I pray not for the world

In John 17:9 Jesus makes the rather startling statement, “I pray not for the world.” It seems to fly in the face of John 3:16, that “God so loved the world,” and verse 17, that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Why, then, would Jesus not pray for the world he was sent to save?

Because – as Jesus himself explains in verse 19 – “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil.” Why bother praying for people who loved being evil, had no interest in being saved from evil, didn’t want anything to do with Jesus or what he’d been sent for, whose minds were tightly shut against any glimmer of light entering in case “his (evil) deeds will be exposed” (verse 20), and all of whom, therefore, stood “condemned already” (verse 18)? It was like talking to, or praying for, a brick wall.

But – as Jesus also explains in John 17:6 – in amongst all those brick walls the Father had selected a few people “out of the world” and “you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” It was in the Father’s plan to have some people recognize “that everything you (my Father) have given me comes from you,” so that when Jesus gave them the words the Father had given him they would accept them, verse 8, and  know “with certainty that I came from you,” and “that you sent me.” And these are the people Jesus was praying for in verse 9: “I pray for them, I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”

This is where Jesus’ attention was concentrated; it was totally on revealing his Father and his Father’s words to those whom his Father had chosen. Jesus acknowledged that it was just to these select few that the Father had granted him the authority to “give eternal life to” (verse 2), and just in the minds of these few that the brick wall of rejecting him had been broken down, and just these few that the Father had sent him to teach. And this alone was “the work” the Father had given him to do (verse 4), to teach and pray for those the Father had given him at that time.

Jesus also acknowledged in verse 20 that his work of teaching and praying for those his Father selected would continue through the centuries, because this was the way the whole world would come to “believe that you have sent me” – not by Jesus praying for the world, but by praying for his disciples.