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Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” in John 17 is stunning. But the sheer number of petitions in such a short order can also be confusing.

It may help to break it down a bit, as follow:

The Father Gave the Son… John 17
authority to give eternal life v. 2
people out of this world vv. 2, 6, 9, 24
work to accomplish v. 4
words v. 8
his name vv. 11, 12
glory vv. 22, 24
The Son Gives Believers… John 17
eternal life v. 2
Father's word vv. 8, 14
manifestation of Father's name vv. 6, 22
glory v. 22
The Son Asks the Father to… John 17
glorify him vv. 1, 5
keep believers in the Father's name v. 11
keep believers from the evil one v. 15
sanctify believers in the truth v. 17
make believers one v. 21
Jesus' Followers and the World John 17
they are sent into the world v. 18
they are in the world v. 11
they are not of the world v. 16
the world has hated them v. 14
their unity with each other and union with God may cause the world to believe that the Father sent the Son v. 21

Another fascinating part of Jesus' prayer is the various ways in which the theme of "indwelling" serves the cause of unity. Jesus teaches that:

  1. The Father is in the Son (vv. 21, 23)
  2. The Son is in the Father (v. 21)
  3. Believers are in the Father and the Son (v. 21)
  4. The Son is in believers (vv. 23, 26)

Of course, if we do not recognize that these are different sorts of "indwellings," we'll quick descend into heresy! But it still may be instructive to see this illustrated:

Jesus' high priestly prayer is worthy of our greatest study, as we seek to learn from and imitate our great co-heir as he approaches our Father.

For more thoughts on this great prayer, listen to D. A. Carson's talk on The Supremacy of Christ and Love in a Postmodern World, which is also a chapter in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World.

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11 thoughts on “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer”

  1. Brad says:

    Interesting graphics and it is a stunning amount of petitions when you break it down. Good post.


  2. Don says:

    Thanks. I find that this is a helpful way to study this passage.

  3. Ron says:

    WoW! I’ll be teaching this passage next week and have been scouring the net for resources… and God just lays this in my lap. Thanks for the help.


    1. DJG says:

      Ron – you might find Dennis Johnson’s recent devotions through John 17 helpful. I strongly recommend them.

      You can find them here:

  4. I just wrote an “unofficial” M. Div. thesis at SEBTS on John 17. The title is “An Exploration into Discourse Analysis and an Extension of its Method in the Exegesis of John 17.” If anyone is interested in taking a look, I can send you a copy. Most commentators break the passage down into a three-fold division (Jesus’ prayer for Himself, for His present disciples, and for his future disciples). I argue in the thesis that the better division is based upon the petitions.

    1. Matt says:


      I would definitely be interested in that. Is there any way you could post it here?


      1. THOMAS says:

        The file is actually too large to post here. However, feel free to email me (

      2. Quincy says:

        Thomas, I’ll like to take a look at your thesis. I’ll be finishing up at Dallas Seminary soon and that is a favorite passage of mine. If you don’t mind, can you email me at I’ll email you as well.

        Thanks so much.

  5. WoundedEgo says:

    This was a helpful study.

    Perhaps you should add a graphic for believers being in the world.

  6. WoundedEgo says:

    By the way, why is this called a “high priestly prayer”? Jesus does not begin his priestly ministry until he has ascended.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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