Pray in Jesus’ Name

Lesson Focus: This lesson examines that praying in Jesus’ name means seeking what glorifies God, participating in Jesus’ work, and enjoying immediate access to God.

Seek What Glorifies God: John 14:12-14.

[12]  "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. [13]  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [14]  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.  [ESV]

[12]  Jesus has been appealing for faith. The appeal continues in these verses by focusing on the fruitfulness that whoever believes in Jesus will enjoy. The promise is staggering: the person with such faith, Jesus says, will also do the works that I do. Indeed the one who believes will do greater works than these, not because the believer is greater, but because I am going to the Father. But what are these greater works? Greater works cannot simply mean more works; i.e. the church will do more things that Jesus did, since it embraces so many people over such a long period of time. There are perfectly good Greek ways of saying “more.” Nor can greater works mean more spectacular or more supernatural works: it is hard to imagine works that are more spectacular or supernatural than the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the multiplication of bread and the turning of water into wine. The clues to the expression’s meaning are two: first, the final clause, because I am going to the Father, and second, the parallel in 5:20: And greater works than these will he (the Father) show him (Jesus), so that you may marvel. The two clues point in the same direction. Jesus’ disciples will perform greater works because He is going to the Father. Their works become greater precisely because of the new order that has come about following His going to the Father. Similarly, the context of 5:20 shows that the greater works the Father will show the Son, and that the Son will therefore manifest to His followers, are displays of resurrection and judgment. This life-giving power of the Son depends in turn on the Son’s death, resurrection and exaltation. In short, the works that the disciples perform after the resurrection are greater than those done by Jesus before His death insofar as the former belong to an age of clarity and power introduced by Jesus’ sacrifice and exaltation. Both Jesus’ words and His deeds were somewhat veiled during the days of His flesh; even His closest followers, as the foregoing verses make clear, grasped only part of what He was saying. But Jesus is about to return to His Father, He is about to be glorified, and in the wake of His glorification His followers will know and make known all that Jesus is and does, and their every deed and word will belong to the new eschatological age that will then have dawned. The signs and works Jesus performed during His ministry could not fully accomplish their true end until after Jesus had risen from the dead and been exalted. Only at that point could they be seen for what they were. By contrast, the works believers are given to do through the power of the eschatological Spirit, after Jesus’ glorification, will be set in the framework of Jesus’ death and triumph, and will therefore more immediately and truly reveal the Son. In consequence many more converts will be gathered into the church than were drawn in during Jesus’ ministry. The contrast itself, however, turns not on raw numbers but on the power and clarity that mushroom after the eschatological hinge has swung and the new day has dawned.

[13-14]  The reason why the greater works are done after Jesus went to the Father is now clarified further. The disciples’ fruitful conduct is the product of their prayers, prayers offered in Jesus’ name and He is the one who grants the request (I will do it). This demonstrates that the contrast in verse 12 is not finally between Jesus’ works and His disciples’ works but between the works of Jesus that He Himself performed during the days of His flesh and the works that He performs through His disciples after His death and exaltation. Glorified with the glory He had with the Father before the world began, the Son is no longer limited by the pre-death humanness that characterized His ministry. Now Jesus empowers and equips His followers to engage in far-reaching ministry, invading all the nations with saving and transforming power. This is accomplished by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which gift is about to be introduced into the discussion. In the post-Easter situation, the Son’s mediatorial role extends even to the prayers of His followers. Prayers in His name are prayers that are offered in full accord with all that His name stands for, and in recognition that the only approach to God those who pray enjoy is Jesus Himself. Such prayer is never abstracted from the Father; for the Son’s purpose, even as He answers the prayers of His followers, is to bring glory to the Father. During His ministry on earth, the Son’s consistent aim, and His achievement, was to bring glory to His Father. Now in the splendor of his exaltation, the Son’s purpose does not change: He enables His own to do greater things in order that He may bring glory to the Father.

Participate in Jesus’ Work: John 15:14-16.

[14]  You are my friends if you do what I command you. [15]  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. [16]  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  [ESV]

[14-15]  Who are Jesus’ friends? You are my friends if you do what I command you. This obedience is not what makes them friends; it is what characterizes His friends. Clearly, then, this friendship is not strictly reciprocal: these friends of Jesus cannot turn around and say that Jesus will be their friend if He does what they say. Neither God nor Jesus is ever referred to in Scripture as the friend of anyone. Of course, this does not mean that either God or Jesus is an “unfriend”: if one measures friendship strictly on the basis of who loves most, guilty sinners can find no better and truer friend than in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Son whom He has sent. But mutual, reciprocal friendship of the modern variety is not in view. Jesus’ friends, then, are the objects of His love [13], and are obedient to Him [14]. If obedience is a necessary criterion, what distinguishes them from servants or slaves? Modern notions of friendship and slavery would draw the line at the requirement of obedience. Instead Jesus makes revelation the distinguishing feature. Nor is this an arbitrary distinction. Abraham and Moses, the only Old Testament characters who are called “friends of God”, enjoyed extraordinary access to the mind of God. An absolute potentate demands obedience in all his subjects. His slaves, however, are simply told what to do, while his friends are informed of his thinking, enjoy his confidence and learn to obey with a sense of privilege and with full understanding of their master’s heart. So also here: Jesus’ absolute right to command is in no way diminished, but he takes pains to inform His friends of His motives, plans, purposes. In times past God’s covenant people were not informed of God’s saving plan in the full measure now accorded Jesus’ disciples. Although there is much they cannot grasp, within that constraint Jesus has told them everything He has learned from His Father. The Paraclete whom Jesus sends will in the wake of the cross and resurrection complete the revelation bound up with the person and work of Christ, thereby making Jesus’ disciples more informed, more privileged, more comprehending than any believers who ever came before.

[16]  As so often in this Gospel, where there is the slightest danger that the disciples will puff themselves up because of the privileges they enjoy, Jesus immediately forestalls any pretensions they might have. In the final analysis, His followers are privy to such revelations not because they are wiser or better and consequently made the right choices, but because Christ chose them. Jesus chose … and appointed (set apart) them that they might go and bear fruit. The verb translated appointed also occurs in verse 13 where Jesus lays down or sets aside His life for others. The verb commonly occurs in contexts where people are being set apart for particular ministry (see 1 Tim. 1:12). This fact, and the emphasis on going and bearing fruit suggests that the fruit primarily in view in this verse is the fruit that emerges from mission, from specific ministry to which the disciples have been sent. The fruit, in short, is new converts. One purpose of election, then, is that the disciples who have been so blessed with revelation and understanding, should win others to the faith – fruit that should abide. With these references to fruit and to its enduring quality, it becomes clear that these closing allusions to the vine imagery ensure that, however comprehensive the nature of the fruit that Christians bear, the focus on evangelism and mission is truly central. This is why the union of love that joins believers with Jesus can never become a comfortable, exclusivistic huddle that only they can share. The closing words again remind the reader that the means of the fruitfulness for which they have been chosen is prayer in Jesus’ name.

Enjoy Immediate Access to God: John 16:23-27.

[23]  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. [24]  Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. [25]  "I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. [26]  In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; [27]  for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  [ESV]

[23]  The primary reference of in that day will surely be to the time after the resurrection. Jesus is saying that after the resurrection the disciples will not need further information from Him. This probably points to an activity of the Holy Spirit who would be with them to teach them all things, to remind them of all that Jesus had said [14:26] and to guide them into all the truth [16:13]. They will have all the knowledge that is really necessary. The disciples will not again return to the kind of situation in which they have been. They will in future direct their prayers to the Father who will give them anything they ask in the name of the Son. The meaning is that the atoning death of Jesus will revolutionize the whole situation. On the basis of the Son’s atoning work men will approach God and know the answers to their prayers. The saying does not, of course, exclude altogether the possibility of prayer to the Son. But it reminds us that, for Christians, prayer is normally addressed to the Father in the name of the Son, and that such prayer is all-prevailing. It is on the grounds of all that the Son is and does that people receive gifts from the Father.

[24]  A new state of affairs is about to be inaugurated. Up till now the disciples have asked Jesus for things directly or they have asked the Father directly. They have not asked the Father for anything in the name of the Son. Jesus exhorts them to ask (the present tense indicates continuous action: keep on asking). Then they will receive. And the purpose of all this is their joy. God is interested in the wellbeing and the happiness of His people. They will go through trials, but when their trust is in Him He puts a joy into their hearts that can never be removed. Notice that this is connected with prayer. They are to pray in order that their joy may be made complete. It cannot be made complete in any other way.

[25]  Up till now Jesus has spoken figuratively, with the implication that the figure is not easy to penetrate. Jesus goes on to refer to the hour when He will speak plainly. One would have expected that this would be now, and, indeed, the disciples apparently take it this way [29]. Yet Jesus does seem to be looking forward to the time after the resurrection [26], and this was the time when things which had been obscure began to be clear for them. There is a marked difference in the apostles when we come to Acts. There is a sureness of touch, a certainty, a conviction, which could not take place until after the events narrated in the Gospels.

[26-27]  In the light of their fuller knowledge the disciples will then pray as they should, in Christ’s name. Asking in His name is not a way of enlisting His support. It is rather a pleading of His person and of His work for men. It is praying on the basis of all that He is and has done for our salvation. Our approach to the Father rests firmly on Christ’s priestly work for us. There is also a firm exclusion of the thought that the disciples should enlist Christ’s prayers for them as though He were more merciful and more ready to hear than is the Father. Rather the passage insists on the unity of the Son with the Father. The Son does not persuade the Father to be gracious. The whole of the work of the Son rests on the loving care of the Father who sent Him. The reason that Christ will not ask the Father on your behalf is now given. There will be no need. The Father Himself loves them. He does not need to be persuaded to be gracious. In this case the ground of acceptance is the relationship in which they stand to Jesus. They have loved Him. This does not, of course, mean that their love merits the Father’s love, or that He loves only because of their prior love. Rather they owe their love to Christ to a prior divine work in them, and this proceeds from God’s love. They have also had faith in Him, faith that He came from God. Notice that a right faith is informed. It has regard to Christ’s heavenly origin. It is true that from one point of view the Father loves all men. But it is also true that He has a special regard for those who believe, and it is this that is in mind here.

Questions for Discussion:

1.         What is promised in 14:12-14 to those who believe? On what basis are these promises made? What does Jesus teach us about prayer in his brief explanation to the disciples? What are the greater works and why will these works be greater than the ones that Jesus performed?

Why does it glorify the Father when Jesus grants prayers offered in His name [13]? 

2.         What is the difference between a servant and a friend in verses 15:14-16? In 15:16, what is the connection between chose, appointed and bear fruit? How are the disciples to use prayer in accomplishing their mission?

3.         How are ask, receive and joy related? In 16:24 how are we to pursue the fullness of our joy? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name [see 14:13-14 and 16:23-27]?


The Gospel according to John, D.A. Carson, Eerdmans.

The Gospel according to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

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