In the first post of this series I shared some thoughts I had on John 14 from a lecture I gave on that chapter at a local Bible study. To briefly review, the setting of chapter 14 is in the Upper Room. Jesus has shared a meal with his disciples. There has been the foot-washing and the Lord’s Supper. Given that no Gospel includes both of those activities we don’t know in which order they happened. Judas has left the group to arrange Jesus’ betrayal. The remaining disciples are receiving their final teaching from him, a teaching that includes this chapter, along with chapters 15 and 16.
For the purposes of my lecture I found six key teachings collected under the broader intent of Jesus to provide his disciples with assurance and a firm hope in their future as he prepared them to go on without him. In the first post I talked about Heaven and God, the Father. Today I’ll discuss the next two points, and the series will conclude with a final post on the two remaining points and a thought on how the entire chapter calls us to serve God today.
After teaching about God the Father Jesus then moves to a brief discussion of prayer in verses 12 through 15. Broadly speaking, prayer is conversation with God. We speak with God and God speaks with us. I think that many of us are better at speaking to God than listening to what he may have to say to us. A teacher I have learned a great deal from has often equated prayer with breathing, because as constant breathing is necessary to sustain life, constant prayer is also needed to sustain spiritual life. Perhaps this is why in writing to the Thessalonians Paul encouraged them to “pray without ceasing.”
In the three years Jesus has spent with his disciples he has given them a model of a prayer-filled life. They have seen him give thanks to God as he has done miracles, such as feeding the five thousand. The disciples have seen him go off by himself to pray. Jesus has also given them a model of prayer in the form of the Lord’s Prayer.
Now Jesus teaches the disciples something about the power contained in prayer. In verse 13 he says,
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
I believe there are two things to be mindful about prayer within this verse. The first has to do with the idea of asking “in my name.” I don’t believe that Jesus is teaching that our prayers have to be structured in a specific manner, containing the phrase “in Jesus name I/we pray,” as if that was an incantation or formula that makes the prayer acceptable before God.
To pray in Jesus’ name does mean that we have to have the mind of Jesus as we pray, i.e. that in making our requests to God they should be the types of things that Jesus would ask of God.
As an example, I could pray that God would make me prosperous in my work. And while that may seem like a good thing to pray for I have serious doubts that it is the type of thing God would want us to ask of him, or that Jesus would pray to the Father for. A better example would be that God would lead me to use whatever prosperity I experience in my work to serve him well. This latter example combines both parts of Jesus’ teaching, that the prayers are the kinds of things Jesus would pray for and that God is glorified through their fulfillment.
One thing Jesus doesn’t talk about is the connection between our prayers and when they maybe fulfilled. It could be that our prayers are for things we would consider to be very appropriate, such as that someone dear to us would come into a saving relationship with God. And while we ardently pray for such things we have to be mindful that our knowledge is always incomplete. Our prayer, as heartfelt and sincere as it may be, may not be a part of God’s greater purposes and plan. I think the best thing we can do at such times is to remain faithful in our prayers and to leave the results in God’s hands.
In verses 15 through 18 Jesus assures the disciples that even though he will be absent they will not be left alone. In verses 16 and 17 he says,
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus tells his disciples that, through the Father, he will provide an eternal presence to be with them.
In the ESV the word “Helper” is used. The NIV translates this as “Counselor” and other translations use “Advocate.” We know this presence more clearly as the Holy Spirit. The word that John uses in the Greek doesn’t translate easily, hence the variations, but it does clearly teach us that one the purposes of the third person of the Trinity sustain us in God’s truth.
The world may tell them, and us, that Jesus is an ordinary man. The world may say that Jesus was a good teacher. The word may say that in death Jesus was a misguided martyr.
The disciples are learning a different truth about Jesus. They are learning that Jesus is God, alive in the world and alive in them, for the purpose of bringing a people into eternal fellowship with him.
And there are the same truths that we need to be reminded of again today. God has touched us and healed us. God is with us, and we will never be the same. Thanks be to God.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.