If Jesus prays for our protection …

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me …” (John 17:11).

… then why am I not protected from the bad things I experience? Jesus prayed for our protection, yet life is still full of attacks and problems. What’s up with that?

Jesus prayed for protection for His disciples, but they all experienced persecution. Everyone one of them except John died as martyrs.

Where’s the protection in that?

That question is grounded in a faulty premise we hold on to. We think that, if we love Jesus, He will make our lives better physically, financially, socially, and … well, better in  every way. We expect Jesus to give us heaven right here on earth.

I don’t believe God is opposed to that, but our pleasure and physical comfort is not His main focus. God heals. God provides. God brings joy into our lives in a host of ways—but He never promised we won’t face setbacks. Consider this: every person healed in the Gospels eventually died—even Lazarus, who had been brought back from the dead. Lazaruslater died—again.

So what kind of protection was Jesus praying for? The last half of the verse explains it:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).

Jesus seeks our protection so that we may be one. He seeks our protection in unity. His prayer in this verse is not focused on protection from outside forces; it’s a focus on protection from internal forces like sin, temptation, and my own sin nature’s desire to exalt myself.

What does that have to do with unity? When I exalt myself or go after what I want, that puts me at odds with others—especially if they are seeking to exalt themselves too! In those moments, love for Christ and love for others goes out the door.

What was the one thing that got Judas? Greed and ambition. When he saw what Jesus was doing—and what He was not doing—he approached the religious leaders with his traitorous actions. It wasn’t about what Jesus wanted; it was about what Judas wanted.

We need protection from self and those things that would disrupt our unity with Christ and with one another.

In Romans 8:28, we are promised that God works all things for our good, but we fail to read the very next verse.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (v. 29).

The good that God will work in our lives is to bring us into conformity with His Son. So God will not “protect” us from bad things if the process of going through those difficulties brings us closer to Him and makes us more like Jesus.

The protection Jesus prayed for was spiritual protection. That’s the greater need. Take my health, and I can still love and follow Jesus. Threaten my life—and even take my life—but that does not affect my relationship with Christ. But if Satan can attack me internally, get me to focus on self or doubt the goodness of God, then I am on a dangerous path. I am pulling away for unity with Christ and unity with His body—the church.

So, Holy Father, protect me by the power of your name, so that I may be one with You and others.