We’ve all been there. We pray for something to happen, and it doesn’t. We pray for the new job we need to provide for our family and then we are passed over. We pray for a relationship to be healed and strengthened only to watch the other person walk away. We pray for the strength to overcome addiction and sin and then find ourselves falling into old habits and behaviors. We pray for someone to be healed and sincerely believe it is God’s will but then spend the next few months watching them die. We’ve all been there and it raises a lot of questions. Does God not care about us? Did God not hear us? Was God not strong enough to help? Was our faith not strong enough? We’ve all been there and these are some of the most difficult questions we face when it comes to prayer.
Through this series we have heard Jesus say God is able to do all things and that God does loves us as a father or mother loves their children so that God is motivated to help us and provide for us. We’ve also heard Jesus say that we can pray at all times and in all places and for all things and expect God to do something. Today we are going to look at some other bold claims Jesus made about God answering our prayers and on the surface these claims might not line up with our reality, so we need to dig deeper into what Jesus means when he talks about praying with faith and in His name.
The first scripture we are going to look at is from John 14:12-14. This isn’t the only time and place Jesus made this claim, we can find similar teachings in Luke 17:6, Matthew 17:20 and Matthew 21:21-22. The common theme in all of these teachings is that God will answer our prayers and do what we need God to do when we are praying with faith and in Jesus name. But what exactly does it mean to pray with faith and in Jesus name?
To pray in Jesus name does not mean that we just add those words to the end of our prayers with the expectation that God will answer accordingly. It’s not a special phrase or magic spell that makes our prayers become reality. What it does mean is that we are praying in line with God’s will. We see this by looking at the larger context of Jesus teaching in John 14. Look at John 14:10-11.
Jesus and God are one. The words of Jesus are the words of God. The love of Jesus is the love of God. The actions of Jesus are the actions of God. The power of Jesus is the power of God and the will of Jesus is the will of God. All that Jesus does and desires reflects God and gives glory to God. So everything Jesus did he did in the name of God the Father and it was all in line with God’s will. When Jesus healed people it was God’s will. When he provided for people it was God’s will. When Jesus rebuked people, it was God’s will. Everything Jesus did he did in the name of God’s and with faith in God because Jesus and God were one.
So when we pray in Jesus name it doesn’t mean that we are calling on God’s power to do what we want, it means we are praying in line with what God wants. Praying in Jesus name means that Jesus’ heart and mind and spirit are in us and that we are in him. Praying in Jesus name means that our will has become the will of Jesus which is the will of God. It means that our motives have been shaped by God, our desires are guided by God and our prayers are in line with God’s will and if all of this is true, then God will do what we ask because what we are asking for is what God wants. That this kind of relationship is what Jesus is talking about becomes clear to us when we read on- John 15:5-8.
Jesus is saying that if we are going to do anything it will be because we are one with Him and through Jesus we are one with God. On our own we can’t do anything, but when we abide in Christ and allow Jesus to abide in us, then we can do all things because the power of God is there to accomplish the will of God. So praying in Jesus name means abiding in Christ and allowing Christ to abide in us and Jesus tells us how this happens in John 15:9-10.
So abiding in Jesus and allowing Jesus to live in us means that we love Jesus enough to obey all his commandments. When we love Christ so much that we willing follow all that He has taught us then our prayers align with the will of God and what we ask for we will receive. This is what it means to pray in Jesus name.
So to pray with this kind of power and certainty we need to deepen our love and grow in our obedience to Jesus and this comes by spending time getting to know Christ more and working to embrace the character of Jesus in all that we think and say and do. Sometimes this starts by just taking the time to understand who Jesus is and what his character is all about. While I grew up in the church and thought I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started to attend a Bible study on the gospel of Mark. As I read the gospel and confronted the reality of Jesus, I realized how little I understood and how much more of Jesus I wanted to know. If we want to pray with more power we need to know more about the one who gives us that power.
Now if we are honest, there are times we just might not feel like learning more about God and if that is where you are today, then the prayer to pray is for God to give us the desire to learn more and deepen our faith. I’m not sure there is any prayer God would love to hear more than that. God sent Jesus to live in this world because God wants us to know him and he knows that knowing Jesus will help us know Him. God wants us to know him and He can give us the desire to know Him more because it is His will. That is a prayer God will answer because it is a prayer in line with God’s will.
While we ask God to deepen our faith and desire to know him, growing in our faith will also take some effort on our part. We need to be willing to commit ourselves to a life where we put ourselves in places to learn more about Jesus. We need to put ourselves in places of prayer, study, worship and service. We need to step out and put ourselves in places that might be uncomfortable for us and will stretch us because we know those will be the places where we will learn more. We need to do some things we never thought we’d do to see what God might do in us and through us in those situations. Growth isn’t easy and it calls for us to take some intentional steps forward and as we do we learn more about God, we abide more in Christ and will find our prayers becoming more centered and powerful and answered.
If praying with faith and in Jesus name means praying in line with God’s will then how specifically will our prayers change? How might they need to change? Let me suggest one change we can all make today. When we begin our prayers we should use the phrase, in Jesus name, because it will remind us that we need to be asking for things that we know are in line with God’s will. Instead of using it at the ending as a way asking God to make our prayers – God prayers, using it at the beginning might help us make God’s prayers – our prayers and there is a difference. I’ve been trying to do that this week and every time I begin a prayer with those words I find myself thinking, what is God’s will for me or, for the situation I’m praying for and I’ve even had to ask myself if I am even praying for the right situations.
Putting, in Jesus name, at the beginning of our prayer will help us reflect on what we are praying for and maybe set different priorities in our prayers. For many of us, our prayers are for those we love and care about. They are for ourselves, our families and friends, and while there is nothing at all wrong with that, maybe we need to expand out our prayers because God’s heart and will includes so much more than us. One specific change we can make would be stop before we pray and ask ourselves, what is the mission of Jesus in the world today? If our prayers need to be in line with the will of God then we need to ask ourselves what is God’s will for the world today? What is God’s #1 priority today and is that even part of our prayers?
A few weeks ago we heard that the first order of business for Jesus was to preach and teach about the love and grace and power of God. When Jesus had the choice of being a healer or a preacher, Jesus chose preaching because he knew that the word of God he shared would last forever and that message would be the force that would bring healing and hope to future generations. It would be God’s word that would bring in God’s kingdom. So if we want to pray in Jesus name we need to ask ourselves if we are including in our prayers the mission of Jesus.
Are we praying for disciples of Jesus to be made? Are we praying for the work of the church and missionaries and missions around the world? Are we asking God how we can be part of this work? These concerns might need to move up on our priority list in prayer.
So praying in faith isn’t asking God for whatever we want or need believing that somehow God is out there listening and will give it to us because we have asked in his name, it means working to align our will with God’s will by abiding in Christ and allowing Jesus to live within us so that we are asking for those things that God wants. This alignment with the will of God comes by working to grow in our relationship with God where our love turns into faithful obedience. When we move closer to this kind of heart, mind, spirit and life our prayers will change, but does this mean that all our prayers will be answered the way we want them answered. Believe it or not, the answer is still, no, and again it is Jesus one who shows us this.
Even Jesus praying with faith in the will of God did not get everything he asked for. Before Jesus was arrested he prayed for God to take away the cup he was going to have to drink, which meant he wanted God to take away his coming arrest, trial and crucifixion, but none of that happened. Jesus didn’t want to suffer and die and so he prayed in faith that God would change the plan, but God didn’t. The cup didn’t pass from him and Jesus suffered the arrest, trial, beatings and cross.
In the days before his death Jesus also prayed that his disciples would all be one so that the world would know they were his disciples because of their love and unity, but that didn’t happen. Not long after Jesus died there were divisions among the disciples and today we see the church divided into many different traditions and denominations. We struggle to have any kind of semblance of unity. Jesus had faith and he was praying in line with God’s will for the church, but he didn’t get what he prayed for and it’s not because God wasn’t able to do it or that Jesus didn’t have faith. So let’s look at why we don’t always get what we pray for.
While there are many different ideas on why we might not get what we ask for in prayer, I want to consider just two. The first one is that we live in a broken and sinful world and while God has chosen to be involved in our world in very real and specific ways, God has not stepped in to simply wipe away all brokenness, sin and pain. That day will come, but it hasn’t come yet. We live in a world where accidents happen and people suffer and die. Sometimes there is no explanation for it and sometimes things don’t make any sense. Sometimes people get sick for no reason at all. Cancer can strike at any age, at any time and for no reason we can find, it just happens because we live in a broken and imperfect world. We also live in a world where people make bad choices that have consequences in their lives and the lives of others and sometimes these consequences bring suffering and pain.
There is a lot of brokenness in our world and God has not yet stepped into set it all right, and so until that day comes we may not always get what we ask for. For whatever reason, God has chosen to limit what he does in this world and so even when Jesus prayed for his followers to be one, they weren’t. The brokenness of the world often leads to not getting what we pray for no matter how in line with God’s will it is.
The second reason we may not get what we ask for is because we are human and no matter how strong and faithful we are, our human desire may conflict with God’s will. As much as we might desire to be in the will of God, our human nature might still reveal itself in prayer. This is what happened with Jesus. Jesus did not want to suffer and die and so his humanity asked God to take that pain away and sometimes our human side leads us to ask for things that aren’t always in line with God’s will. We can be praying with great faith and sincerity and in Jesus name as much as possible, but at times our human limitations get in the way. Our ways are not always God’s ways. Our vision is not always God’s vision. Our will is not always God’s will and so we may not always get what we ask for which means at the end of our prayers we should include this prayer of Jesus, not MY will but THY will be done.
When we pray with genuine faith and sincerity and in line with God’s will as much as we possibly can and are willing to say, not my will but thy will be done, and still do not get what we ask for, there is one final thing we need to remember. No matter the outcome of our prayers, God is always there to bring something good out of the situations. Think about this, while the cross was not something Jesus wanted to experience, God used that horrible experience to redeem the world. God took something tragic and turned it into something good. That’s what God does.
God may not step into every situation in the world and make it turn out ok, but he does work to redeem every situation. God can bring something good out of tragedy and evil if we will have faith and are willing to work for good in Jesus name. Look at Romans 8:28. God works for the good in all things. God works to redeem all situations and this is part of what it means for us to pray with faith. When we pray with faith, no matter what happens, God will be present to bring glory to Himself and grace to his people.
So the bold claim Jesus makes is that if we pray with faith and if we pray in his name, which means praying in line with God’s will, then God will provide. And in those situations where we still may not see God provide the way we want him to or think he should, we can be assured that God will redeem that situation and work for good and for His glory. Our role in all of this is to abide in Christ and allow the will and heart of God to shape our prayers and our lives.
Opening the Door ~ FAITH
1. Read and reflect on the promises Jesus makes with us about prayer:
• John 14:9-14
• Luke 17:6
• Matthew 17:14-21
• Matthew 21:21-22
2. What does it mean to pray:
• In Jesus name
• With faith
3. When has God not answered our prayers the way you wanted Him to? How did this make you feel?
4. Several times in His teaching on prayer Jesus said we need to pray in line with God’s will. What steps can you take this week to walk more faithfully in the will of God? What role can the following play in your walk of faith:
• Service (Serving our Seniors is April 25!)
5. What work of God in the world or ministry of Faith Church can you add to your prayers this week?
6. We often close our prayer with the phrase, in Jesus name. This week start your prayers with that phrase and end them with this prayer of Jesus, not my will but THY will be done.