“This is the truth I tell you . . .” (John 14:12 – Barclay)
The truth that Jesus told his disciples just a few hours before his death contains some awesome, and difficult to believe promises. Jesus declares that not only will the nascent church do the works that he has done, but because he is returning to the Father they will do greater works. Further, Jesus promises to do whatever the disciples ask in his name . . . .and if you ask me for anything I will do it (see John 14:12-14 italics added).
These promises seem too good to be true, but nonetheless they are in the gospel and deserve our attention. Within his lifetime Jesus never traveled outside Palestine, never wrote a book, or held an office. In fact, Jesus never did any of the things that we traditionally associate with greatness. Yet, Jesus remains the central figure of history. Regardless of one’s faith commitment, or lack thereof, it is difficult to dispute the fact that the itinerant preacher from backwater Galilee, in three short years, challenged and changed the world. To promise those of us who follow him that we will do greater things seems impossible.
Yet, it was the witness of those early believers who carried the gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The ministry that Jesus started was carried to unbelievable heights by those who followed in his steps. Had Jesus not returned to the Father, the ministry would have been confined to his limited geographic sphere of influence. The greater things are the ministries in which we engage today in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called and empowered for greater things.
Jesus then promised his followers that he would do anything they asked, in his name. At first blush this promise does not seem to hold true in human experience. We have all prayed sincerely for things that did not happen as we wished. The loved one for whom we prayed healing was not healed. The job we wanted did not materialize. The child who ran away from home did not return. The young soldier for whom we prayed died in combat. And on it goes. Yet, Jesus said “whatever you ask in my name”. The point of the promise is in my name.
In Jesus’ name we ask only for the things Jesus would ask and in the petition we leave the outcome to Jesus. It is; in your name, your will be done. We pray and we keep on praying. And when we grow tired of praying, we pray again.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However, God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him”.
To pray in Jesus’ name is the greater work. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray as Jesus would pray. To pray in Jesus’ name is to absolutely trust God to work in every circumstance to accomplish the best possible outcome. To pray in Jesus’ name is to express absolute confidence in our relationship with God. To pray in Jesus’ name is to place our children, our dearest friends and loved ones in the tender hands of a loving Father and trust God’s love for the outcome. Prayer is work. Prayer may feel like a battle. To pray in Jesus’ name is to leave outcome of the struggle in the hands of a loving Papa.