Have you ever struggled to pray regularly for the people God has placed in your life? I know I have. Like many people, for years I used a prayer list of all my family and friends as a helpful place to begin. But even then I often had difficulty staying focused and praying meaningful, confident prayers for many of them. Invariably I would gravitate merely to a rote recitation of their names as I moved down the list.
It was not, however, until I discovered a Biblical, tried and true way to effectively pray for them that a new focus and faith began to energize my prayers.
There is one chapter in the Bible that is dedicated entirely to a verbatim prayer recited by Jesus. That chapter is John 17, and it is considered to be one of the great treasures in all of scripture because it preserves for posterity an entire prayer, prayed by the greatest pray-er who ever lived! Some have called it Jesus’ great High Priestly Prayer. In this chapter Jesus is praying for those the Father had committed to His care.
Apart from the first verse which says “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed,” everything that follows is in red letters. These are the words of Jesus as He prays to the Father for a very specific group of people: “for all those you have given me” (vs. 2; 6) and for “those who will believe in me through their message” (vs. 20). In fact, Jesus specifically narrows the field by saying, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.”
Who then is this select group for whom Jesus was praying? They were His apostles and disciples. Interestingly this included His friends such as Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha; as well as His family – mother, brothers, sisters, and cousins.
The John 17 prayer of Jesus is therefore the best model ever given for our use in praying for those whom God has placed in our lives. A study of the prayer reveals that there are seven specific ways in which Jesus prayed for His loved ones.
These seven prayers lend a Biblical specificity to our prayers and These seven prayers lend a Biblical specificity to our prayers and inspire confidence and faith as we pray because we are praying the same words Jesus prayed.
Praying Scripture has always been a sure-fire way to pray effectively, and to me this way of praying for friends and family is as exciting and powerful as it gets. This is so because “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14 NIV).
Here are seven prayers you can use to pray following in Jesus’ footsteps: “Father…
- GLORIFY Jesus through their lives by having them do the work you’ve given them to do. – “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (vs. 1b). “I brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (vs. 4). Give them a clear sense of your calling and purpose that they might dedicate their lives to living for and glorifying you.
- FORTIFY and protect them from the evil one and keep them safe in Jesus name. – “Protect them from the evil one” (vs. 15). Let no weapon formed against them prosper (Isaiah 54:17). May they put on the full armor of God to take their stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18).
- UNIFY them and make them one with you and with one another. – “…that all of them may be one” (vs. 21). Where there are broken relationships, release a spirit of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation (Ephesians 4:32).
- SANCTIFY them in the truth of your Word. – Set them apart for you, and make them holy. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (vs. 17). Give them a hunger for your word, that they might make it their daily meditation and guide for all they do, as they walk in obedience to you (Psalm 119:105).
- MULTIPLY them by sending them into the world with your message. – “I have sent them into the world . . . so that the world may believe” (vs. 18; 21). May they live their lives as your witnesses sharing your love and your truth.
- FILL them with your Joy. – “…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (vs. 13). May your joy be their strength imparting peace, faith, and generosity (Nehemiah 8:10; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
- REVEAL your Presence and Glory to them. – “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (vs. 24). Be present in their lives releasing “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that [they] might know [Jesus] better” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV).
As you consider all the precious people God has placed in your life, why not pray the prayer Jesus prayed for them?
For further meditation and application: The next time you pray through your prayer list of family, relatives, and friends, consider using these seven prayers from John 17. As you pray for each person, pause and select the appropriate prayer(s) that is applicable to their situation and your burden for them. Pray for them using the same words and phrases that Jesus used in praying for those the Father had given him. Expect a quickening of your faith, and renewed confidence as you pray, that God is hearing and answering your prayers.
This post is a chapter taken from Tom Stuart’s recently published book Igniting an Impassioned Prayer Life – How to Develop the Energized, Extended, and Sustainable Life of Prayer You’ve Always Wanted. It is available for purchase on Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Copies are also available directly from the author for $10. Go to tomstuart.org and order a copy via the contact form.