John 17:1-2: 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." (ESV).
In John 17 we discover Jesus praying to the Father. Matthew Henry succinctly states: "Though Christ, as God, was prayed to, Christ, as man, prayed." If we try to understand the Holy Trinity as a problem of human arithmetic, we will get an instant headache. If we simply accept what is revealed to us through Scripture, we will have a much easier time of it.
So here we are, watching and listening to Jesus pray. Shouldn't we run away or cover our ears? This is the Son of God praying to God the Father. Surely it is too grand, too mysterious for human ears or human minds. It is there in Holy Scripture, nevertheless, and we must assume it is there to be understood.
On this momentous occasion, the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays briefly for himself but at length for his followers and by implication, us:
"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." (John 17:6-9).
When we are discouraged we must remind ourselves of this: Jesus prayed for us. We must pray for other people in our care. Perhaps this will take discipline, or spiritual energy. Perhaps too, it can be source of joy for us. This is what Christians do.
Jesus does not simply pray for a blessing for us, he says something very special:
"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." (John 17:10-11).
Jesus wants us, his followers, to be one, to be unified, to continue on in the name of Christ.
As we pause to reflect on this, we might be tempted to think that Christians have failed in this respect; that for the past two thousand years we have been anything but unified. For a refreshing new perspective on the history of Christianity and its positive influence on the world, however, thoughtful Christians will be pleased to read How Christianity Saved the World by Alvin J. Schmidt. In this book, the author digs deep and explores how Christianity has challenged and changed the societies in which it has been introduced.
Starting from the days of the Roman Empire, Christianity has helped to transform individuals; elevate ideas about the sanctity of life; introduce new concepts of personal morality; improve the lot of women; create and promote charitable institutions; dignify labor and economic freedom; encourage scientific discovery; increase justice; abolish slavery; and allow the inspirations of the Bible to bloom and blossom in music and the arts. The historical perspective is essential -how else can we understand where our society might be without two thousand years of Christian influence?
While it is exciting to think how much better off the world is with Christianity, it is also sobering to consider how much was wrong with the world in the first place. Our foundational understanding of the nature of a human being-that he is in a fallen state; that he is a sinner-is all too easy to prove in history as well as in the present day. Human beings exist within the church, of course, as well as outside of it.
The power and dynamism of the Christian movement should still, however, excite and renew our spirits. The work is not yet done. We can still be part of God's astonishing plan. Beneath the superficial semblances of disunity, Christians have worked together in remarkable ways, in different countries, throughout the ages. If there had never been any unity or sense of common purpose, Christianity would not have thrived to the extent that it has. Can we see the proverbial cup being half-full rather than half-empty? It should dawn on us that God's plan has been working out in infinitely complex but infinitely good ways since the beginning of time.
How to understand all this? Step one is to lift our eyes from that which we fear-mortal death-to that which we crave: eternal life. To return to the prayer of Jesus:
"And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3).
Having received the truth, we have each a role to play. Those roles are as infinitely varied as the human condition itself. Wherever the Christian finds himself-as the head of an empire or as the slave to a landowner; as a nurse on a battlefield or as a prisoner of war-there are things to be said and done on behalf of almighty God. This is how God works. Through us.
Jesus concludes his prayer for his followers, for us:
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. (John 17:24-26).
Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Holy Spirit!
In faith and fellowship,
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 Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, ed. Leslie F. Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) 1961. P.1603.
 Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Saved the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) 2004.