John 17: 9 – 19
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
In this Jesus entrusts his disciples to God, who he is about to leave, to God. He knows that, while he has to endure a terrible fate the next day, they will suffer and even die for him for the rest of their lives. They have seen a new way of living, which does not easily reconcile with the old Jewish ways, and will be hated and threatened for promoting it. This is why they need protection, and guidance from God.
Jesus states that through following him, he has made his disciples no longer “from the world”. This does not mean that they do not have families, homes and physical bodies, but distinct from the world which has rebelled against God. Therefore, they need God’s help to ensure they are able to continue this way of life once Jesus is no longer around to lead them. Jesus has educated them in how he wanted them to be, but now entrusts them to God who can continue looking after them.
Priests, teachers and other Christian leaders, praying for those in their care, have used this prayer for centuries. It is a solemn prayer, but also wonderfully joyful and hopeful.