These two verses in John 14 are VERY strong in their teaching that what a follower of Jesus asks “in His name”, He will give:
— :13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do …”
— :14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
How much more clear can these verses be? And yet the meaning of these promises is often greatly misunderstood.
Praying in His name does NOT merely mean just adding “in Jesus’ name” to the end of any request: “Lord, give me that car … IN JESUS’ NAME”, and so on. If we imagine we can use that as some kind of “magic formula” that we can “wave” over anything we want in order to get it, we are sadly mistaken.
To really pray “in Jesus’ name” means to pray for His purposes: for the glory of His name; for the advancement of His Kingdom; for the accomplishment of His will (think the first 3 requests of the Model Prayer of Matthew 6). Despite the self-centered way in which we are tempted to read everything in the word of God, this verse is really not all about us asking for the various trifles that we desire in life. It is about asking for the needs required for His Kingdom’s work.
Imagine that you were sent by a King on an errand to a distant land. You were given His ring, symbolizing His authority, granting you the ability to use whatever of His resources was necessary to accomplish the mission He gave you to do. But when you arrived at the far-off country, there was a market, where a number of wares caught your eye. You might be tempted to use the King’s ring to purchase some things for yourself — but that is not why He gave it to you. You aren’t there for yourself at all; this isn’t a shopping trip. You are there to do Your Master’s business, and the ring is to be used to accomplish the work of His kingdom.
This is just how it is with the Christian and praying “in Jesus’ name.” This isn’t a “blank check” that we can use to pray for anything we want, and expect to get it. Our life in this world isn’t one grand shopping excursion, and Jesus’ name is not a VISA card with an unlimited balance. Rather, these promises mean that God will grant us everything we ask for as we seek to advance His Kingdom, accomplish His will in the world, and to glorify His name: “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (:13b) That is why He placed us in this world, and that is what these promises are really for.