How Should We Understand the Promise Jesus Makes in John 14:14, “If You Ask Anything in My Name I Will Do It?”
My book, Believing God, was written with a single goal in mind, to help believers enter more fully into the promises of God. Even we who affirm that God’s Word is always true still struggle to believe that if we ask for wisdom He will give it to us (James 1:5), that children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127), that we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:4). Having pushed for greater faith, greater confidence, what ought I to say about this promise, that honestly on its face looks to over-promise?
We have a number of caveats that at least seek to place limits on what Jesus must have meant. We affirm, for instance, that, “In My name” at least excludes our more crass requests. Janis Joplin was not standing on solid exegetical grounds when she prayed, “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz.”
But what about when we are asking for things we know God would approve of? In my home I and the children pray nightly that God would be pleased to help us to grow in grace and wisdom. What we are seeking is that we would be made fully into the image of Christ, that our sanctification would be complete. That sounds like a good thing to ask in Jesus name. Second, every night we pray that God would be pleased to magnify His name by rising up and protecting all the unborn in Orlando, Florida, these United States, and around the world. How could that not be a prayer in His name? And yet, thus far our prayers have not been answered.
The reason the prayers haven’t been answered is not too complex. God has determined to glorify His name in the battles, in my pursuit of godliness, in my repentance for my failure. He has determined to glorify His name in the battle over the little babies. He certainly could end all of history whenever He wishes, making all things right. But such is clearly not His will.
The more difficult question then, given His will is not to complete history now, is what did Jesus mean when He said that what we ask in His name He would grant. My answer is this- He will so grant. My hearts desire is that I would be like Him. And He is busy making that happen. My hearts desire is that all the babies would be safe in their mothers’ wombs. And He is busy making that happen. A day will come when both of these desires will come to pass, and Jesus is moving history forward to that day.
These two principles come together when we remember the fullness of what it means to pray in Christ’s name—it is to seek, ultimately, the one thing He is seeking, the glory of God. My sanctification, even the rescue of the unborn, these are proximate goals, subservient to the greatest goal, that God would be glorified. Which is why, in the end, every time we pray in His name we pray with His humble submission—Nevertheless not My will but Thine be done.