“A Prayer Full of Parental Love”

Kurt Jacobson
5 min readMay 12, 2024

John 17:6–19

“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.” ***

It has been said that a parent is only as happy as their least happy child. Naturally, parents feel the responsibility to ensure life is as pain-free and comfortable as possible for their kids. On this Mother’s Day we remember the countless comforting moments our moms provided. Parental instincts include trying to fix or at least minimize things when a child is struggling, sad, or anxious.

Yet, deep in the back of the parental mind lies the awareness that there is no insuring the happiness of a child. And there is the undeniable fact that the wider world in which we want our children to be happy most assuredly cannot be counted on to make that happiness a reality. In fact, the wider world has millions of jagged edges ready to tear into any given person’s happiness, success and stability at a moment’s notice.

It was October 22, 1939. Hitler had invaded Poland only six weeks earlier, and England was at war. The undergraduate students at Oxford University were frightened — many of them would face death soon, and altogether too many would die. C.S. Lewis, the British writer, literary scholar, and Anglican theologian preached a sermon “Learning in War Time” at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin at the center of the Oxford campus.

Lewis told those fearful students of jagged edges: “If we had foolish un-christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven here on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are now disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.”[i]

In John 17, Jesus is praying for the world, but more keenly for his followers just hours before the events of Good Friday. His heart is full of parental love and he is pouring it out to God not a moment too soon.

While Jesus is not the “parent” of his followers, his love for them is at least as fervent as a mother or father. Thus, as he looks ahead to his own departure, realizing that he’s leaving his friends to keep working in the midst of a highly challenging world, Jesus knows that among the things he must pray for them is protection from the evil one, from the destructive forces of life that seem calculated to knock the stuffing out of us more days than not.

As he prays Jesus knows, too, that the success of his mission depends precisely on the disciples’ not being transported out of this world nor cocooned away somewhere far away from society or from the people in this world who need to hear the Gospel message.

In the ministry Jesus brought to his followers, the only way it was going to work was if they continued to labor smack dab in the middle of the very same world that was about to reveal its character that night. They would witness no less than the Son of the Living God being arrested, accosted and nailed to a spit of wood. That was the world in which they would have to work and that was why Jesus had to spend so much of this prayer begging his Father to give them all the help, all the protection, all the support he could provide.

In the midst of our strong or not so strong faith, the fervency of Jesus’ prayer is a reminder that we should not expect smooth sailing in this world, even if we have the most robust faith and trust in God. Jesus knew what we would be facing. Yes, he prayed for our protection and strength and he did so precisely because he did not necessarily think the world was going to be any more receptive to our efforts to make known the mercy and grace of God than it had been in his own lifetime.

The world is a dangerous place. There is much that is good about this world and this life. We are surrounded by God’s gifts and we are right to take joy in them and hope our children can carry the same into the future. But final security and ultimate hope are not going to emerge from our best efforts, nor from anything a priest, pastor, rabbi, or public figure tell us to try to achieve this side of God’s kingdom coming.

The truth is we need all the prayer we can get as followers of God. We need it because Jesus knew that the evil one still has some kicks. We ought to expect no less. But the Good News is that Jesus is — right now — still praying this same prayer at the right hand of his Father.

[i] “Learning in the Time of War” sermon by C.S. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Lyp9GcHj67VLTHpWtZ6aGk6Hpvf8JAIa/view

Image: Beardy Ranks Art Urban Art From The Heart



Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.