Sorrow, Joy, and Answered Prayer

“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” (vv. 23–24).

- John 16:20–24

Jesus had hard things to tell His disciples during His Farewell Discourse, including that persecution was coming and that He would be departing from among them (John 15:18–16:4; 16:16–19). He would no longer be physically present among His people, though He would be with them spiritually (16:4–15). Still, His departure would grieve His friends, so Jesus addressed that sorrow as well.

Today’s passage records for us what our Savior said about the disciples’ grief. First, Christ told them their sorrow would be temporary. They would lament and weep for a time, but then they would be joyful (vv. 20–21). Why? Because while He would leave them temporarily in His death, He would be restored to them in His resurrection. They would see Him again and experience a joy that no one would be able to take away (v. 22). Of course, Jesus did not mean that they would never experience sorrow again. His point was that they would have an abiding joy because they would know Jesus had conquered death and hell. We can endure every trial knowing that we will live eternally in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21).

To illustrate how the disciples would be sorrowful and then have great joy, Jesus compared their situation to that of a woman giving birth. Laboring to deliver a baby is one of the most painful things a woman can experience, but any difficulty and sorrow she endures melts away when she sees her baby for the first time. Jesus meant that when the disciples saw the risen Savior, the sorrow they felt at His death would disappear. It is also noteworthy that the Old Testament frequently uses the image of a woman in labor and delivery to depict the transition from the old age of sin and death to the messianic era. Isaiah 26:16–21 is particularly noteworthy as it compares the travails of a pregnant woman delivering her baby to troubles that occur before the final resurrection. By using this same imagery of His own death and resurrection, Jesus indicated that His death and resurrection inaugurate the last days and that He is the first of God’s people to be raised from the dead incorruptible.

Additionally, after the resurrection, the disciples would begin asking for things from the Father in Jesus’ name (John 16:23–24). The resurrection would verify Jesus’ claims of deity, and His followers would regularly associate the Father and the Son in their prayers. Today, we ask for things according to God’s will by praying to the Father in the name of the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Coram Deo

Although we may certainly pray to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, the normal pattern for prayer that Jesus has given to us is to approach the Father in the name of the Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we follow Jesus’ instructions for prayer, we can be confident that God hears us and answers us according to His will. So, let us approach the Father regularly, praying in the name of Jesus.

Passages for Further Study

Micah 4:9–10
Colossians 3:17

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.