At the end of His ministry just before His death, Jesus prayed the longest of His recorded prayers; it is called the High Priestly Prayer. Recorded in John 17, this prayer is named such because in it Jesus fulfills some of the duties of the high priest. The high priests were the top tier religious leaders of the Israelites. They were commanded by God in the Law to be pure in their conduct and physically "whole" (Leviticus 21:6–8). Their duties included supervising the other priests in the running of the temple, making sacrifices, and coming before the presence of God to make atonement for the congregation's sins (Leviticus 16:14–15). Jesus imitated this kind of intercession between the people and God in His prayer.
Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14–16). The timing of His High Priestly Prayer is fitting. He was preparing for His death on the cross as the atonement for our sins; He is also the Lamb of God.
In Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, He asks that the Father glorify the Son in His death, that God may ultimately be glorified. He acknowledges that His ministry on earth is complete. He also tells the Father that He faithfully ministered to His disciples, giving them the Father's words and protecting them. Jesus then prays for those who believed in Him in faith, including the disciples and also those who will come to believe in Him through the testimony of the disciples (meaning all believers in Jesus Christ throughout time, including those alive today). The disciples needed this prayer especially since they were soon to be given the responsibility of spreading the gospel throughout the world without Jesus there physically as a guide and example. Knowing this, Jesus asks that God keep them from the evil one and sanctify them in the Word. They are not of the world, but Jesus sends them into the world as the Father sent Him into the world. Jesus prays for unity among believers and communion between believers and the Godhead. He says that He will continue to make known the Father's name, that God's love would reside in them, that the world would know and believe in Jesus and in the Father's love.
Jesus' High Priestly prayer is rich in theological insights as to the relationship between the Father and the Son, the nature of salvation, Jesus' mission on earth, His relationship with people, and much more. It is worth our study to understand theology and to hear the Lord's heart towards His people and His concerns as He knew He was leaving earth.
John 17 is copied below:
"When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
'I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
'I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.'"
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