This beautiful prayer offered by the Lord in John chapter 17 is the climax of his last hour with his disciples and in addition to being a prayer to the Father on their behalf, would also serve as words of personal exhortation to those who heard it. It is an intensely personal prayer of the Son with his Father at a time when all the purpose of the Father was about to focus on the Son’s ultimate act of obedience—“Father, the hour is come…”! He had previously prayed: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name” (John 12:27, 28).

This is the prayer of the firstborn Son in the divine family and as such is offered on behalf of the other members of that family who have been “given” to the Son (v2). The Lord had instructed his followers in the way to eternal life—“to know [ginosko—an experiential knowledge] Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (v3). Now he looked for that glory which was his “before the world was”, in order that he might fully glorify the Father. He later prays that those given to him by the Father might also be with him in glory (v24).

This wonderful relationship of the Son with his Father was manifest in every aspect of the life of the Lord. Hence he was able to say, “I have manifested Thy Name.” His character was the character of the Father, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14,18; Exod 34:5,6); and his obedience to the Father’s will manifested Yahweh’s purpose to fill the earth with a family (John 4:34; Exod 3:11–15)—“all of whom shall be spirit because born of the spirit”. The Name of Yahweh is indicative of His Purpose to call out from among men a family in whom His glory will be manifested (Acts 15:14). This character must be seen in the lives of believers now even as the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly revealed the grace and truth of God (Rom 11:22).

As the firstborn Son, the Lord prays that the glory of the Father might also be seen in “those whom Thou hast given me”, so that there may be a unity among them even as the Father and Son are one. How could he know that they understood? Because he had given them the words of the Father and they had believed (v8, John 6:68). There was no doubt that the Father and Son were one—“Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father…” (John 14:9–11); “I and my Father are one” (John 10:27–30). They had believed that he truly “came out from God”. These who were given to the Son as part of that divine family on earth were to be one with the Father and the Son through the words that he had spoken unto them while he was with them. Now that he was to leave them, his earnest prayer was that they might be kept through those same words of eternal life in the unity of the Father and the Son.

What a truly awe–inspiring concept! How vital, then, is this unity for which our Lord prayed!

Sometimes we think of unity as a ‘desirable option’: it is not. It is a Divine imperative! We have considered the oneness that existed between the Father and Son—a unity of thought and action; of character and purpose. Surely, then, we must aspire to nothing less. For this our Lord earnestly prayed. We have the written Word believed among us and mercifully brought to light in these last days—the apostolic doctrines from the first century as revealed in the Scriptures and so wonderfully revived under God’s Hand in these latter days through the work of our early brethren. They are most sincerely believed among us. We know that we are specifically included in this petition, for the Lord said, “Nor do I entreat for these only, but also for those believing into me through their word” (v20 diag).

And our Lord earnestly prayed that we may all be “kept through the Name”, “sanctified through the Truth”, all one “as Thou Father art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us…”. What is the uniting force between the Father and the Son? Surely it is the words that he spoke emanating from the same mind; and the character which he manifested which was the same character. This then should simply be our endeavour—to so fill our minds with his words (the Word of God), that the Divine character may also be seen in us who have professed belief in those things which he spoke.

Where then is justification for discord or conflict among Christ’s brethren? If the unity among his brethren is of such magnitude in importance that our beloved Lord prayed this prayer on the eve of his sacrifice, how then should we discount it as of secondary importance? Not ‘peace at any price’ or unity so-called where compromise exists: but that oneness which springs from those things which we have considered—the Truth wholeheartedly embraced and the Father and the Son manifest in the mind and actions.

This will automatically separate us from the world and “sanctify” us in the Truth; as our Lord prayed: “I have given them thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:14,15). To “hate” actually means “to detest, to persecute, to love less”: in other words, we have nothing in common with the world or its ways, nor do the people of the world find us entertaining or desirable social companions. But for our brethren and sisters—fellow members of the Divine Family—we have a sincere desire for their companionship and sweet fellowship in the Truth. Is this our attitude as we search our hearts? Or do we avoid this brother, that sister, the other ecclesia, because of a perceived fault or misdemeanour?

Such is the importance of this unity in the family of God, that the Lord declares that by this “the world may believe that Thou hast sent me”; and again, “that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me” (verses 21, 23). The display of a spirit of disunity and personality frictions is not likely to be attractive or convince the world that we are such members of a Divine family, and manifestations of the Father and his firstborn son whom He sent into the world.

With a final appeal to the righteousness of God, our Lord again calls upon that same experiential knowledge and understanding that exists between the Father, the Son and His family. “O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these”—these who have been given to the Son—“have known that Thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in then, and I in them” (John 17:25, 26). What love the Father had for His Son! What love then, should be between us as we seek to manifest the attributes of that Name we bear—the Family Name which unites us in the Father and His beloved firstborn Son who, for our sakes, sanctified himself, that we also might be “sanctified through the Truth” (John 17:19).