As our church works our way through the gospel of John, I have been discovering the richness of these classic passages on prayer. One thing is clear so far: too many people use the “ask anything” passages out of context. Too many Christians– even those in solid, gospel-centered circles– are left discouraged because of a misunderstanding of Jesus’ call to “ask for anything in my name and you will have it.” Here are some things I have discovered so far:
- John 14.12- Jesus says his followers will do “greater” works because he is “going to the Father.” That has to mean the good works we do have “greater” effectiveness because him “going to the Father” means the gospel is fulfilled.
- John 14.13- “Whatever you ask in my name this I will do” flows right after this, so the natural meaning is when we see opportunities for those “greater works,” we will pray and ask Jesus for it! And it ends up being Jesus doing the work, not us! But the reason he would ever do it is “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The reason there would ever be an answered prayer is that the Father is glorified in Jesus.
- John 14.14- “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” is basically v13 restated. The key seems to be asking for things “in Jesus’ name.” But that is not something that we can will to happen. From v12 and 13 something is truly in Jesus’ name if God Himself determines to give it greater effectiveness and determines to bring Himself glory through it.
I think the prayer passages in chapter 15 shed even more light on the subject, but one thing that comforts me in that is that I do not have to think that the “in Jesus’ name” is all on my shoulders. “In Jesus’ name” seems to be all on Jesus’ shoulders; we just simply keep asking and stop thinking that an unanswered prayer was a contradiction to this passage. More to come…