When that day comes, you will not ask Me any more questions. I can guarantee this truth: If you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. So far you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive so that you can be completely happy.
In the Gospel passage for today when Jesus tells us to ask, He is telling us to pray in His name. Our Lord said, “If you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you”. He is telling us that true prayer is never a waste of breath. Jesus gives us His word that God the Father will hear our prayers and act on them. When Christ promises “that you can be completely happy” He is telling us the benefit of praying in His name.
But did you notice the words of Jesus saying, “ask the Father for anything”? How often have we asked God for something, and nothing happened that we could see? There must be some mistake somewhere. How often we have begged God to give us something, and what we got seemed like nothing! Were our prayers in vain?
What we need to examine is prayer in the name of Jesus. We hear Jesus say “If you ask the Father for anything in My name,” but we do not understand what praying in Jesus’ name truly means. Jesus had to teach His disciples to pray, and they were men who had grown up praying. They had been with Jesus for 3 years watching when He prayed. Yet Jesus had to teach them to pray because they had no idea what true prayer was or even how to do it.
Praying in the name of Jesus does not mean that we simply say the words ‘in the name Jesus’. If that were true prayer then all the Old Testament prayers would have been false praying. The faith of those who believed in the promised Messiah who was to come was the basis of many Old Testament prayers. But the name Jesus was not known until the Savior’s birth of the virgin Mary.
If we pray, simply tacking on the words ‘In Jesus’ name” at the end of the prayer, that does not automatically mean immediate results like some good luck charm, or magical incantation. Praying in Jesus’ name does not mean that we can ask for anything we want so when we attach the name of Jesus to the prayer that makes it acceptable to God the Father. That is nothing but sin pretending to pray.
Simply saying ‘in Jesus’ name’ does not mean that God is duty bound to give it to you. It is wrong to say that if you pray hard enough and long enough that you will receive whatever you ask for from God. It is wrong to say that if you pray that way, God cannot deny your request. Is God at our beck and call?
Think about it. Do we really want to pray for something that may be against the will of God? Since when does faith want to do something contrary to God’s will? To say that is also sinful.
Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask that God’s will be done – not ours. Praying in Jesus’ name is simply another way to say the same thing. Prayer in Jesus’ name is praying that no matter what we think we want, we over all want God’s will to be done – even if it means overriding or changing what we are praying for.
Praying in the name of Jesus is more than making the right sounds. It is more than mouthing the words ‘in Jesus’ name’. To pray in Jesus’ name is praying in a way that wants to aline our faith with God has given us. It does not seek something that goes against the will of God the Father.
So in the passage for today Jesus told His disciples, “I will do anything you ask the Father in My name.” Then Jesus told them why: (John 14:13) “so that the Father will be given glory because of the Son.” Praying in the name of Jesus is a prayer flowing from faith that wants to glorify God. Prayer is to God the Father through the Son, conformed by the Holy Spirit, yielding to God’s holy will. Any other prayer is not, no matter how you end it.
And we all know the will of God, don’t we? When we turn from our sins admitting our fault and need for God’s help believing that He will forgive us for Jesus’ sake. As Martin Luther put it in the explanation of the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When God breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the Devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, which would hinder us from keeping God’s name holy and prevent the coming of His kingdom. It is when God the Holy Spirit strengthens and keeps us firm in the faith until God brings us home to heaven. It is no mystery. He shows us His will in the Scriptures.
The power of prayer is through the Word of God, that power which makes Baptism a baptism. Without the Word of God it is plain water only. But with the Word of God it is a life-giving water and a washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit.
What makes the Lord’s Supper effective? The Word of God. For without it we have only food and drink. But with it Christ’s body and blood are in, with, and under the bread and wine. And for Jesus’ sake it gives forgiveness of sins.
So also the Word and promise of God makes prayer a true prayer. Faith does not make bread the body of Christ – God’s Word does. Our faith does not make prayer effective – God’s Word and promise do along with His love and mercy. The Word of God moves us to respond in prayer, as Jesus put it, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”
Many people mistakenly believe that faith and prayer are actions we do to motivate God to act for us. In that way prayer becomes more about how badly we pray for it.
When prayer becomes self centered focusing on what we want rather than what God wants for us, only about needs for this life about which Jesus told us not to be worried, then such prayer is words of fears not of faith.
These prayers are not in Jesus’ name, but in our name. When prayer becomes about you and what you want, not about Jesus and what He wants to give us, then we are praying to false gods.
Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive.” But why does Jesus say this if He does not plan to fulfill our every wish? Jesus answers this with the words, Ask and you will receive so that you can be completely happy.
The joy our Lord promises is not the earthly joys of this sinful world – or whatever we feel will satisfy our life. The joy our Lord promises is rich and eternal, a joy so complete that nothing in this world compares.
The joy our Lord gives is heavenly joy, not that we cannot have it until we get to heaven. It is more than happy feelings that come and go, more than emotional stirring. It is the joy that our Lord promises to take care of all worries.
So we pray, not simply because Jesus tells us to. We pray because prayer is the Lord’s Word in action in our life. It is faith expressing itself in word and deed.
We pray because we are baptized, redeemed, forgiven children of God. In prayer we ask God what He would have us do. Through Jesus we are intimately related to God the Father, which gives us the confidence to ask.
So what we asking? Is it whining for a better life, begging for stuff? Or is prayer how faith lives and breathes. So our asking is a way to tune our relationship to God and His Word. So we ask for whatever He says. Ask for anything according to His will.
So we ask not for the world, but for heaven. The life we ask to have enriched is not just our physical relief but eternal life which begins now in faith.
Our prayer is not whatever happens to pop into our sinful heads, whatever advertisers say we cannot live without. Our prayer is our desire for closeness to God and His Word.
God speaks and we listen. His Word gives what it says. Faith recognizes the gifts received with eager thankfulness, praise and prayer. When we talk with God we seek to have whatever is according to God’s Will. It was God’s Will to save us through Jesus. So we pray in Jesus’ name, wanting God’s will to be done above our own.
So what do we pray for? For God to keep His promises, that our joy may be complete. That happens only in Jesus’ name. Amen.