First published 6 March 2011
I shared in the last two articles some thoughts on some verses in John’s gospel relating to prayer. I’ll reiterate the verses here:
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)
“I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:23-24)
We saw that these statements do not assure us that all our requests will be granted without exception. Rather, they challenge us to pray with the same priorities as Jesus, because that is the basic condition for the granting of our requests. And Jesus’ ultimate priority was His Father’s glory, seen through His love and the eternal salvation of His people. And so we should learn to pray, “your will be done,” whatever our desires may be.
However, I feel that simply saying that does not entirely do justice to the discourse from which these verses are taken (John chapters 13 to 17). You see, whilst it is right that we note that the promises are conditional, the main point Jesus is making is not that.
When Jesus starts speaking at the beginning of John 13 He knows that this will be the last time He has chance to speak to the disciples before He goes to His death. This is where He wants to tell them things and show them things that will comfort them when all appears to be lost. John introduces the section by saying, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13:1) He shows them how they should love one another and predicts the betrayal and denials that will shortly follow. He can feel their fear, and says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1,27) He assures them of their eternal salvation, and their relationship with the Father. He promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with them and give them peace (John 14:26-27). He tells them about the priority to bear fruit, and the expectation that they will be persecuted (John 15). He predicts their grief, but also assures them that they will see Him again (John 16:22). And then He prays for them (John 17).
They are going to need help. They are going to face trials, hardships and persecutions. How are they going to get what they need to get through all this? Answer: “You may ask me for anything in my name…” (14:14) “Ask whatever you wish…” (15:7) “… the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…” (15:16; 16:23) “Ask and you will receive…” (16:24)
What a comfort it is to know that we can ask God for anything, whatever we want. He is our heavenly Father and He wants us to know that we can ask Him for anything, because He loves us.
Jesus is sending us on a really tough mission – to glorify the one true God, and His only Son, among nations and people that hate to submit to Him. We have a message of salvation, good news for those who will repent and believe, and submit their lives to Him. It’s a message worth dying for, because it speaks of a life beyond this life. But we will meet obstacles, hardships, troubles, anxieties, turmoil, objections, illness, pain, along the way. But we must still press on. And as He stands there giving us our mission, knowing what we must face along the way, He says, “I will be there for you. My Father will be there for you. My Spirit will be within you. If you need anything, anything at all, just give us a shout, and we’ll help you out!”
Wow! No matter how tough life is, we can ask God for anything! God, our Father, the one who loved us so much He sent His Son to die to save us. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) God, the all-powerful Creator, for whom nothing is impossible. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) This God is the only God, and the one of whom we can ask anything, anything as we seek to fulfil our mission.
So, let’s live out this mission, knowing it will be hard. And when it’s hard, let’s not forget that Jesus told us we can ask God for anything, because not only can we not do it without Him, but He wants to help us! “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!”