Jesus offered the great intercessory prayer in the last week of His mortal life prior to his atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection. Christ’s intercessory prayer is so named because He prayerfully interceded with Our Father in Heaven, or stood between us and the Father, to plead for our salvation. From this prayer of Jesus we learn how keenly He feels about His responsibility as our Mediator and Advocate with the Father. (see Russell M. Nelson, Lessons from the Lord’s Prayers)
Jesus’ Mission: Our Eternal Life
In the first part of his intercessory prayer, Jesus described the things he had done toward fulfilling his mission. “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me.” “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.” (John 17:4–8)
Jesus describes his mission on earth, which is to “give eternal life to as many as thou (God the Father) hast given him (Jesus).” (See John 17:2) Jesus goes on to define what it means to gain eternal life. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
Even though Jesus knew that he was about to suffer the intensity of the atonement and the crucifixion, he didn’t pray on his own behalf. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine…Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me.” (John 17:9, 20)
Be in the world but not of the world
In the prayer, Jesus teaches us to be in the world but 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. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15–16)
“We often state the couplet, ‘Be in the world but not of the world.’ As we observe television shows that make profanity, violence, and infidelity commonplace and even glamorous, we often wish we could lock out the world in some way and isolate our families from it all. …
“Perhaps we should state the couplet previously mentioned as two separate admonitions. First, ‘Be in the world.’ Be involved; be informed. Try to be understanding and tolerant and to appreciate diversity. Make meaningful contributions to society through service and involvement. Second, ‘Be not of the world.’ Do not follow wrong paths or bend to accommodate or accept what is not right.
“We should strive to change the corrupt and immoral tendencies in television and in society by keeping things that offend and debase out of our homes. In spite of all of the wickedness in the world, and in spite of all the opposition to good that we find on every hand, we should not try to take ourselves or our children out of the world. Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven,’ or yeast (Matthew 13:33). We are to lift the world and help all to rise above the wickedness that surrounds us. (see M. Russell Ballard, “The Effects of Television,” Ensign, May 1989, 78)
Near the conclusion of the prayer, Jesus asks that we “all may be one… even as we (Jesus and God the Father) are one. ” (John 17:21–22)
Speaking of Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, Gordon B. Hinckley said: “They are distinct beings, but they are one in purpose and effort. They are united as one in bringing to pass the grand, divine plan for the salvation and exaltation of the children of God. … It is that perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that binds these three into the oneness of the divine Godhead” (Gordon B. Hinckley, The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).
Jesus’ intercessory prayer can help us appreciate the precious gift of eternal life that only the Savior offers us. I know that we will be blessed as we strive to follow the teachings of Jesus, and become one with Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.