6 Times From Jesus
Do you think if Jesus told His disciples something six times it was important? Definitely! These six times are only what was recorded by the apostle John. He may have told them more than six times. All of these instances were recorded on the night before His crucifixion, and only by John, so perhaps He did not tell them prior to that.
Jesus told his disciples six times that if they ask anything in His name, He would do it. This is a bold statement, with powerful implications for present day disciples. In fact, the more I have reflected on this material, the more explosive the revelation has become. I am somewhat shocked that this is not taught more in the visible church today. Then again, knowing its Laodicean condition—a church of man where Christ is outside—I should not be.
It is often the trademark of God to include something in the Scriptures seven times. I scoured the text in detail, but could only find Jesus directly mentioning this six times. Six is the number of man. This just might be a subtle hint from the Holy Spirit that points to the responsibility of man in this endeavor.
Here is a list of those six times, with my emphasis on each:
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:12-13)
- If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)
- “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered , thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8)
- “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:14-16)
- “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24)
- “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:25-28)
There are several important observations from this compilation of passages that I will tackle in each of the following subheadings.
Disciples and Friends Only
It is critical to note that Jesus was only talking to His disciples. Disciples, both then and now, are those who forsake whatever is necessary to follow Jesus. They are deeply committed to Him. In the gospels, you will not find Jesus walking through Galilee telling everyone that they can have what they want, or think they need, if they just ask God and put His name on it. Jesus only discussed this with his closest disciples and did so in a private setting.
In the 4th usage (John 15:14-16), Jesus told them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you … .” This choosing implies that disciples have left their own lives and “rights” behind. Disciples who have lost their own lives end up in a dependency on God for direction and not on their own decision making process. The further they depart from a life of making their own decisions, the clearer this becomes. These persevering disciples arrive at the place where they do not even think to pray their own will. They are accustomed to responding to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They are hearing and obeying before they are asking and receiving.
Proven obedience leads to friendship with Jesus, as He declared, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” We must be careful here with the word, “friend”. Jesus was not referring to a superficial relationship that many the modern mind may evoke. He was referring to a close companion who has a familiar association with Him. He then said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” His point was that obedience would cause His disciples to move beyond the simple “here is a task, go do it” relationship to one of intimately knowing God, His character traits, and His purposes.
Nature’s Example of Abiding
In the third usage (John 15:4-8) Jesus used an example from nature to illustrate the disciple’s proper relationship with Him. This example is also applicable to prayer, since prayer flows from this very same relationship. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Answered prayer is a “fruit” that our branches yield through our communicative union with the Vine. If we are not properly abiding in Him, then our prayers go unanswered, as He said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Our branches must have nutrients from the main vine to grow fruit. This is both a scientific reality and a Spiritual reality. To produce the fruit of the Spirit, our branches must be flowing with nutrients that have the Spiritual genes of the Vine.
The underlying Greek word translated throughout John 15 in English as “abide” and “remain” is menō. Menō is a verb which means to stay, abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand or tarry (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy). Staying in Christ is the heart of the matter. When we are in Christ we are positioned so that Christ Himself can live through us, as Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you.” In Christ, we are filled with the Spirit, the life of Christ floods our soul, and it pours out of us revealing Him.
Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” He confidently said, “ask whatever you wish,” because in Him we can only ask according to His will. In other words, to remain in Him we must be given to His will. In Him, we are then asking through the Spirit of Christ for purposes which will glorify God, as Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The branch bears the fruit of whatever tree it is connected to. It does not get to decide what type of fruit to bear. Disciples have laid down the choice of deciding what type of fruit to bear. They are entirely given to the God tree to bear His fruit.
It is God’s desire that His name—His personhood, character, and nature—is revealed through the lives of His disciples. God’s nature is love. The night before He went to the cross, Jesus said to God:
“I have manifested [made known] your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (17:6, 26; emphasis mine)
Jesus revealed the nature of God to His disciples so that they would know the love of God and He would dwell in them. The Spirit of Christ continues the same work with present day disciples. The apostle John would later write this confirmation in his first epistle. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:8).
The specific will of God for each of our lives will cause us to reveal Christ to the world, because the Spirit of God engineers the work through us. One of the reasons Jesus so liberally told His disciples to ask “anything” in His name, is because God has a tremendous desire to reveal His love to the world. He wants to have personal relationships with the lost.
The problem many disciples have with this is they come to know how great the love of God is, they become filled with joy to see the gospel go forth, but they do not submit themselves to doing things His way and end up misrepresenting Him. They lose the confidence that comes from God doing the works through them, as the apostle John described:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
The perfect will of God will cause us to represent Him in the right time and place, through the power of His Spirit, so the true nature of God is not polluted.
The night before His death, Jesus also said to God, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. (1 John 17:4)” Jesus revealed here that He glorified God by completing the work He was given to do. Likewise, the will of God for our lives will cause us to glorify Him. Notice that Jesus referred to the goal of glorifying God in the first (John 14:12-13) and third (John 15:4-8) usages when He declared:
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13; emphasis mine)
“… ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:7b-8; emphasis mine)
God wants us to respond to the initiative of His Spirit within us by asking so that He may be glorified. I have found in my own life that the desire to glorify God is sort of a fuel for the fire of laying down my own life and doing what He says.
Having all your prayers answered is how the true Christian life is supposed to function. It has just been made to look remote due to a great multitude proclaiming their allegiance to Christ but walking their own path. The simple requirement of losing your life to really follow Jesus is foreign to most of the visible church today. Consequently, the Biblical truth of constantly answered prayer has been watered down and distorted. Instead of disciples abiding in Christ and asking according to His will, we have people asking for all sorts of things outside of His will and then putting His name on it. This pollutes the character of God and waters down His awesome power.
Disciples represent Jesus Christ on the earth. Some, most notably the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20), have called this an ambassadorship for Christ (and His kingdom). This ambassadorship is, however, slightly different than the traditional sense. The person or nation who an ambassador represents is not present with them during their foreign service. Heaven is (seemingly) far away, but, the Spirit of Christ dwells within disciples. The One they represent is with them all the time.
What this comes down to is the yielded disciple praying according to the initiation of the Spirit of God within him. The apostle Paul referred to this initiation when he wrote,“the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27b). The will of God always comes to pass. Whatever we ask in His name, that is to say, whatever we ask responsively through the guidance of the Spirit of Christ within us is always heard by God and always granted to us.
Remarkably, you will not find the words “pray” or “prayer” anywhere in these chapters of Scripture that contain the six usages. In fact, these words do not appear in the gospel of John at all! The very gospel written to Christians. We must understand that we are in constant communion. We do not need to climb a mountain to talk to God (although we may need to go there to find a quiet environment).
The apostle John summarized this succinctly:
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15; emphasis mine).