Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14 (NIV2011)
“You may ask me for anything…and I will do it.” That’s what many hear when they read John 14:12-14. Then they’re disappointed, or even angry with God when He doesn’t split heaven wide open, come down and grant their request. I believe God probably laughs at much we humans claim in His name.
If you read into the text what you want you are very likely to be disappointed. Context is critical for understanding here. First, who is Jesus speaking to? He is speaking to those who believe in Him and do the works He has been doing. What work has he been doing? God’s work! So Jesus is speaking to His servants, those who do God’s work. That foundation is absolutely crucial for understanding this passage, because the rest of what He says here is not about prayer, it’s about doing God’s work.
He then says “I will do whatever you ask in my name”. What does “in my name” mean? Does it mean we append all of our prayers with “in Jesus name, Amen” to get God’s “official” stamp of approval on what we’re doing? Well, some seem to think so.
This is difficult to understand today because a name doesn’t mean much anymore in our culture. It’s just a label to identify one individual over another. But in times past, families were much closer. Your name was very important. Your last name, your family name, held great value because it said a lot about who you were. Families had mottos and crests. And the family name was one to be revered… or possibly ridiculed. A good name could sometimes take you where money alone could not.
Now think of God’s name. Holy, all-powerful, all knowing. King of kings and Lord of lords. The Great I Am. The creator of the universe. Perfect love that casts out all fear.
Are you getting the picture? What kind of prayer from you would God be pleased to put His name on. “In My name” means according to His will. That’s the key. It’s not according to our will. James makes that very clear to us.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3 (NIV2011)
But Jesus then further clarifies for us what “in His name” means: “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” It’s not about us. It’s about what God wants to do in us, among us and through us.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:22-24 (NIV2011)
We need to take ourselves out of the picture. What mountains are getting in the way of you doing God’s work? Mark tells us to have faith in God. Stop telling God how big your problems are. Start telling your problems how big your God is.