"I pray for them; I pray not for the world but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine."—John 17:9.
Jesus was offering a special prayer for his disciples. He frequently employs this form of expression; that is, he uses the negative in order to give the greater emphasis to the affirmative, as when he says, in reference to forgiveness: "Not seven times, but seventy times seven;" or, "Lay not up treasures upon earth, but lay up treasures in heaven." He does not forbid us to forgive seven times, nor to lay up treasures on earth, but he precedes his command to forgive seventy times seven, and to lay up heavenly treasures, by a negative, in order to give the greater force to what follows. He offers a special prayer for his disciples, but in verse 21 he extends it to others, and on his cross he prayed for his murderers (Luke 23:34); and he also prayed for all men when (John 10) he prayed for all the sheep for whom he had laid down his life.
"Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
Barnes (Presbyterian) says: "This passage settles nothing about the question whether Christ prayed for sinners." Whitby says: "He made this prayer out of affection to the world, and with this design, that the preaching of the apostles to them might be more effectual for their conversion and salvation."
The language is simply a special prayer for the disciples.
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