John 17 provides a marvelous record of Jesus’ praying to the Father. Jesus explicitly speaks six times of the Father’s sending Him (17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25):
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
He defines eternal life in terms that include knowing that He is the God-sent Christ (17:3). He speaks of His own disciples’ believing (17:8) and knowing (17:25) that the Father sent Him.
Concerning the world, He first parallels His sending His disciples into the world with the Father’s sending Him into the world (17:18). He then adds two explicit statements that make known His praying to the Father that the world would believe (17:21) and know (17:23) that the Father has sent Him and has loved them, as He has loved Jesus (17:23).
In these statements, Jesus teaches that it is through the unity of the believers in the Father and the Son that the world will believe and know that message. His greatest concern, however, is not the unity of the believers as an end in itself; that unity is for the higher purpose of a worldwide proper knowledge of His being sent by the Father and of the Father’s love for the world, even as He has loved Jesus.
Jesus’ prayer to the Father greatly highlights His agency as the God-sent One. For Jesus’ prayer to be answered fully as He desires, our doctrine and practice must make known to the world His agency.