As we look to Jesus’ example of leadership in the New Testament, we see that He prayed for those who were following Him. One key passage that reveals how Jesus demonstrated prayerful leadership is John 17. Often called the High Priestly Prayer, this passage reveals some of the ways Jesus prayed for His followers. It also reveals His priorities for them. Examining this passage can help us as we seek to pray for those we lead.
Pray for them to know eternal life.
In John 17:3, we find Jesus’ definition of eternal life. He said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This concise explanation is pivotal to how we communicate with those we lead. We must set before them the truth that eternal life begins the minute we enter into a relationship with Christ through repentance and faith. But eternal life also continues as we grow in our relationship as Christ-followers and eventually culminates in being present with Christ in heaven. As we lead, we must first pray that those we lead will truly experience eternal life through knowing Jesus Christ. This is the starting point of discipleship.
Pray for them to be filled with the joy of Christ.
Jesus prayed that His disciples would have His joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:13). As we lead, we should first of all display the joy of Christ in our own lives, and then admonish those around us to do the same. The life of a Christ-follower should be characterized by genuine joy, regardless of circumstances. This joy is based on the presence of Christ in our lives and can hold up under the toughest storms of life.
Pray for them to be kept from evil.
In John 17:15, Jesus said He was not asking the Father to take His disciples out of the world, but to keep them from evil. We should pray for those we lead to be protected from evil and to find their way out of temptation. I Corinthians 10:13 promises that with every temptation, God “will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.” Oftentimes, Christ-followers may feel helpless when they face temptation to sin, but this verse clearly promises that we can have victory over sin in any situation.
Pray for them to be sanctified.
Jesus also prayed that His followers would be sanctified in truth – in the Word of God (John 17:19). Sanctification involves the process of becoming more like Christ – more set apart for service to God. We certainly should be praying that the people we lead will be growing in Christlikeness. We should pray that they will be people of prayer and lovers of God’s Word. Becoming like Christ involves consistent time in Bible reading and prayer. We should pray for them to guard their time with God and consistently pursue their own spiritual growth. We should pray for them to be set apart from the world while at the same time engaging it with the gospel.
Pray for them to be unified.
Jesus prayed that His disciples would “become perfectly one” (John 17:23). He emphasized that His unity with God the Father was an example for His disciples of what they should seek. He also communicated the purpose of Christ-followers becoming unified when he prayed to the Father, “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Imagine the magnitude of this truth – that unity among Jesus’ disciples can reveal the love of Christ to the rest of the world. We must pray toward this end that people would be drawn to Christ by the unity they see among His followers.
Praying for those we lead is one step in the path of servant leadership. Humble seeking God on the behalf of those we lead and taking the time to lift them up in prayer demonstrates genuine love. Jesus’ love for His disciples is clearly seen in His prayer for them in John 17. Praying for those we lead is leading like Jesus.