Chapter 15: Jesus’ Promised Prayer — Ask Anything

In This Chapter

Scripture
An Organizational Note
A Quick Dip
Reflecting
Diving Deeper
Promises
It’s Conditional
In My Name
Purpose
An Invitation

Scripture

Put your trust in this truth for me: that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; however, if you cannot just put your trust in this truth as an outright act of faith, then trust in it because of the miracles you have witnessed. For you see, your trust in this truth is very important to me. Truly, truly I say to you, if someone puts his trust in me, then the miracles that I do, he also shall do; in fact, he shall perform even greater miracles than these because I go to my Father. And if you ask for something miraculous in my name, then I will do it so that the Father’s glory will be revealed in the Son. If you ask for anything miraculous in my name, then I will perform it.

If you love me, then you will keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper in order that he may live permanently with you forever: the Spirit of Truth, whom the sinful world is not able to accept because it does not see him nor personally know him. However, you know him intimately because he lives permanently beside you and is within you.
–John 14:11–17

An Organizational Note

Here in the tapestry of his farewell conversation, Jesus speaks to his friends about prayer. As we said in the last chapter, prayer is an essential element in building a relationship not only with our Father, but with Jesus as well. In these verses, Jesus weaves for us two different designs concerning prayer. First, he gives the disciples instructions about their own prayers.  Next, Jesus promises to pray a special prayer for his friends. Because Jesus talks about two different prayers in this passage — the disciples’ prayers and his own promised prayer — we will examine each prayer in a separate chapter. Here in Chapter 15 we will examine Jesus’ instructions concerning the disciples’ prayers. In Chapter 16 we will turn again to Jesus’ own prayer.

A Quick Dip1

Truly, truly: This is another one of those red flags that John waves in order to get his readers’ attention. When John uses this phrase at the beginning of a statement by Jesus, he is signaling to us, “This is Jesus’ own saying and may therefore be accepted as completely reliable and true.”

Do: In this passage, doing specifically means to do or perform miraculous deeds.

Ask for: Here this word means to ask God or Jesus for something in prayer. It is important to note that this Greek word, aiteo, implies that one is seeking a favor from someone who is superior in power and authority.

In my name: This is an intentional, purposeful act of evoking or calling on the name. We recall from Chapter 2 how important names were in Biblical times and how possessing another’s name gave one access to that person’s or being’s power. Here in John, however, calling on the name means far more than accessing another’s power. To ask something in Jesus’ name is first and foremost a confession of one’s belief that Jesus comes from God and is God’s Son. Furthermore, to pray in Jesus’ name means to pray according to his will; it is to request that his mission and purpose be accomplished. It is imperative to understand that “in Jesus’ name” is not a magical incantation for Jesus’ followers to use in order to get whatever they want.

Glory will be revealed: Recalling our discussion from Chapter 9, revealing God’s glory means to expose God’s weight, God’s significance, and God’s importance for all the world to see.

Reflecting

  1. Do you believe that Jesus’ statement to the disciples about “performing even greater miracles than these” would still apply to us today?
  2. What about Jesus’ promise: “If you ask for anything miraculous in my name, then I will perform it.” Does this promise apply to you and me?
  3. Do you use the words “in Jesus’ name” when you pray? Why or why not? What does this phrase mean to you?

Diving Deeper

Promises

As a little girl, I was raised on the adage, “A promise is a promise, and you can’t break a promise.” As a result, I have always been fascinated by the power of a promise.  So you can see why I find this particular passage of Scripture extremely absorbing — it contains three promises which Jesus makes to his followers:

  1. Truly, truly I say to you, if someone puts his trust in me, then the miracles that I do, he also shall do.
  2. If you ask for something miraculous in my name, then I will do it…If you ask for anything miraculous in my name, then I will perform it.
  3. If you love me, then you will keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these promises.

The miracles that I do, he also shall do. Our passage of Scripture opens with some incredibly bold words.  Jesus assures the disciples that if they trust in him, they will perform even greater miracles than Jesus himself has performed. I don’t know about you, but this statement blows my mind. I mean, Jesus raised the dead. How could anyone ever top that miracle? Yet we know that those first disciples did perform great miracles — they changed the world with their teaching, preaching, and healing. But what about us today? I can certainly think of some times when I would like to have the power to perform miraculous deeds: to be able to heal my children when they become desperately ill, to turn a storm’s destructive fury away from my home, to restore life to a loved one who died much too young. So I wonder, do Jesus’ words apply to you and me? Maybe not. Maybe that long-ago promise was spoken only for those gathered around that table. Maybe it was just a first-generation promise. After all, I haven’t seen any dead people walking around lately.

Ask for anything. Jesus’ second promise is closely related to the first: “If you ask for something miraculous in my name, then I will do it.” Note here that both the asking and the doing refer specifically to miraculous deeds. Jesus is not encouraging the disciples to ask for the mundane (daily bread, clothes and shelter, a decent catch of fish). No, Jesus is encouraging them to think big; he is encouraging them to ask for the impossible. He even restates this promise for emphasis: “If you ask for anything miraculous in my name, then I will perform it.” Wow! This sounds like Jesus is handing the disciples a blank check. And again I wonder: What about you and me? Can we ask Jesus for anything? Furthermore, if we don’t get what we ask for, does that mean that Jesus has broken his promise to us?

It’s Conditional

In order to answer these questions, we need to take a closer look at  Jesus’ statements. When we do, we immediately see that the promise to perform miracles contains a catch, and Jesus’ invitation to ask anything is anything but a blank check. That is because these statements are conditional.

You may be asking, “What exactly is a conditional statement, and why is it so important in this passage?” Conditional statements in our language are usually “If… then…” statements. For example: “If you study for the test, then you should make a good grade.” One action leads to another: studying leads to good grades. This particular statement is called a weak or less vivid conditional statement: a good grade should result from studying, but the outcome is not definite. A strong conditional statement would be this: “If you don’t clean up your room, then I will not take you to the movie!” Here, if the room is not cleaned, the result is guaranteed: no movie. We call this a more vivid condition.

Our passage of Scripture is full of conditional sentences and all of them are more vivid conditions. The results are guaranteed. In fact, if there were such a thing as a most vivid conditional statement, then Jesus’ promise about his disciples “performing greater miracles” would qualify for that category. Why? Because it is also marked by John’s signal flag — “truly, truly” — as a statement of complete truth. What Jesus is really saying here is, “If someone puts his trust in me, then the results are completely guaranteed: that person will perform even greater miracles than I have done.”2 But please note, the ability to perform these miraculous deeds depends upon that first step: absolute and unfailing trust.

An interesting thing about conditional statements is that they are reversible. You can turn the statement around: “If you are unable to accomplish the miraculous, then you do not trust God completely. Your trusting and your faith still need to do some growing.” If we disciples fail to perform great miracles today, it does not mean that Jesus’ promise was only for first-generation followers nor that Jesus has failed to keep his promise. No, the failure lies not within Jesus’ promise but within our own reluctance to trust in God absolutely, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally.

In My Name

Jesus’ second promise is another conditional statement: “If you ask for something miraculous in my name, then I will do it.” Like the condition above, this statement would also qualify for a most vivid award. Why? Because Jesus repeats the statement, thereby doubling the guarantee: “If you ask for anything miraculous in my name, then I will perform it.”3 These are the statements which, to me at least, sound like a blank check: Jesus will do anything for us if we just ask him. So, does this mean that Jesus is supposed to give us whatever we pray for? Absolutely not. Look carefully. The condition is not, “if we ask,” but, “if we ask in Jesus’ name.” Therein lies the key.

You may recall from Chapter 2 that to possess someone’s name — especially the name of a deity — is to possess that deity’s power and will. So when those disciples prayed “in Jesus’ name,” they were first of all expressing their belief that Jesus, the Son of God, was powerful enough to do whatever they asked. Second, because they knew Jesus’ name — because they had a personal relationship with him — they had access to his miracle-producing power. When you and I pray in his name, Jesus expects us to do the same: to affirm our belief in him as the most powerful force in the universe and to acknowledge that because we know his name — because we, too, have a personal relationship with him — we have access to that same miraculous power.

However, this is only half of the equation. Remember, possessing someone’s name means more than just having access to that person’s power; to use someone’s name also means that we possess that person’s will. And two criteria must be met if we are to truly possess another’s will: first, we must understand what that person desires and, secondly, we must seek to make those desires our own.
At the beginning of each college semester, my mother would hand me a signed, blank check.  I knew how hard my parents had worked and saved, and I knew that blank check was access to a nice sum of money.  I suppose I could have easily taken that check to the local mall and enjoyed a wonderful shopping spree.  However, I understood my mother’s desire when she handed me that check, and in reality, I never considered going to the mall. Instead, I went to the bookstore and purchased my textbooks for the semester. Yes, that signature on that check gave me access to my mother’s power: her funds.  But I also understood what she most desired for me: a good education.  Fortunately, what she desired and what I desired were one in the same.

And so it should be between us and Jesus. If we truly possess his will, then we will not only strive to understand his desires (which of course are also God’s desires); we will seek to make those desires our own. What Jesus wants, what God wants, what I want — they should all be one in the same.

Purpose

So when Jesus makes the conditional statement, “If you ask anything in my name,” he is really stating two conditions: “If you believe in my power and if you are seeking to do my will, then whatever you ask, I will perform.” That much is clear. However, we cannot skip over the last lesson to be gleaned from Jesus’ statement: the purpose behind praying in his name. Have you ever considered why we should ask for things in Jesus’ name? “Well,” one might say, “that’s easy — to get what we need, right?” Wrong. Jesus says that if we ask anything in his name, then he will do it “so that the Father’s glory will be revealed in the Son.”4 For Jesus, the purpose behind both the asking and the answering is to reveal God’s glory — God’s weight, God’s importance, God’s significance — to those standing around. Here Jesus teaches us a powerful lesson: we should never pray in his name in order to get something that we want or need. Instead, we should pray so that others may have the opportunity to see the awe-inspiring greatness of God. Of course, the question begs asking: Can you and I honestly say that this is our purpose when we pray? If not, then what would change if we truly made this the purpose behind each of our prayers?

An Invitation

“Ask for anything.” Six times in this farewell conversation, Jesus repeats this promise about asking in his name.5 In John 16:24, he issues the statement in the form of a command: “Ask, and you shall receive.” Jesus wants us to ask; he wants us to claim the promise. He wants us to believe, to trust that God’s power is sufficient. He wants us to seek to do his will. He wants us to experience the miraculous. The invitation to us is unmistakable. Jesus invites us to be bold, to take a step of faith.

But again that nagging little question we asked earlier rears its ugly head: can we really do this?  Can today’s disciples really perform miraculous deeds? Let me reflect for a moment. I know of a youth worker who prayed fervently as he drove a rebellious teen off to a work camp in an impoverished area of the Appalachian Mountains; a week later, the youth returned with a completely different attitude towards life. I know of an alcoholic who spent years in and out of treatment centers that always proved unsuccessful; yet with a single prayer, he was immediately able to begin a life of sobriety.  I know of a demon-possessed war veteran who was finally healed, not through failed drug-treatment regimes and stints in psychiatric wards, but through prayers shared in a local chaplain’s support group. “Even greater miracles” — you know, when I stop to think about it, maybe I have seen dead people walking around.

“Ask anything.” Why not give it a try? Right now, this very day, why don’t you and I get up and go out to our solitary places and ask, trusting in Jesus’ power, seeking to accomplish his will, and allowing God’s glory to be revealed to those around us. Let us claim the promise. After all, if we will but ask in his name, truly amazing results are guaranteed.

You may have noticed that there is one last conditional statement in this passage which we have not yet studied: Jesus’ promise to pray to his Father. As we stated earlier, we will examine this promise in the next chapter.

>> Chapter 16: Jesus’ Promised Prayer — I Will Pray the Father


Chapter 15 Footnotes

1 The original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic words referred to in this section are listed in the Appendix, found in the free PDF download.
2 “If someone puts his trust in me” is a conditional participle phrase: this original Greek phrase can be found in this footnote of the free PDF download.
3 “If you ask for something . . . I will do it” and “If you ask for anything . . . I will perform it” are future more vivid conditions and have been translated to emphasize the force of the conditional clauses: these original Greek clauses can be found in this footnote of the free PDF download.
4 See this footnote of the free PDF download for an explanation of this final purpose clause.
5 See John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; and 16:23,26.

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