The cost of answered prayer
Jesus’ words to his disciples in the hours leading up to his arrest and crucifixion, are among his most memorable - the promise of the Holy Spirit, the parable of the Vine and the Branches and his great command to his disciples that, on his departure, they should ‘love one another’. However, perhaps less celebrated are his words concerning a coming transformation to the prayer life of those who would believe in him;
‘In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.’ (John 16:23)
The words hide a great truth for Jesus’ listeners, something so profound was about to happen, and it represented a seismic shift in the way all people could and would approach God. Most of us, who have walked with Jesus, are used to appending his name to our prayers with the words ‘in the name of Jesus’, but for those disciples gathered in the upper room, the idea was a radical one.
Many had come to understand that Jesus was in a relationship with his heavenly Father, and they also understood that this Father heard the Son, and answered his prayers - Jesus himself, as he prepares to heal Lazarus, prays to the Father before the event, ‘I knew that you always hear me’ (John 11:42). It’s no surprise, then, that during his ministry Jesus is continually swamped by the requests of those who gathered to hear and see him – he was the one who had the ear of the Father! What is radical and transformational about John 16:23 is that Jesus is making it clear that this way of doing things was about to change – Jesus is introducing a brand new way of approaching God, that would cost him his life. This new way did not involve priests, rituals or holy men, but had its genesis in the work of Christ on the cross, and within a day, as Jesus gave up his spirit and breathed his last, the veil of the temple would be torn from top to bottom as a vivid symbol that the way to God was now open!
And so, here in John 16:23, Jesus tells his disciples the radical truth, that just as he had always been heard by the Father, so they too would share in this great privilege - Why? because the same love that the Father had for Jesus, he would have for those who believed in the Son;
‘the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.’ (John 16:27)
What all this means, put simply, is that when we pray to the Father, it is as if Jesus himself is praying to the Father – that’s what it means to pray ‘in his name’. Today is a good time for us to discover that this is the authority we have in prayer and that, simple faith in the Son means our prayers are heard in heaven – we too, through Christ, have the ear of the Father;
‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’ (John 16:24)