ‘angel of light,’ or rush upon and assail them ‘as a roaring lion,’ and make battle against them like ancient archers with fiery darts of accusation, of doubts and fears and perplexities. And they would be beset by the relentless hostility of the world. The bigotry and hate of the Jews, the proud scorn and fierce persecutions of cruel and idolatrous nations would be poured out upon them. They were as sheep in the midst of wolves. Great and constant would be their danger, measureless would be their need, therefore he prays, Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as we are.’
He does not pray that they may be caught up out of the world and away from the evil, but that in the midst of it they may be kept through HIS name. ‘The name of the God of Jacob defend thee,’ prayed the Psalmist. ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe,’ said Solomon. ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!’ moaned and cried a sorely tempted ex-drunkard, and at the Name the spell of the temptation was broken and he was kept through that Name.
They were His little, defenseless ones, very dear to Him, and He wanted them kept for their own sakes. But they were also His representatives; as the Father had sent Him into the world, so He was now sending them into the world. They went forth in His name, with His word, on His business, and only as they were kept would the purpose of His life and death be fulfilled.
To this end He further prayed, ‘Sanctify them.’ Set them apart, consecrate them to Thyself and to Thy service, seal them and make them holy, not only ‘keep them from the evil that is in the world,’ but save them from the evil and corruption that is in their own hearts. Make them clean. Refine them as with fire. Purify them until no spot of sin remains upon them, until they are ‘all glorious within.’ ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy word is truth.’ Let Thy truth search them till they are wholly conformed to Thy nature and Thy will, until their lives match Thy truth and in them the truth lives incarnate, walks among men.
Not for these alone, however, did He pray, but for all who should through their word believe on Him. His thought was girdling the globe and embracing the ages. Wherever and whenever a penitent, trembling soul believed on Him through their word, that soul came within the desire and purpose of this prayer. He wanted them all to be one, bound up in one bundle of life, one as He and the Father are one, that they might be the habitation of God upon earth, and that the world seeing this might believe on Him. Faith in Him depended on the brotherly love and unity of His disciples. So it did, and so it does to this day. When there is unity there is faith. Where there is division there is doubt. Thousands believed and a multitude of priests were obedient to the faith after Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost and were of one mind and heart. But when this unity of faith and love was lost, the Dark Ages followed, and darkness and unbelief always follow loss of love and unity.
‘The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one,’ said He. The religion of Jesus is social. It is inclusive, not exclusive. We can have the glory only as we are united. We must be one in spirit with our brethren. Let division come, and the glory departs. Let the unity of brotherly love continue, and the glory abides. O my comrades, let us beware of the leakage of love, of the loss of the spirit of unity, of the subtlety and snare and death of the spirit of distrust and division
‘I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou has loved Me.’ In this world the disciples of Jesus are the home of God, and that home is to be filled with sweet accord, not discord. He wants us to be ‘Perfect in one,’ and then the world, the poor, proud, foolish, wicked world, shall not only believe, but know that Jesus was the sent of the Father, and that the love of the Father is outpoured upon His disciples as it was upon Himself. What responsibility this places upon us to foster the unity of the Spirit, and to beware of the pride and jealousy and envy and suspicion and unholy spirit of lordship that leads to division — let us be content to wash each other’s feet and be ambitious only to be ‘servants of all.’
In conclusion He prays, ‘Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.’ Hallelujah! O my soul, thou who hast wandered in darkness and grubbed in sin and hast been plucked from the mire, shall yet be lifted from the dunghill and seated with Him upon His throne, and shall stand amid the blinding splendor and behold the glory before which angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, veil their faces and fall as dead.
Toil on, O my soul! If thou labor for Him, thou shalt also reap with Him. He is not unrighteous to forget thy work and labor of love, and He will not fail to reward abundantly thy patience of hope. Thy labor is not in vain in the Lord.
If thou art called to suffer with Him, O my soul, count it all joy. Do not repine. Fear not. Faint not. Thou shalt reign with Him. He has so promised. And He will remember. He will not forget His own word upon which He has caused thee to hope. (Psalm cxix. 49.)
If thou dost love Him who died for thee, who entrusts His honour and His cause to thee, prove thy love, O my soul, by feeding and watching over His lambs and sheep. Love thy comrades as He has loved thee, and as He laid down His life for thee, so, if needs be lay down thy life for the brethren, and so shall all men know that thou art His disciple. And He shall see of the travail of His soul for thee and be satisfied.
O what wonder! How amazing!
Jesus, glorious King of kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved,
Lets me rest beneath His wings!
All for Jesus, resting now beneath His wings.
All for Jesus, all for Jesus,
All my being’s ransomed powers;
All my thoughts and words and doings,
All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus, all my days and all my hours.
And when the days and hours of time are no more, then Eternity, Eternity with Him, my Redeemer, Lover, Friend, in the glory that excelleth and that hath no end.
‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!