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Does asking “in Jesus’ name” mean we get what we want?

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - asking in Jesus' nameWhat does it mean to, “ask in Jesus’ name”? Does it mean we get whatever we want?

John 14:12-14 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

I have an agnostic friend who sends me questions from time-to-time…

Here’s what he sent:

“Hey man! Hope you and your family have a great weekend. I have another one of those irritating questions I keep asking.

What is your interpretation/explanation for John 14:12-14? In other words, when I read it, it seems to say that if you believe in Jesus you can/will do the works, in fact even greater works, than he has been doing, that as long as you ask of it in his name, anything will be done.

Clearly, there is a problem here. People who believe in Jesus ask for things ‘in Jesus’ name’ all the time that never happen. And don’t give me that mysterious ways stuff, you know what I mean! And no one has gone on to ‘lay on hands’ to heal the sick or walk on water, or <insert Jesus’ miracle here>. So what is the evangelical explanation for this?

As always thanks for your time man!”

Here’s my response…

Good question!

First, “greater works” means greater in number, but not significance.

When God became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ, He took on the limitations of human flesh. Despite the “great” number of things He did, the apostles would be able to do even more because of their number and lengthier ministries (decades versus a few years).

Second, when the Bible speaks of Jesus’ name, it’s speaking of His character

Consider these verses:

  • “Praise the name of the Lord…O you servants of the Lord! Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant” (Psalm 135:1, 3).
  • “Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted” (Psalm 148:13).

Praising the Lord’s name is synonymous with praising the Lord Himself, because His name represents His character. When Jesus says, “ask anything in My name” He means, “ask anything according to who I am” or “ask anything according to My will.”

Any prayer that is Jesus’ will and is asked of the Father will be answered, but it’s obvious – like you observed – that people can’t simply say, “Father, please give me a brand new Mercedes, and I ask this in Jesus’ name” and expect to have that prayer answered. Their prayer – more like a wish – isn’t Jesus’ will.

James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” This is one of the most common reasons people’s prayers aren’t answered.

Finally, since you mentioned the supernatural/miraculous, i.e. laying on of hands for healing and walking on water, 2 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The signs of an apostle [were] wonders and mighty deeds.” One of the signs – or evidences – of being an apostle was the performance of miracles. People who aren’t apostles – which includes every believer following the close of the Apostolic Age – won’t be able to perform miracles. Despite what Benny Hinn or any of the other “faith healers” sadly try to convince people of for their financial gains.

No matter how much people like Benny Hinn bother you, they bother me more. Jesus and Paul reserved some of their strongest words for false teachers like him.

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15 thoughts on “Does asking “in Jesus’ name” mean we get what we want?

  1. Hey Scott, thanks for posting on this. Fruitful discussion. I have a few questions regarding your last thought on the blog, the ceasing of all miracles after the apostolic age.

    1. What do you consider a miracle?

    Would you consider casting out a demon miraculous?

    If so, consider Luke 9:49-50 and that these were people that were called “not one of us” by the disciples.

    2. In your opinion, why would God do miracles through the OT prophets and His apostles but not through modern day believers? Why would God suddenly remove miracles from the earth?

    3. Are you open to the possibility of miracles occurring still today?

    4. What are your thoughts on James 5:14-15?

    1. Hi Josh,
      Thanks for the questions. I’ll answer them in order.

      First, I think this answer could be really long, but I’ll strive for conciseness. A miracle is something that that can’t take place through normal, natural, human means.

      Yes, I would consider casting out a demon to be something miraculous and/or supernatural.

      I can only guess why you wanted me to look at Luke 9:49-50. Unbelievers and/or non-followers of the Lord can perform miracles, and that’s obvious from a number of locations in Scripture:
      • Pharaoh’s magicians (Exo 7:11, 22).
      • Jesus said many who performed miracles would claim to be His followers, but He tells them He never knew them (Matt 7:21-24).
      • Matt 24:24 false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
      • 2 Thes 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
      • Rev 13:13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men (see also 16:14).

      Second, the way you worded your question implies the performance of miracles by OT prophets was the norm. Besides Elijah and Elisha, who else can you name?

      The fact is out of 4,000 years of OT history, there were only two seasons or miracle workers: Moses/Joshua and Elijah/Elisha.

      While miracles might look commonplace in the OT, consider that’s millenniums of history and we receive the highlights. Most people in the OT lived very much like us w/o seeing the miraculous. You could say they had to live, “by faith instead of sight.”

      Your mention of apostles somewhat nails the answer: God performed miracles through apostles. If there were still apostles today (as opposed to only elders and deacons), we could still expect to see miracles, since miracles the ministry of apostles:
      • Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people
      • 2 Cor 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

      As far as why God would suddenly remove miracles, again, this question implies that miracles were at some point normative, when in fact, in all of history, they’ve only existed during three seasons. As already mentioned Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha, and the third is Jesus’s day and the apostolic age. The next season of supernatural activity will be prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

      Third, there’s a difference between being open to God performing miracles today, and man performing miracles today. I’m not sure which you’re asking, but I’ll simply say while I don’t put a limit on anything God wants to do, I don’t think we see people today w/ the miraculous power Jesus, Paul, or Peter had, despite what false teachers like Benny Hinn claim.

      Fourth, my thoughts on that verse are literal enough that as elders we anoint the sick with oil and pray for God to heal them. But you might notice the way I worded that: we pray for God to heal them, as opposed to thinking we have that power.

    2. Thanks Scott, I understand where you are coming from. Well thought out and strong Scriptural back up. Never considered how many miracles were not around in the OT time period, great point.

      Buuuuut, I do have some other questions now smile emoticon:)

      1. Why didn’t Jesus condemn those who were casting out demons in Luke 9. If they were false or non followers why does Jesus seem to give His support of what they were doing, rather than condemnation.

      2. You said “We pray for God to heal them, as opposed to thinking we have that power.”

      The Apostles were given the power to heal, but was it their power? (Acts 3:12) Healing comes from only one place. The Apostles couldn’t heal anyone if it was outside of God’s will. Yes the Apostles had a special anointing to go out and heal as a demonstration of proof that they carried authority from God, confirming the Gospel, but they were limited in who they could heal. This is one way you can spot a fake. They claim that “they” have authority to heal and can heal anyone… As long as the other person has enough faith… Benny Hinn would fit in that lot, among a number of other false miracle workers today.

      3. 1 Corinthians is my strongest text and the one that causes me to believe that the gift of healing and miracle working can still be present today because it points to the gift of healing being present outside of the Apostles ministry, specifically versus 9,10 & 29. Why would Paul write these words to the Corinthians if the gift of healing and miracles was limited only to the Apostles?

      Thanks again for this discussion Scott. I can say I have learned something new from what you have shared.

      P.S. If interested, I have a personal story I would love to share with you. A miracle that occurred in my own life. Maybe give a call? Always a joy to hear your voice.

      All my best.

    3. Josh,
      1. The principle is clearly explained in Mark 9:38-40 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
      39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on or side.”

      By the way, I’m not quite sure what these questions have to do with the continuation of miracles?

      2. You said, “The Apostles were given the power to heal, but was it their power?” Yes, it was clearly power given to the twelve. Look at this verse which I’m not adjusting whatsoever: Matthew 10:1 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

      This was power given specifically to the apostles. Do you think people today have the same power they had to heal at will, including raising people from the dead? We don’t see anyone who looks like Jesus, James, and Peter.

      You said, “they were limited in who they could heal.” Sure, there were times they lacked faith and were unable to exercise all the power given to them.

      Third, I understand what you’re saying about the mention of 1 Cor 12. Truly, I do. Paul said these words b/c they’re true. He’s discussing gifts the Holy Spirit gave, and those are gifts He gave.

      Your words bless me. Iron sharpers iron. Thanks for the discussion and your receptiveness.

      Of course I’m interested in your story. I don’t like talking on the phone, but I’ll try to remember to call sometime. You could always visit on a Sunday. Seeing is even better than hearing ☺.

      In Christ,
      Scott

  2. This is a verse I have a hard time with, too. It actually just came up in home group recently. The explanations given then was basically the same you give here, but I hear/read it as “If you are asking God to do something He was already going to do anyway (His will), then He will answer (grant, basically) your prayer. Otherwise, He won’t.” It’s like telling my children that they can ask for whatever they would like for dinner, and if it happens to be what I already have in the oven (my own will for dinner), then YES, I will “answer” their “prayer” (request). What am I missing here, because I’ve been stuck on this concept for quite a while???

    1. Robin, your question/thinking makes sense. I don’t think we can jump to the conclusion though that God was going to do it. Jesus’ words teach God does it b/c we ask, not that He had it planned all along.

    2. But His will is already determined, right? Let’s say it’s the salvation of
      a loved one we are praying for. Does He not already know whether that
      person is going to be saved or not? If someone is deathly ill, is His
      will regarding that person’s number of days not already determined?
      When a mother cries out to Him at the threat of miscarriage, had He not
      already numbered that child’s days?

    3. If God’s will was that determined, we wouldn’t be told/commanded to pray. Here are two examples of prayer dramatically affecting situations:

      • 2 Sam 15:31 and 17:6-14. David prayed that Absalom would ignore Ahithophel’s advice, and that’s what happened. Hushai’s plan was followed.

      • In Exo 33, God was going to destroy Israel, and Moses prayed and God spared them. Something similar happened in Num 14.

    4. This still doesn’t make sense to me. When a prayer is not answered, we’re told “it wasn’t God’s will.” In other words, “He didn’t do it when you asked, because He wasn’t going to do it before you asked.” That’s not a valid answer if God’s will can be changed by prayer.

    5. Just because God’s will might be changed by prayer isn’t a guarantee that will always be the case. There are also examples in Scripture of prayers going unanswered, even by very godly individuals like the Apostle Paul: 2 Cor 12:8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

    6. Robin Camping, during tonight’s bible study, Pastor Doug taught on the 12 spies in Num 13 and 14, and a great example of answered prayer took place with Moses…

      Num 14:19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
      20 Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word.”

  3. Hello Pastor I read your post and I liked how you explained yourself. I just wanted to know one of the spiritual gifts is working of miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10) wasn’t Paul speaking to the church of Corinth. I read Corinthians 12:12 and from what I read it is just trying to tell the difference between false prophets and the true apostle.

    1. Hello,
      Sorry it took me so long to respond.

      There’s a duality to the epistles; yes Paul was speaking to specific churches of the day, but there’s also application for the global church.

      Regarding your specific question, yes, the working of miracles is one of the spiritual gifts, but according to 2 Cor 12:12 it was a sign gift for the apostles. Miracles established their authority and gave them credibility – or legitimized – their messages. According to Eph 2:20, apostles laid the foundation of the church (they don’t go up to the 3rd or 4th floors you might say), and with the conclusion of this office came the conclusion of the working of miracles as a gift.

  4. Another area of “greater works” that believers today will do is bring the good news of a reconciled relationship wilth God and freedom from the power of sin to every tribe and nation on the earth. Jesus’ ministry was in a very small area within walking distance. There are some very remote tribes and languages with obscure cultures that believers must assimilate into and learn to conmmunicate God’s truth. A good book to read on this is Peace Child by Don Richardson, or Torches of Joy.

    1. Hi Tim,
      Thanks for the comment.

      Great thoughts! That’s definitely a way for believers to do “greater things”!

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!