Interceding for Us

Chapter 24 - Anthony Burgess on John 17

Burgess was an influential Puritan and "did preach 145 sermons on the prayer of Christ in John 17" (372).  This is a highly significant text: Christ's intercession for us the night before His crucifixion.

Jesus begins by saying He has finished the work God sent Him to do (John 17:4).  His intercession to the Father for us is based on this work.  [Does it refer to the cross ahead, or His obedience to the Law of the past 33 years?]

This prayer is unique in that the one praying is sinless and perfect.  "His prayer can be no more refused than His blood" Burgess said (374).  Priests prayed, and then offered sacrifice;  Jesus does the same.  His intercession moves the blessings obtained at the cross, to the Spirit to be applied to us.

What He prays for:
Not the world, but the sheep He will soon die for.  This points us to limited atonement, or particular redemption, that Jesus did not die for every human being, but for those God chose to save.  Jesus prays for their conversion, forgiveness, sanctification - in short, for every spiritual grace they will receive.  Any grace we have is because Christ prayed for us to have it.

Where He goes:
Jesus goes to the Father (John 17:11), so He can send His Spirit, prepare a place for us, and intercede for us.  This is great news - it proves nothing stopped Christ's atonement for us, and that it is accepted by God.

For our Prayers:
Christ's mediation for us is the foundation of our prayers.  We cannot come to the Father except through the Son.  So when it's hard for us to pray, due to our own failings, we can look to Christ's intercession for us.

The Need and Benefits of Praying
We do not pray to change God's mind, but ours.  We are the ship brought to shore; we do not try to bring the shore to us, remembering His sovereignty.
We pray to acknowledge He is the source of all we need, to commune with Him, as a means to bring about God's sovereign purposes, to lift our hearts to exult in God, to express our true desire for what we ask for, to express our faith.

How to Pray:
Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven (John 17:1), and so ought we to lift our minds and souls to Him.  Without seeking God's kingdom first, our petitions are vain and empty.  Lifting to heaven hands full of unrepented and cherished violence is an abomination to God (1 Tim 2:8; Prov 28:9).

Our Intercession for Others:
We are to pray for the church as Christ did, as members of the same body with them.  "Praying for one another will ease differences, jealousies, and suspicions....  If you find yourself thinking how poorly a brother has treated you, pray for that man.  It will immediately 'quiet those winds and waves'" (383 emphasis mine).  We should pray for the wicked to turn to God, notwithstanding 1 John 5:16, since "it is not easy to tell who" is sinning unto death (383).  "Perhaps my prayer may serve to 'the execution of God's election.'"

Engage and Argue with God
Not in a critical way, but giving reasons why He should answer your prayers.  He is our Father (Gal 4:6; Rom. 8:15).  We are seeking His glory more than our happiness.

No one prays as they should, but Christ's prayers for us accomplish our forgiveness and acceptance before the Father.

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