Do we really get whatever we ask in Jesus’s name?

While the idea of “God’ll give us whatever we ask in Jesus’s name” has been largely misunderstood, misinterpreted, and abused, by Christians who wanna depict God as if he’s a magic genie who grants way more than three wishes—or like Santa Claus, who will only give you presents if you’re good, so be good for goodness’ sake—the reality is Jesus does hear prayer requests. And isn’t just willing, but eager, to answer the good requests.

John 16.23-24 KJV
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

Here’s the context of this scripture; it’s important, y’know. At the time Jesus was speaking with his students about leaving them; about returning to his Father. Once he’d done so, they’d be miserable. But once he comes back in victory, having conquered sin and death, they’ll be overjoyed. They’ll be so thrilled to see him, his mere presence would be enough for them; they couldn’t ask for anything more. But, Jesus says, this is the perfect time to ask for anything more.

See, Jesus didn’t return to them in the same condition as when he left. Certainly not; all crucified and gory and mangled. He’s resurrected. He’s a harbinger of the age to come, with God’s kingdom in clear, plain sight, and the power to bring it into our reality. When he returned to them it wasn’t just time to bask in the joy of the Lord, but to get started bringing God’s kingdom to earth.

Just as true for us Christians today. We’re gonna need God’s help to bring about his kingdom. We need to ask him for things!

But very specific things.

When people quote “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name,” they seldom think about why Jesus said such a thing, and only fixate on the “whatsoever.” We have big lists of stuff we’d kinda like to have, and if Jesus is taking requests… well, here’s my Amazon wishlist; get on it.

But Jesus’s goal is to inaugurate his kingdom. Therefore our goal is to inaugurate his kingdom. That’s why he’s given us an expense account, and put the Holy Spirit within us. We’re not given power for power’s sake, and riches so we can roll around in a bed of money. Jesus always has a plan, and the plan is to grow the kingdom. Not incidentally; intentionally.

So when we ask for stuff in Jesus’s name, the stuff should only, deliberately, fulfill the purpose of growing his kingdom. Not to pad our own pockets, like some corrupt bureaucrat who’s embezzling from the government, figuring, “The government has trillions; they’re hardly gonna miss a few grand.” Those prosperity gospel folks, who expect following Jesus means he’s gonna put them in Bentleys and Cadillacs? If you ever hire them to do a job for you, you realize their primary goal isn’t to do the best job for you; it’s to squeeze enough cash out of you to get that Bentley or Cadillac. They’re gonna suck just as much at following Jesus. Their mind isn’t on his kingdom; it’s on the stuff.

We don’t need luxuries to follow Jesus! We need the practical equipment and power necessary to fulfill his missions. We’re gonna need wisdom. Sometimes miracles, like the healing power of God to cure the sick, mend the broken, and raise the dead. Sometimes angelic assistance. Certainly greater willpower so we can believe what Jesus teaches, resist temptation, and soldier on despite suffering.

When we listen to “prosperity”-minded dingbats, notice they never, ever, EVER talk about making prayer requests so we can grow the kingdom. Ministry is the farthest thing from their minds. They’re not thinking of other people. They want a nice job—where they don’t actually have to work. A big house, a tech-filled car, and a thousand little perqs. They insist God is delighted to slip us these bonuses because he’s generous like that. But notice they only talk about the bonuses. And whenever they talk about the purpose of the bonuses—“it’s gonna lift the Lord high”—it’s always a justification. Or an afterthought.

Don’t get me wrong: God’s definitely generous. He’s perfectly happy to make us perfectly happy. He’ll smooth our way. But the reason he smoothes our way is so we can grow his kingdom. God removes little distractions so we can concentrate on growing his kingdom. God gives people more money so we can spend it growing his kingdom.

If we aren’t growing his kingdom, we aren’t actually asking God for anything in Jesus’s name. We’re asking it in our names, using Jesus’s credit card, purchasing stuff as if the Lord has need of it. Lk 19.29-34 And it doesn’t. We have no business tapping Jesus’s business account when we’re not about the Lord’s business!

So this “whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name”? That’s the whatsoever. It doesn’t mean absolutely anything, and nevermind the context of God’s kingdom. It’s not about our wealth and prosperity. It’s about the kingdom.

That your joy may be full.

Whenever the scriptures talk about joy being full, it’s about how we have good reason to rejoice. We’re not just happy for happiness’ sake. Like I said, Jesus always has a plan.

The students were gonna rejoice at Jesus’s return from death and the grave, not just because he’s back, but because it’s time to save the world. He came back to bring ’em the Holy Spirit, and as he also taught, the Spirit takes everything of Jesus’s and gives it to us followers. Jn 16.14 And since Jesus conquered the world, that’s pretty much everything in the world.

Again no, not so we can roll around in it. We followers have full access to the Father’s full generosity so we can follow Jesus. We can do as he commands. If he commands the impossible, we can do the impossible. We can ask for anything in his name. And we’ll get it.

So we shouldn’t have a partial, incomplete joy, which easily wore off after Jesus returned to the Father yet again, some weeks later. We should have a full and lasting joy. A permanent joy, a whole joy. Partly because Jesus is coming back… and partly because the work we have to do in the meanwhile, will set things up for his comeback.