As Jesus prayed following His teaching at the Last Supper with His disciples, He began by asking God to glorify Him in three very specific ways. He prayed that He would be glorified by becoming the source of eternal life for all those who would come in faith to Him. He prayed further that He would receive glory for completing His task of total, humble obedience to the Father. Finally, He prayed that He would be glorified by returning to His pre-incarnate position with the Father in Heaven.
After praying for His own glory, Jesus turned His prayer in a different direction. Having prayed for Himself, He continued by praying for His disciples. They had followed Him faithfully for several years and now, before He would depart from them, He petitioned God on their behalf for some specific needs.
Jesus prayed for His disciples that as they had already been obedient to His commands (v.6), and had put their faith in Him (v.8), that they would continue in that obedience and faith. The indications of a true disciple were these very things that Jesus was praying. Their obedience to the commands of Christ, namely loving God and loving others, would be a continual confirmation that they were truly His followers. Judas had departed in greed and self-service to betray Jesus and all those that were assembled with Him because Judas was not a true disciple; His lack of love indicated that.
Jesus moved on from praying for their holiness and love to praying for their unity. It would be the desires of Satan to separate them. Jesus had already warned Peter that Satan desired to devastate him (Luke 22:31); now, Jesus prayed against that work of Satan. In Philippians 2:2, Paul wrote of this need for unity when he wrote, “[be] of one accord, of one mind.” Praying for His disciples, Jesus asked God to draw His followers into a unity that mirrored the unity found in the Trinity (v.11).
"That they may be one, as we are."
Christ continued His prayer acknowledging the Father’s will that even though Jesus must depart, His disciples would stay in the dangerous world to declare the news of the gospel. It would not be an easy road ahead, but Jesus did promise that it would be a victorious road. There might be trouble and trials, but Jesus prayed that God would take care of His followers.
Finally, after praying for obedience, love, unity, and even strength in their trials, Jesus prayed for the spiritual growth and maturity of His followers. He asked God to sanctify, or to cleanse and mature them. The means by which they would grow would not be through abstract spiritual impressions, or subjective revelations, no, Jesus prayed only according to the will of God. It is God’s will that His people receive the nourishing flow of cleansing from the one fountain of sanctifying truth, the Word of God.
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
By extension, this prayer at the Last Supper went beyond the eleven sitting at the table and reaches out through time to us, the followers of Jesus. His prayer for the eleven is a prayer that He continually intercedes and offers in Heaven even now. He prays that we, His people, might continue in faith, obedience, love, unity, and that we might continually grow through the sanctifying power of the Word.
Food For Thought: Put in your own words a few of the things that Jesus prayed for His followers.