This week, we’re reading out of John, where Jesus delivers his last lecture to the disciples. The point of his lesson is not prayer per se, but throughout the lesson, Jesus continually returns to the su0bject of prayer. Actually, the theme of Jesus’ lesson is faith. It’s a unique teaching, however, because instead of focusing on what we should believe in, it focuses on how to live as if we believe in it.
Jesus wants us to understand faith isn’t founded on knowledge about him, but on a life grafted in him. He gives us three points to remember and then relates each one to the subject of prayer.
First, we must understand the source of all power. “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10). Prayer itself is nothing more than words. Unless we are plugged in to the power source—God himself—our prayers will fall flat.
Second, we must plug into the power source through obedience. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Just as Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him, we can be in Jesus and Jesus in us. But we can only achieve this level of oneness by committing to obey Jesus even when it doesn’t make sense.
And finally, we must remain plugged in by grafting our lives into Jesus. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). This grafting process occurs through a love relationship with God. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9).
Four times Jesus tells his disciples they can have powerful, effective prayers:
John 14:13-14. “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 15:7. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
John 15:16. “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
John 16:23-24. 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.”
Jesus tells them three of the four times to pray in his name. In every instance, he tells them they can ask whatever they wish and it will be granted. Yet Jesus never teaches faith as a source for earthly happiness.
Quite the contrary. In John 15:19, he says: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” So in Jesus’ name isn’t meant to be a magical addition to the end of every prayer, making it more effective. Instead, in Jesus’ name is the position of an effective prayer.
The proper position of prayer
When we pray, we must be in a right position in relation to God. Jesus repeatedly says he is in the Father. But this isn’t a temporary position. Jesus doesn’t walk through Galilee outside the Father and then step into the Father when it’s time to pray, as if the Father were a prayer closet. Jesus lives in right position, always leaning on and listening to the Father, always obeying him.
In John 14:12-14, Jesus says if we have faith, we’ll continue his work. If we continue his work, we’ll do even greater things than he did. And if we bring glory to God’s name by continuing his work, we can ask anything in his name, and it will be granted. It isn’t that we can have anything we want if we say a few special words. We can have anything we want if we want what God wills. And we can only want what the Father wills if we live in Jesus.
In John 15:7, Jesus tells us we must remain in him and allow his words to remain in us. His word is living and true. It also can be life changing if we open our hearts to it. By reading Scripture, meditating on it and responding to it, we will develop a heart for God. Additionally, John 15:8 says it will result in “much fruit,” which will glorify God.
Jesus’ next reference to prayer, John 15:16, places the condition of fruitfulness on powerful prayer. Jesus has been talking about his Father’s love for us. He then commands us to love one another. The act of sharing God’s love with others draws them to God. This is the fruitfulness Jesus is talking about. But we can only be fruitful if we are operating in Jesus.
Then in John 16:23-24, Jesus tells the disciples a day is coming when they can freely ask the Father for anything. Jesus is speaking about his resurrection and ascension into heaven. “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Because of the work Jesus performed on the cross, we are saved through faith. And because he returned to heaven, we have the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We also have personal, immediate access to God.
Aligning ourselves with Jesus
So can we really receive anything we ask in prayer? Yes, if we are in right position when we ask.
When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying from a position in Jesus. To achieve this position, we must be parallel to him, walking beside him or residing within him. We must be walking in faith, doing the work of Jesus. We must be obeying his teachings, loving others with God’s love. And we must be listening to the Spirit, following his promptings.
When we live our faith to this degree, we can’t help but want what Jesus wants. His will becomes our will, and our prayers reflect this shift in focus. It isn’t that we can have anything on earth we want. We can have anything in God’s heart if we’ll only ask. The key is asking from inside Jesus’ heart—in Jesus’ name.
• Have you ever experienced a powerful answer to prayer? Describe your attitude when you prayed the prayer. Do you believe you prayed the prayer in perfect faith?
• Do you think it’s possible to be in Jesus and in this world as well? Why?
• Jesus says we can continue his work on a greater scale than he did if we only have faith. What would this look like? How do you think people would receive it?