9. I pray for them. The pronoun I is emphatic. The verb translated pray, would be adequately represented by the English term ask, and the preposition translated for, signifies, properly, in respect to. The sense, then, is: “I myself present a request in respect to my disciples, who have thus believed my words, and recognized my mission from thee.” I pray not for the world. By the world, is meant the unbelieving part of mankind. And the clause brings into bold relief the special object of the Saviour in the petition here offered. It shows the concentration of his thoughts upon the welfare of his disciples. His request is not general, but specific; offered for a particular class of persons, and supported by reasons drawn from their relations to his Father and himself. But it cannot safely be inferred from this, that he never prayed for the world at large, or for persons who would finally perish in their sins. That he could not pray for them in the same terms as for his own, is natural; that the blessings which he would ask for his enemies, must be different, in some respects, from those which he would ask for his friends, is certain; but this passage does not warrant the assertion that he forbore on all occasions to pray for mankind as ruined in sin and needing salvation. But for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. The fact that they in are Christ’s is itself a reason why he should pray for them, and why his Father should listen to his request. The fact that they had been given him by the Father, adds force to that reason. And the fact that they are still the Father’s, though given to Christ, completes the appeal. This appeal could not have been made, in this form, for the ungodly world.
Alvah Hovey, Commentary on the Gospel of John (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1885), 340. [Underlining mine.]
Credit to Emerson for the find.