Can we really trust God to hear and answer our prayers?
In several places in the Bible we’re told to ask God for what we want (in Jesus’s name) and He will give us our requests.
But is it really that simple? Can we think of God as some sort of cosmic vending machine just waiting for us to make a selection so He can dispense what we want?
No, of course that’s not accurate. If it were, then that is exactly how we would see God, as a supernatural genie waiting to fulfill our wishes.
Rather, God promises to give us what we long for, so long as He is our main focus:
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.Psalm 37:4
We’re focusing on three chapters of the gospel of John—14, 15, and 16. In these passages we are told several times that God will give us what we ask for in Jesus’s name.
However, as we’ll see, these promises are not without caveats that we must adhere to. And dare I say that most of us fail to fulfill our end of the bargain. I know that I often do.
Let’s first look at John 14:12-14. Here, Jesus is speaking to His disciples:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
In verse 13, Jesus promises to give us what we ask for in His name. However we have to look at the surrounding text on either side of that promise. Immediately after the promise are the words, “‘…that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’”
And after this sentence, Jesus reiterates His promise: “‘If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.’”
It is obvious that Jesus wants to get His point across about doing what we ask, but it is also apparent that His promise is conditional in that the reason behind our prayers is to bring glory to the Father.
Verse 12 gives us an even stronger description of the reason behind Jesus’s promise:
The works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.
Once again, it is to bring glory to God through our actions.
I believe that is the whole crux of this passage—to do good works and pray for things that are in line with God’s will so as to bring glory to Him. As long as we are doing that, He will give us the desires of our hearts.
Now let’s look at the next chapter, John 15, specifically the verses before and after verses 7. In this verse we’re told:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
That’s a pretty big promise. But we have to look beyond the promise to the surrounding verses before we can understand the reason behind the promise.
Verses 5 and 6 talk about the importance of abiding in Jesus so that we can produce much fruit, because apart from Him we can do nothing. It is this abiding that is so important to fulfilling the destiny that God has planned for us.
Verse 8 then tells us:
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
Once again, if we read the passage correctly, we understand that Jesus’s promise is not intended to be spent on our own selfish desires, but rather it is intended to produce fruit, bring glory to God, and draw others to Him.
We must keep these ideas in mind when we go to God in prayer, not merely asking for solutions to our problems, but imploring God to show us how we can be used daily to advance His kingdom.
Next, we look at Chapter 16 of John. In verses 23 and 24, Jesus tells His disciples:
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
The “day” that Jesus refers to is His resurrection after spending three days in the grave. His disciples will be excited at His return from the dead. Furthermore, He tells them that they will be able to ask the Father in Jesus’s name and they will receive their petitions.
Even though not explicitly spelled out in this section, based on similar promises in the preceding two chapters, we must assume that the prayers mentioned are not just any old prayers, but rather petitions of God that will advance the work of His kingdom and bring Him glory.
Jesus wants us to be fruitful during our time on earth. Hence, the reason He mentions praying in His name on so many occasions.
Plus, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will guide His followers into all truth and help them produce fruit for the Kingdom.
These passages in the gospel of John are but a few examples of Jesus telling his followers to pray in His name and expect results.
The important idea we must keep in mind, however, is that our prayers are not meant to be spent on only petitioning for our desires.
We must align ourselves with God’s will and pray God’s word in accordance with the Scriptures. Then we can expect to see Him working in our lives in a supernatural way for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.