Today’s Reading: John 17
John 17 is holy ground. If I were God’s editor, I never would have allowed this chapter in the Bible. It’s sacred, it’s other-world, it’s uncomfortable . . . it’s the prayer closet of Jesus. This is a very solemn chapter, what we call the high priestly prayer of Jesus.
I have thousands of books in my library on so many topics. But to my amazement, I’ve seen only two authors ever venture to take on one of the most incredible chapters, prayers, and words ever penned to mankind and write on them. I am not sure if the two men who did had a lapse of judgment or a leading of the Holy Spirit.
John 17 lets us eavesdrop on what Jesus was praying before He was taken to die on Calvary and we are allowed to hear Him. We are given what seems to be a glimpse into the holy of holies where the Son is talking to the Father.
The Lord’s prayer is very powerful. But it is one thing to be taught something and another to see it modeled. Luke 6 is the teaching; John 17 is the modeling. Prayer is better exemplified than taught.
And in this chapter we are allowed to see how Jesus prayed. I think we can all agree that if anyone knows how to pray, it is Jesus. If there is anyone who is going to have His prayers answered, it is Jesus. The right way to pray is Jesus’ way of praying. If He did not want to be heard, it would not have been recorded. If this prayer was not meant for us to look at, He would not have had His disciples hear it. Since they heard it, and since they recorded it, there must be something for us to learn from it.
As I was growing up on Long Island, New York, I had the wonderful opportunity to overhear my Russian grandmother pray. She was a great prayer warrior. Many times I would come home from school in the afternoon and hear my grandmother praying in Russian, because she never learned English. She would be in our living room crying and praying in a language I did not know. Sometimes I would listen, but most of the time I would feel as if I should not be there.
There is something powerful about a person pouring out themselves in prayer to God. There is something uncomfortable about listening to someone’s private prayer time. I could not stand there for more than a few minutes before I would have to leave her and God alone. If I felt this way about my grandmother, how much more would I feel about opening the door to John 17 and listening to the private prayer of Jesus and His Father. There is something in me that says I should not be there. I should read the Bible up to John 16 and then go quickly to John 18. But there is something in me that wants to open the door and listen to Jesus. There is something in me that says I should be there and I should listen very carefully.
Let’s open the prayer closet of the second member of the Trinity, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, Jesus, and hear Him pray.
This is the very first verse: “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.’”
I will take the risk that this would not be incorporated as a biblical absolute but as a challenge of focus the next time we pray, that we use John 17 as our model in our prayer time. It says that when Jesus prayed, He lifted up His eyes. This was not just His prayer posture, it was a Jewish posture. No Jew would ever pray as we do today. The first thing we often hear before we pray in a church service is, “Let’s bow our heads.” The words out of our mouths when praying over a meal is, “Let’s bow our heads.” A Jew would never look down when talking to Jehovah. They would see this as dishonoring. A Jew would always lift their eyes.
On a natural level, there is a difference between a person you see with their head bowed down and a head that is lifted up. A bowed head carries with it dejection, self-consciousness, fear of making eye contact. It carries no good thing with it. But a person who walks and talks with head up and eyes lifted seems to have a confidence and certainty to them and their words.
The next time you pray, go John 17 in your prayer time. Lift up your eyes to heaven and realize that you have a living Father who hears you. And if you want to make it even crazier, lift up your eyes and read out loud the prayer of Jesus in John 17.