Jesus' prayer: “I pray that they will be one”

Posted Mar 2, 2019

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Daily Scripture

John 17:15-23

15 I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. 17 Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.

20 “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. 21 I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.

1 John 4:7-11

7 Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 8 The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.

11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other.

Reflection Questions

In 1 John, we learn that loving one another grows out of our understanding of the heart of the God of the universe. God loves us, John wrote, but more than that, God IS love. That is why we can love God and one another. Scholar William Barclay pointed to the core of Jesus' prayer just before his arrest: “Jesus did not pray that his disciples…might find escape; he prayed that they might find victory…. Christianity… does not offer us release from problems, but a way to solve them. It does not offer us an easy peace, but a triumphant warfare.”* And the victory for which Jesus prayed was not victory over one another, but victory over the human tendency to be right over being loving: “I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

  • Scholar N. T. Wright noted that Jesus' prayer can deepen and enrich your prayer life: “This prayer… can with only slight variation, be used by Christians of all sorts for themselves. Substitute ‘Jesus’ where the prayer says ‘I’, and replace ‘they’ and ‘them’ with ‘I’ and ‘me,’ and you’ll get the idea. But be careful. This is a serious prayer. It is one of the most serious things Jesus ever said. That’s why, deep down, it is also among the most joyful and hopeful. Pray it with awe, and with delight.”** Which people, inside or beyond the church, do you find it hardest to love? Read and pray through this passage, plugging in their names and faces as well as yours. Ask God to help you live out God’s love even toward them.


Dear God, you ARE love—what an amazing, mind-stretching truth. You know that it’s not quite as natural for me to love. Please keep loving me as I stretch and grow in my ability to reflect your love to others. Amen.

Family Activity

Last week Pastor Mike Slaughter led us in the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. It begins with these words: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” Invite each family member to think of an item or an instrument that could be used to symbolize peace. Examples might include a hammer used to build others up, a rope to bind people in unity or a wind chime reminding us that many different voices can blend together to create one beautiful sound. Create a family art piece using these items or pictures of them to help each person be intentional about bringing peace of one another and to the world. Ask God to help your family be instruments of peace.

* William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John—Volume 2 Chapters 8–21 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, revised edition 1975, p. 215.

** N. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11–21. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 97.

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Anne Williams

Anne Williams

Anne Williams has served as a care pastor at The Church of the Resurrection since 2011, first at Resurrection Leawood and now at Resurrection Downtown. She and her husband, Eric, have two sons, Jude and Reid.

In October, 2012, Pastor Anne Williams (then serving in Congregational Care at Resurrection Leawood) wrote an Insights blog post about how our faith can shape our reaction to the political rivalries of a presidential and congressional election. Despite everyone's best hopes, much of the news from the United Methodist General Conference this last week has sounded "political." Read Pastor Williams' slightly adapted thoughts as speaking to "church politics" – we believe you'll be uplifted and given hope.

This past Saturday those of us who live here in the Kansas City area enjoyed a great treat – real, legitimate, measure-it-with-a-rain-gauge rain! My husband and I live in an apartment complex so we have a little balcony porch where I spent some time sitting and listening as it came down. And as I sat there I thought about what a perfect thing a porch is. I can be outside, and yet covered from the downpour. I enjoy the smells, sights, and sounds – an indulgence to my senses. And at the same time I don’t have to get wet, I don’t need an umbrella, I don’t have to have waterproof shoes to keep my toes dry.

Being there reminded me of our calling to be in the world but not of it. In John 17:16 Jesus spoke of that tension of living in this world and yet belonging to another. He said these words of his disciples: “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” Specifically, as this long, testing week ends, I hear God reminding me that in the end it doesn’t matter as much as we often think it does who "wins" from a human standpoint, that my primary and utmost allegiance is to God and God’s kingdom. And regardless of the political landscape of this world, I put my hope in the promise of a different world. For truly, there is much about this world that I can’t control. People disappoint me. Political strategies confuse me. So turning my eyes to the things of heaven (Philippians 4:8) keeps me centered on the hope that there is something greater that we can all look forward to.

So as the "rainfall" of news about who "won" and who "lost" keeps pouring down, as I often find myself disillusioned by politics, I am drawn closer into God’s heavenly fold. I realize how extraordinary it is that God never disappoints, God never fails, and God’s love always wins.

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