John 14:12-14 – What Does It Mean to Pray in Jesus’ Name?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

– John 14:12-14

These are pretty definite words from Jesus. But, they raise a whole bunch of flags and questions for us. Why? Because it just doesn’t seem to ring true with our experience. We pray for sunshine – we get rain. We pray for healing for our friends – they don’t recover.

So, what in the world does Jesus mean in saying, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”? Or what does it not mean?

Asking “in Jesus’ Name” – What It Doesn’t Mean

Whatever Jesus means by asking in His name, He does not mean we treat His name like a magic word. Sometimes we can pray to God and then feel like we’d better emphasize that we’re doing it “in the name of Jesus” – as if it’s some kind of activation code that makes the prayer work.

You might also think that praying “in Jesus’ name” is praying according to the will of God. And that is correct, but it’s not all of it. The problem is, that’s not what Jesus said. He said, “Whatever you ask in my name …” not “Whatever you ask according to my will …”

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Asking in the name of Jesus has greater depth than asking according to His will.

The Context: Our Oneness With Christ

In order to understand what Jesus means, we need to look at the context. After the disciples heard that He would be departing (13:1) and that they could not go where He was going (13:33), they were probably pretty confused, anxious and afraid. Their leader was leaving – what’s going to happen to them? How are they going to carry on?

Surprisingly, in reassuring them, what Jesus drills down on is His unity with God. This is what we see in 14:11: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me …” What’s more, Jesus drills down on His disciples’ unity with Him: “In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you” (v. 20).

We are one with Christ like a wife is one with her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). When you grow together in marriage, your goals become one. You operate as one unit. It’s the same with our oneness with Christ.

Asking “in Jesus’ Name” – What It Means

When we ask for something in the name of Jesus, it’s asking out of our oneness with Him. And when we ask out of our oneness with Jesus, He says He will do whatever we ask. The key is that our asking is in the context of our unity with Christ.

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Now, with this in mind, let’s not make the mistake of thinking:

  • “I can’t pray out of my oneness with Christ because I’m not good enough.” Well, the bad news is that you’re never going to be “good enough.” But the good news is that you don’t have to. Jesus Christ has it all together for you – that’s where our oneness comes from.
  • “I’m going through hardships, so I’m not one with Christ.” Your oneness with Christ is not based on the ups and downs of life. It’s based on His shed blood on the cross for you.

To pray in the name of Jesus is to place the glory of God above every other desire that we could have. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The final goal in our asking in the name of Christ and Him doing it is to glorifying God. And if we pray out of our oneness with Christ, then our greatest desire will be that God is glorified.

When we do anything in the name of someone else, we’re doing it for the benefit of that person. So when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we’re praying, “Lord, this so that You will benefit – not me.”

What a radical reorientation to prayer!

What About Jesus Promising to Do Whatever We Ask in His Name?

Before we’re done, what about Jesus’ promise that He will do what we ask if we ask in His name? If this is true, then why is it that we can pray something that obviously matches up with what God wants, yet it doesn’t happen?

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Jesus promises that He will do whatever is prayed in His name. But, He does not say how He will do it, that He will do it the way you have in mind or even that it will be done in this life. We may not understand how He will do it, but He will do it.

May we truly pray out of oneness with Christ. In Jesus’ name. 

Discussion Starters

  • Do these verses in John 12 raise questions for you? Why?
  • How does knowing the context for what Jesus is saying help us to understand what He means?
  • What is “oneness with Christ”? How does this affect the way we pray?
  • What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?
  • Jesus promised that He will do whatever we ask in His name. Is He lying, or is He telling the truth? Why?

Guest speaker: Jeff Walsh

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