“If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:14 seems like a very straightforward promise. Anything you ask for, Jesus will do. Did Jesus give a blanket promise to do everything that people pray for? Any one who has done much praying knows we do not always get what we ask God to give. Does God not keep His promises or is there something else in John 14:14 that shapes the nature of the promise?
The overlooked phrase is one of the most important of the verse. Jesus said if you pray “In my name.” That is much more than ending prayer with, “In Jesus name we pray. Amen.” Doing anything in the name of someone means acting as an official representative of that person. John MacArthur says that praying in Jesus name is asking for things that are consistent with who He is and asking for what Jesus would want. In other words, praying in Jesus’ name is praying selflessly for the will of God. Jesus will not answer the adulterer’s prayer for another partner. The person praying selfishly for a brand new sports car is not promised to have his prayers answered.
The book of 1 John spends a lot of time discussing certain key aspects from the Upper Room discourse, including John 14. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” The book of 1 John says the condition of answered prayer is asking according to the will of Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name is asking in earnest desire for His will to be accomplished. It is not saying, “God I really want this, but if it’s not your will I really wish you would make it your will.” Asking in Jesus name genuinely desires the accomplishment of His will. It is saying, “God I would like this, but what I really want is your will to be done, your kingdom to be increased and your glory to be revealed.” When we pray this way, we know He will give us what we ask for. The remarkable testimony of those who have learned to pray this way is that when we learn to ask for what God wants then we find God is incredibly generous to His people.
This does not mean we cannot pray for things that we do not know if they are His will. We can ask or healing, a job, a spouse and many other things that we cannot know for certain if we are praying according to the will of God. In those situations where we do not know the will of God, we pray making our desires known and also knowingly submitting our desires to the will of God. We bow before God to ask His favor. We specify what we would like to receive of Him while confessing that we trust Him to do what is right and best. We confess we trust God if it is something different than what we requested. The promise of God is we will have what is good for us and what is in accord with the character and plan of God.
This principle of praying in Jesus’ name finds its Old Testament parallel in Psalm 37:4, Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”