Jesus was praying for His followers. In verse 9, we read: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me,…” We also read in Luke 22 that He told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (verses 31-32).
Jesus had prayed for Peter that His faith may not fail. And He was confident that though Peter would suffer weakness in his faith, it would not be lost. For He added, “And when you have turned again…”
Now, notice in John 17:20, Jesus was praying not only for His followers then — “I do not ask for these only” — but also for the other believers, as we read: “…but also for those who will believe in me…” That’s contrary to the claim of others that Jesus prayed for everyone in the world. He prayed and is praying for the believers or for those whom the Father had given to the Son — or for the elect, the saints or His sheep — in the world.
As we read in Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Notice, it does not say, “for everyone in the world,” but “for the saints.”
Christ or His Spirit (Rom. 8:9) is also praying for the believers or the elect today. He is interceding for the saints. As we also read in verse 34, ” Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
While hanging on the cross, Christ suffered and died for the sins of the elect. Now, while sitting at right hand of God the Father, Jesus Christ is interceding or praying for them.
In John 17, what did Jesus ask from His Father for His disciples then? In verse 11, we read: “Holy Father, keep them in your name…” In verse 15, “keep them from the evil one.” In verse 17, “Sanctify them in the truth…” And in verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me…” — not everyone in the world, but the people given by the Father to Him — “may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me…”
Christ focused on those things that His Father would do for His followers and for the other believers in the world.
He was not asking that they would enjoy a comfortable life now. He was not asking the Father to provide them freedom from sickness, pain, or suffering. He was not asking the Father to enrich them materially, or solve all their difficulties or problems.
Jesus Christ is not only our Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Lord, or King. He is also our Sovereign Intercessor, who is more concern that God the Father would keep us in His Name, would keep us from the evil one, would sanctify us in the truth and would be with Him where He is, so we could behold the Splendor of his Glory!