In Jesus' Name We Pray
John 14:7-14

Every Sunday, in almost every prayer, you hear me end the prayer with the phrase: "in Jesus' name we pray". If you have ever wondered why I do this, you will find the answer in today's text--in John, chapter 14, verses 13 and 14: "whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it ".

Jesus instructs His disciples to pray in His name. Our motivation for doing so is clear--we pray in Jesus' name because the Father desires to be glorified through the Son, and also because our prayers will be answered when we pray in the name of Jesus.

If praying in Jesus' name is a way to glorify God the Father, and if praying in Jesus' name is the key to experiencing answered prayer, it is crucial that we understand precisely what it means to pray in Jesus' name.

A look at the context of this text provides us with some clues. The context to praying in Jesus' name is Jesus announcing His departure to His disciples . Jesus begins to speak of His departure in chapter 13, verse 33 by saying, "Where I am going, you cannot come ". He repeats this instruction three verses later, "Where I go, you cannot follow Me "(v.36). Jesus goes on to say in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 14 that, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again ".

The context of Jesus' promises to His disciples is His departure from them. The disciples, we are not surprised to read, are unsettled by this news. Both Peter and Thomas ask Jesus, "Lord, where are You going? "(13:36; 14:5). The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. They were committed to following Him. They loved Him. But now, Jesus explains to them, He has to go away.

Jesus, aware of the anxiety His disciples were now experiencing, begins to give them reasons to be comforted. The first thing Jesus does to comfort them is He reminds the disciples of who He is . Jesus reminds them, "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me "(v.11). Because Jesus and God the Father are One, the disciples must understand that the departure of Jesus will only be temporary--"I will come again "(v.3) is the promise of Jesus.

The second thing Jesus does to comfort the disciples is that He tells the disciples what they are capable of . "Truly, truly " Jesus says to them, "greater things than these shall (you) do; because I go to the Father "(v.12).

The disciples had witnessed the miracles of Jesus. They had, no doubt, witnessed the conversion of a great many people as a result of His teaching. And now Jesus was promising that His departure would enable the disciples to do "greater things " than Him. Not greater in kind, but greater in scope . Jesus could only heal, visit, and preach to so many people. The geographic area in which Jesus ministered was relatively small. But with the departure of Jesus, the disciples would be commissioned and expected to take the gospel to every nation in the world(Mt.28:19).

The third thing Jesus says to His disciples is that He promises them answered prayer --"whatever you ask in My name, that will I do ".

We will come back to that particular promise shortly, but for now we move to the fourth thing Jesus says to comfort His disciples. To comfort His disciples, Jesus promises them the Holy Spirit . Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the "Helper " in verse 16, and the "Helper ", Jesus promises, will "be with (us) forever ".

The context of this passage is the earthly departure of Jesus, and in the context of His departure, and in the context of His divinity, Jesus promises the disciples success in ministry , answered prayer , and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit .

But we must pause at the promise of answered prayer. For anyone who has spent any time praying knows that not all of our prayers are answered. How are we to understand this promise then? How are we to reconcile our experience of unanswered prayer and Jesus' promise to do "whatever (we) ask "?(v.13).

Jesus promises answered prayer when we pray in His name. What then, does it mean to pray "in Jesus' name"? To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray as Christ Himself would pray . To pray in the name of Jesus means to pray for the things that Christ would pray for if He was among us in the flesh.

This understanding makes perfect sense in the context of Jesus' earthly departure. Just as Jesus expects His disciples to carry on His works and mission in a manner consistent to His own, so does He expect His disciples to pray in a manner consistent to His own. And to ensure that the message, mission, and prayers of the disciples matches His own, Jesus promises to leave them the Holy Spirit.

The message is clear. If we want our prayers answered, we must pray as Jesus prayed. This, of course, begs the question, "How did Jesus pray?".

The Lord's Prayer is a great place to start. Our prayers are to be directed to our heavenly Father, and they are to be centred on the coming of His kingdom and the execution of His will. What comes second in this prayer is prayer for our spiritual and physical needs. We are to continually ask for forgiveness and deliverance from evil. Jesus even encourages us to pray for and give thanks for things as practical as our "daily bread ".

In Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, however, we see Jesus' physical needs come into conflict with His Kingdom obligations. Jesus has a physical need and desire to live, and so He prays, "Father . . . take this cup from Me "(Lk.22:42). Yet, Jesus also knows that the Father's will must be done, and so He retreats by praying, "not My will, but Thine be done "(Lk.22:42). In His lengthy prayer in John, chapter 17, Jesus' prayer focuses on two things: Jesus prays for the unity of believers(17:21) and for the protection of Christians from the evil one(17:15).

The Lord's Prayer , Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, and His prayer in John 17--three great models to help us pray as Jesus prayed. Three prayer models that should help us experience answered prayer.

But let's be honest here. There is no formula in the world that can guarantee answered prayer. We all know what it is like to pray and feel nothing. We've all been there--haven't we? We know what it is like to desperately want some assurance, to want some demonstration of divine presence, only to receive nothing. We do everything we are supposed to--we pray the way we figure Jesus would, we live, worship, and serve as faithfully as we can. And still there is nothing . . .

We know theologically that God is always with us, yet even still, we suspect sometimes that He is absent. This is a genuine problem for many Christians. When I consider the heartfelt prayers of a terminally ill person or a homeless person, I must admit that I don't know why these prayers go unanswered. I wish God would answer those prayers according to our request. Yet, as I say that, I know that only in the age to come will we be able to make sense of some of our earthly tragedies.

There are many times, I suspect, that our prayers are not answered because they are not in our best interests or in the best interests of others. Quite often, in our shortsightedness, we ask for things that would actually be detrimental to us. Sometimes we ask for things that are self-contradictory--we pray, "Lord, grant me patience, quickly".

In such cases, God in His grace does not answer our prayers. C.S. Lewis had the wisdom to go as far as to thank God for all those unanswered prayers. Lewis writes, "If God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life, where would I be now?"(Lewis, Letters To Malcolm , 28).

Another possibility for thinking that our prayers are unanswered is that we simply lack the ability to see answered prayer. We must recognize that God is not a celestial wish-granter. When God answers prayer, He often does so in ways we wouldn't expect and with timing we wouldn't choose.

I think of the story of a lone shipwreck survivor on an uninhabited island. This man managed to build a rude hut in which he placed all that he had saved from his sinking ship. He prayed to God daily for deliverance and he anxiously watched the horizon to hail any passing ship.

One day the man was horrified to find his hut in flames. All that he had was gone. To this man's limited vision, this was the worst thing that could possibly happen. The man was so upset by this that he began to curse God.

The very next day, a ship arrived. "How did you ever find me?!", exclaimed the man. The captain answered, "We saw your smoke signal".

God does indeed answer prayer . Not always in ways we would expect, and not always as quickly as we would hope for, but He does answer prayer.

The key for us to experience answered prayer is to pray as Jesus Himself would pray . That means not only examining the prayers of Jesus, but it also means rooting out sin in our life. Jesus was able to pray according to the will of the Father because He was without sin. We, unfortunately, are in a daily battle with sin. Sin draws our eyes away from God's will and causes us to focus only on ourselves. As the apostle James has said, our sin hinders us by causing us to ask for things with selfish motives(Jas.4:3).

I urge you this morning, confess and root out every conceivable sin that taints your motives to pray. We must also pray to our heavenly Father in the same way Jesus did--that is, we must seek His will in all things. And finally, trust in God to answer your prayers. Have faith in who God is as the Lord of the universe. Have faith in who Christ is as our Saviour from sin. And have faith in the presence of the Holy Spirit who constantly intercedes on our behalf(Rom.8:27).

From now on, pray to our Father in heaven in Jesus' name. Pray to our heavenly Father the way Jesus prayed to Him. Pray to our heavenly Father and expect an answer. Amen.