“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9
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 the His great High Priestly Prayer.
Apart from the first verse which says “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed” everything that follows is in red letters. They 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?