Question: What eternal truths are found in the Savior’s Intercessory Prayer?
Answer: An intercessor is someone who intercedes, mediates, advocates, or pleads in behalf of another. The prayer in John 17 is one of the many instances in the scriptures when we see the Savior acting in His role as our intercessor with Heavenly Father.
“As the hour of the Savior’s death and Resurrection drew near, He offered His great Intercessory Prayer. After commending His Apostles to the Father and praying for them, He then prayed for all those who would believe on Him through their word, and pleaded with the Father for all of us. He prayed that we could all be one as He is one with the Father and that the world would believe that He was sent by the Father.” (James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Conference, April 2002, “The Lifeline of Prayer”)
1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; (the time to begin the Atonement has arrived) glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him (Christ) power over all flesh (all people), that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men (the apostles)which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word (the eleven have remained faithful).
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world (at this time), but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world (I am leaving), but these are in the world (these apostles have to stay here), and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but (except) the son of perdition (Judas Iscariot); that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world (within hearing of my apostles), that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world (they are not worldly), even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep (protect) them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also (everyone) which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all (all the righteous) may be one (united in purpose); as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (so that all of them can be united in purpose with us): that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one (united), even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one (agreed in unity, harmony); and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
24 Father, I will (desire) that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am (live with me in the celestial glory); that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world (in the premortal life).
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these (apostles) have known that thou hast sent me.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
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Elder D. Todd Christofferson:
As His mortal ministry drew to a close, knowing “that his hour was come” (John 13:1), Jesus gathered His Apostles in an upper room in Jerusalem. Following their supper and after He had washed their feet and taught them, Jesus offered a sublime Intercessory Prayer on behalf of these Apostles and all who would believe in Him. He supplicated the Father in these words:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:20–23).
How glorious it is to contemplate that we have been invited into that perfect unity that exists with the Father and the Son. How can this happen?
Pondering this question, it becomes clear that we must begin by becoming one within ourselves. We are dual beings of flesh and spirit, and we sometimes feel out of harmony or in conflict. Our spirit is enlightened by conscience, the light of Christ (see Moro. 7:16; D&C 93:2), and naturally responds to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and desires to follow truth. But the appetites and temptations to which the flesh is subject can, if permitted, overwhelm and dominate the spirit. Paul said:
“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:21–23).
Nephi expressed similar feelings:
“Notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
“I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Ne. 4:17–18).
But then, remembering the Savior, Nephi stated this hopeful conclusion: “Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted” (2 Ne. 4:19). What did he mean?
Jesus was also a being of flesh and spirit, but He yielded not to temptation (see Mosiah 15:5). We can turn to Him as we seek unity and peace within, because He understands. He understands the struggle, and He also understands how to win the struggle. As Paul said, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Most importantly, we may look to Jesus to help restore the inner unity of our soul when we have succumbed to sin and destroyed our peace. Soon after His intercessory plea that we might become “perfect in one,” Jesus suffered and gave His life to atone for sin. The power of His Atonement can erase the effects of sin in us. When we repent, His atoning grace justifies and cleanses us (see 3 Ne. 27:16–20). It is as if we had not succumbed, as if we had not yielded to temptation.
As we endeavor day by day and week by week to follow the path of Christ, our spirit asserts its preeminence, the battle within subsides, and temptations cease to trouble. There is greater and greater harmony between the spiritual and the physical until our physical bodies are transformed, in Paul’s words, from “instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” to “instruments of righteousness unto God” (see Rom. 6:13). Becoming at one within ourselves prepares us for the greater blessing of becoming one with God and Christ.
Jesus achieved perfect unity with the Father by submitting Himself, both flesh and spirit, to the will of the Father. His ministry was always clearly focused because there was no debilitating or distracting double-mindedness in Him. Referring to His Father, Jesus said, “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). Because it was the Father’s will, Jesus submitted even to death, “the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7).
This was certainly no small thing. That suffering, He said, “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit, and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:18–19).
These statements reveal that the Savior’s overarching ambition is to glorify the Father. The Father is “in” the Son in the sense that the Father’s glory and the Father’s will are the all-consuming occupation of the Son.
During that Last Supper with His Apostles, the Savior said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:1–2).
What form that purging may take, what sacrifices it may entail, we probably cannot know in advance. But if with the rich young ruler we were to ask, “What lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20), the Savior’s answer would be the same: “Come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21); be my disciple as I am the disciple of the Father; become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [you], even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
President Brigham Young spoke understandingly of our challenge when he said:
“After all that has been said and done, after he has led this people so long, do you not perceive that there is a lack of confidence in our God? Can you perceive it in yourselves? You may ask, ‘Brother Brigham, do you perceive it in yourself?’ I do, I can see that I yet lack confidence, to some extent, in him whom I trust. Why? Because I have not the power, in consequence of that which the fall has brought upon me. …
“… Something rises up within me, at times[,] that … draws a dividing line between my interest and the interest of my Father in heaven; something that makes my interest and the interest of my Father in heaven not precisely one.
“… We should feel and understand, as far as possible, as far as fallen nature will let us, as far as we can get faith and knowledge to understand ourselves, that the interest of that God whom we serve is our interest, and that we have no other, neither in time nor in eternity” (Deseret News, 10 Sept. 1856, 212).
Surely we will not be one with God and Christ until we make Their will and interest our greatest desire. Such submissiveness is not reached in a day, but through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will tutor us if we are willing until, in process of time, it may accurately be said that He is in us as the Father is in Him. At times I tremble to consider what may be required, but I know that it is only in this perfect union that a fulness of joy can be found. I am grateful beyond expression that I am invited to be one with those holy beings I revere and worship as my Heavenly Father and Redeemer.
May God hear the Savior’s prayer and lead us all to be one with Them is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 87; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 31; “That They May Be One in Us,” by D. Todd Christofferson, Of the Presidency of the Seventy, General Conference, October 2002.