Power for Prayer and Work
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name.
The Savior opened His public ministry with His disciples with the Sermon on the Mount. Now He closes it by the parting address preserved for us by John. In both He speaks more than once of prayer—but with a difference. The Sermon on the Mount is to disciples who have just entered His school, who scarcely know that God is their Father, and whose prayer’s chief reference is to their personal needs. In His closing address, He speaks to disciples whose training time has now come to an end, and who are ready as His messengers to take His place and do His work. In the former, the chief lesson is to be childlike, to pray in faith, and to trust the Father to give you good gifts. Now He points to something higher. Now they are His friends to whom He has made known all He has heard from His Father. They are His messengers who have entered into His plans and into whose hands the care of His work and kingdom on earth is to be entrusted. They are to go out and do His work, and in the power of His approaching exaltation even greater works. Prayer is to be the channel through which that power is received for their work. With Christ’s ascension to the Father, a new epoch begins, both for their work and for their life of prayer.
How clearly this connection comes out in our text. As Christ’s body here on earth, as those who are one with Him in heaven, the disciples are now to do greater works than He had done. Their success and their victories are to be greater than His. He mentions two reasons for this. First, because He was to go to the Father to receive all power. Second, because they might now ask and expect anything in His name. ‘‘Because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name.’’ His going to the Father would in this way bring a double blessing. They would ask and receive all in His name, and as a consequence be able to do the greater works. The first mention of prayer in our Savior’s parting words teaches us two important lessons. He that would do the works of Jesus must pray. He that would pray in His name must work.
He who would work must pray. In prayer, power for work is obtained. As long as Jesus was here on earth, He did the greatest works. The same demons that the disciples could not cast out fled at His word. When Jesus went to the Father, He was no longer here in body to do the work. The disciples became His body. All His work from the throne must and could be done through them.
One might have thought with His leaving the scene and only working through commissioners, the work might suffer— become less and be weaker. He assures us of the contrary: ‘‘I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these’’ (John 14:12). His approaching death was to break down and bring to an end the power of sin. With the Resurrection, the power of eternal life was to take possession of the human body and to obtain supremacy over human life. With His ascension, He was to receive the power to communicate the Holy Spirit to His own. The union between himself on the throne and those on earth was to be so intense and so divinely perfect that He meant it literally when He said: ‘‘He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father’’ (John 14:12). And the results proved how true it was.
During the three years of His personal labor on earth, Jesus gathered few more than five hundred disciples, and most of them so frail that they were only a small credit to His cause. Men like Peter and Paul were allowed to do greater things than He did. From the throne Jesus could do through them what on earth He alone could not do.
But there is one condition: ‘‘Anyone who has faith in me will do . . . even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name’’ (John 14:12–13). His going to the Father would give Him new power to hear prayer. Two things were needed for doing the greater works: His going to the Father to receive all power, and our prayer of faith in His name to receive all power from Him. As He asks the Father, He receives and bestows on us the power of the new dispensation for the greater works. As we believe, and ask in His name, the power takes possession of us to do the greater works.
How much striving there is in the work of God where there is little or nothing to be seen of the power to do anything like Christ’s works, not to mention greater works. There can be only one reason: believing prayer in His name is lacking.
How wonderful if every laborer and leader in the churches, schools, and mission outreaches would learn this lesson: Prayer in Jesus’ name is the way to share in the power Jesus has received from the Father for His people. In this power the one who believes can do the greater works. To every complaint of weakness or inadequacy, difficulty or lack of success, Jesus has one answer: ‘‘Anyone who has faith in me will do . . . even greater things, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name’’ (John 14:12–13). We must understand that the most important thing for anyone who desires to do the work of Jesus is to believe, becoming linked to Him, and then to pray the prayer of faith in His name. Without this act of faith our work is merely human, carnal. It may help to restrain sin or to prepare the way for blessing, but power is lacking. Powerful, effective work first needs powerful, effective prayer.
In contrast to prayer before work, one must work after the prayer is done. Prayer enables us to work effectively. Both are necessary to the success of the kingdom.
In these parting words of our Lord, He no less than six times (John 14:13–14; 15:7, 16; 16:23–24) repeats the unlimited prayer-promises that have often stirred anxious doubts as to their true meaning: I will do whatever you ask, You may ask me for anything, Ask whatever you wish, The Father will give you whatever you ask, Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. How many believers have read these statements with joy and hope, and in deep earnestness of soul have sought to plead them—only to come away disappointed? The simple reason is that they have separated the promise from its context. The Lord gave the wonderful promise of the free use of His name before the Father in connection with doing His works. It is the disciple who gives himself wholly to live for Jesus’ work and kingdom, for His will and honor, to whom the power will come to appropriate the promise. He who tries to grasp the promise when he wants something solely for himself will be disappointed, because he is trying to make Jesus the servant of his own comfort. But the one who seeks to pray the effective prayer of faith because he needs it for the work of the Master, will learn its power—because he has made himself the servant of his Lord’s interests. Not only does prayer strengthen us for the work but work strengthens us for prayer.
This is in perfect harmony with a truth in both the natural and the spiritual world: ‘‘Whoever has will be given more’’ (Mark 4:25); or, ‘‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much’’ (Luke 16:10). With the small measure of grace already received, we should give ourselves to the Master for His work. Work will then be to us a school of prayer. When Moses had full charge of a rebellious people, he felt the need—but also the courage—to speak boldly to God and to ask great things of Him (Exodus 33:12, 15, 18). As you give yourself entirely to God for His work, you will feel that nothing less than these great promises are what you need, and that nothing less is what you may confidently expect.
You are called and appointed to do the works of Jesus, and even greater works, because He has gone to the Father to receive the power to do them in and through you. ‘‘And I will do whatever you ask in my name’’ (John 14:13). Give yourself, and live, to do the works of Christ, and you will learn to pray so that you obtain wonderful answers to prayer. Give yourself, and live, to pray and you will do the works He did—and greater works. With disciples full of faith in Him and bold in prayer to ask great things, Christ can conquer the world.
Lord, again today I have heard words from you that are beyond my comprehension. And yet I can do nothing except in simple, childlike faith take and keep them as your gifts to me.
You have said that because of your going to the Father, he that believes in you will do the works that you have done, and greater works. Lord, I worship you as the glorified One, and look for the fulfillment of your promise. May my whole life be one of continued believing in you. Purify and sanctify my heart and make it sensitive to you and your love, so that believing in you may be its very life.
You have said that because of your going to the Father you will do whatsoever we ask in your name. From your throne you would share the power given you with your people and work through them as the members of your body in response to their believing prayers. Power in prayer with you and power in work with others is what you have promised your people.
Blessed Lord, forgive us for not always believing you and your promise, and for so seldom proving your faithfulness in fulfilling it.
Teach me to pray so that I may prove that your name is all-powerful with God, with men, and with demons. Teach me to so pray that you can glorify yourself and do your great works through me. Amen.
Andrew Murray, Teach Me to Pray (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2002).