We recited the Lord’s Prayer in church on Sunday. I love that prayer. I often use it as a model for my prayers – slowly working through each phrase and meditating on its meaning until my heart beats with the plea, then praying it back to God. I do this because Jesus taught his disciples to pray in this way. However, there are other prayers of Jesus that we can pray. One of the most significant is John 17, sometimes called Jesus’s high-priestly prayer.
This is the prayer Jesus chooses to offer shortly before his betrayal, torture, and crucifixion. With emotional intensity, Jesus pleads with the Father for his disciples, but not just for his disciples. He says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). Jesus is offering this prayer for all true disciples – he is praying for you and for your pastor. I suspect your pastor, if he is a good one, is already praying these requests over you. He is already pleading with the Father for your holiness, following the pattern of Jesus. Have you ever considered returning the favor? Here is what that might look like:
“Father, glorify Jesus through my pastor.” (John 17:1 & 10)
Since each member of the Trinity is infinitely glorious, we cannot add to their glory. Therefore, this must be a request that the glory of God would be revealed through your pastor. Are you praying that people would see Jesus in your pastor?
“Father, keep my pastor in your name for the unity of the church.” (John 17:11-12)
Jesus has united himself to his church through his life, death, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit applies this unity to our hearts in a way that leads us to call God our Father (or Abba). Romans 8 describes this adoption and our security in the love of God. However, as Christians (and especially as pastors) it can be easy to forget that we are God’s. This is a prayer that your pastor would be reminded of God’s love for him, that he would remember his identity as a child of God, and that he would cherish the holy name of God. These three things are necessary for the unity of the church, both in the pastor and in the congregation. Are you praying that your pastor would feel and know God’s love for him?
“Father, do not take my pastor out of the world but keep him from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
Jesus knows that Peter isn’t the only one who Satan will sift like wheat. He prays that we would be protected from temptation while remaining in the world – a place of evil and temptation around every corner. This is a battle prayer. Jesus is sending his disciples into the front lines and praying for their protection. Pray that your pastor would not withdraw from the world but would remain on the front lines. Pray that he will continue to engage the enemy (Satan) while rescuing the captives (people). Pray also that he would not succumb to Satan’s temptations.
“Father, sanctify my pastor in the truth.” (John 17:17-19)
To sanctify means to make holy or to set apart. Pray that your pastor would be set apart by his devotion to the Word of God. He should stand out as different because of his commitment to the Scriptures (so should you). Pray that the Bible will have a cleansing and nourishing effect in his soul. Pray that he will desire the Word and that he will go to it often. Pray that the Holy Spirit will transform your pastor through the Word so that his ministry comes from a holy heart. Pray this not only for his study and preaching but especially for his daily devotion and prayer.
“Father, unite the church to my pastor and my pastor to the church in love, that the world may see Jesus in us.” (John 17:20-23)
Too often what a pastor experiences from a church is something far less than love. I believe the distinguishing mark of love is forgiveness. When the pastor and church members see sinfulness in one another and quickly forgive on the basis of Jesus’s work – that’s love. Pray that your church would be a safe and forgiving place for your pastor (and that he would be loving and forgiving toward the church).
30 Days of Prayer
Here’s my challenge: Set aside 30 days to read John 17 every day. When you are done reading, pray through this chapter for your pastor. Maybe the Holy Spirit will reveal other petitions hidden in Jesus’s high-priestly prayer. Take the mantle of priest on behalf of your pastor and church. Did you know that you are a priest? (See 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 5:10.) Being a disciple of Jesus means following in his priestly example. A priest intercedes for people before God’s throne of grace. Will you intercede for your pastor?
If you choose to take this challenge, please let me know how God uses it in your life, in your pastor’s life, or in your church. You can leave a comment below or find The Pastor’s Soul on Facebook or Twitter.