When it comes to understanding the Bible, context is everything. Knowing what the text meant to the original audience enables us to understand and correctly apply God’s word today.
In John 14, Jesus is preparing the disciples for His departure. He makes the following statements:
- I am going to prepare a place for them. John 14:2
- If I go to prepare a place for you, I will return for you. John 14:3
- I will send another helper. John 14:10
The context of this chapter is comfort.
Every one of Jesus’ statements is aimed at comforting the disciples from the shock that He is leaving them. And as He makes an incredible declaration about prayer, Jesus makes another comforting statement.
To counter their sorrow, He says to them, “12Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father.”
He commits to remain engaged with them by working through them the same great works He did.
The word “greater” refers to how all believers will be able to do what He did, to the ends of the earth.
Jesus’ ministry was confined to a specific geographical area. But post-resurrection, believers will take the gospel, His power, and presence far beyond Israel.
Have you ever been hesitant to pray for someone because you were afraid you couldn’t deliver what you prayed? I hope so because you can’t! All prayer is reliant on divine power.
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13
If we are not careful, we may misinterpret “whatever” to be the equivalent of a spiritual vending machine. Like, drop four quarters in and get our treat of choice. Or if we tag Jesus’ name to whatever we want, it’s ours.
But prayer doesn’t work like that.
#1 “In my name.”
“In my name” sets the parameters for prayer by aligning itself with the nature, character, and will of Jesus.
#2 “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.“
One of the fundamental driving forces of Jesus’ prayer and life was the pursuit of the glory of God. Never once did Jesus seek His glory or will, but God’s glory and will.
If you were to receive precisely what you are asking for in prayer, would that bring glory to God? And if we are praying in opposition to His glory, then we are working against His kingdom.
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not stand.” Mark 3:24
When we pray, Jesus’ life gives us a blueprint for what He can do and how we should pray. Check out some of His miracles.
- The son of a Roman official. John 4:46-47
- Peter’s mother-in-law who was near death. Mark 1:30
- A leper. Mark 1:40
- A paralytic. Matthew 9
- Jesus silences the wind and waves Matthew 8:23
- Jesus cures two demoniacs. Matthew 8:28
- Restores a deaf man’s hearing. Mark 7
- Gives sight to a blind man. Mark 8
Yet there were a few times in the Bible when Jesus was unable to do a miracle. Understanding why that happened can help us avoid being discouraged when what we ask for doesn’t turn out as we wanted.
Mark 6 explains that Jesus was unable to perform many miracles in His hometown Nazareth because of unbelief. Faith is a requisite to prayer. Yet what happens when you have faith and the answer to your prayer is not what you asked for? Can you get a refund?
“8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Three times Paul asked God to remove this thorn from his flesh, but He did not. You would have a hard time making the case that Paul lacked faith. What he asked for was not what he received.
Paul prayed for healing, but he received grace. He gained the power to live with his pain and found strength amid his weakness.
There may be times when God doesn’t answer your prayer because of a lack of faith and others because He has a different plan for you.
I’ve always wondered if some of the things I’ve asked for in the past that I never received, how it would have changed the trajectory of my life.
- Would I be where I am today?
- Would I be who I am today?
- What suffering or pain would I have prolonged or caused in my life or others if I got my way?
Because Jesus returned to the Father in Heaven, we can do greater works like Jesus because He is with us, interceding to the Father for us.
Pray BIG, bold prayers, and trust that God’s plans are best.