Can our prayers really produce miracles?

Of course our prayers produce miracles, because Jesus said they would.

In John 14:12 Jesus said, “I declare to you that whoever puts his trust in me shall do the same things that I have done.” And that included miracles, because in verse 11 the evidence Jesus gave of the Father living and working in him was the miracles he was doing. Jesus then promises in verse 12 that those who trust him “will do what I have been doing,” and “even greater things than these.”

So we’ve got Jesus’ clear guarantee that our prayers will produce miracles, but what was the purpose of Jesus’ miracles in the first place? It was to provide proof, verse 11, that “I (Jesus) am in the Father and the Father is in me,” meaning, verse 10, that “the Father, living in me, is doing his work.” And that was Jesus’ reason for everything he said and did, including the miracles, to prove the Father was the power behind him so that, verse 13, “the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

And that reason still stands for Jesus now answering our prayers with miracles, because verse 13 in full says, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” So what miracles does Jesus do now in our lives that bring glory to the Father?

Jesus answers that for us in John 15:8 – “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” We bring glory to the Father by being fruitful disciples of Christ. And Jesus tells us how we do that in verse 10: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.” A much loved disciple of Christ obeys his commands, and that’s how Jesus now lives and works in us to bring glory to the Father, just as Jesus obeyed his Father’s commands and the Father lived and worked in him.

Jesus then emphasized one command in particular in verse 12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

So that’s the miracle we’re after most, then, isn’t it? Obey that command and Jesus lives and works in us to the Father’s glory. And what makes that miracle so important is John 13:35, that “All men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” That’s the miracle that has the most impact on people. And it’s people worldwide too (“all men”), meaning it’s even “greater” in its scope (14:12) than the miracles Jesus did.

To pray for that, then, guarantees an answer, because that’s how we now bring glory to the Father.

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Why did Jesus want us praying in his name?

Actually, it’s the Father who wants us praying in Jesus’ name, because, John 3:35, “The Father loves the Son, and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…”

When praying to the Father, therefore, we see through his eyes. And his eyes are focused on his Son. In the Father’s eyes everything comes down to his Son. According to that verse there is nothing in the lives of us humans that doesn’t come from his Son, including our eternal life. The most important fact of life the Father would like us humans to understand, therefore, is his love for his Son. That’s the starting point.

That’s where our race through life for us humans begins. As we kneel at the starting blocks what we see looking down the track are the words of Jesus in John 16:27 when he said, “the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

Jesus knew how important it was that we grasp who he is to the Father, that he came as the Father’s very own special emissary to this planet to fulfill every need and hope we humans have. It was him and him alone that the Father chose for that job – the big question then being, “Do we believe it?” And that to Jesus is the most important question, because if we acknowledge and recognize that the Father sent him to be the source and reason for everything in our lives, the Father loves us for it.

The Father loves us because we love his Son. He also loves us for the reason we love his Son, which is our belief that he “came from God.” To believe that Jesus came from God is simply acknowledging that Jesus, and that name alone, is both the source and reason for everything in our lives. And once we grasp that the Father loves us to pieces for it.

And Jesus understood that, which is why he got the point across again in John 14:21 that “He who loves me will be loved by my Father.” Acknowledge Jesus as the source and reason for everything in our lives, it automatically means that the Father loves us, and because the Father loves us it means he answers our requests, just like he answered Jesus’ requests when Jesus acknowledged him (the Father) as the source and reason for everything in his life.

Jesus boils all this down for us by saying, “just pray in my name,” because he knows what his name means to the Father, and when it means the same to us, the Father loves us too.

What’s the point of praying? Nothing is guaranteed

Nothing is guaranteed when we pray, eh? But that’s not what Jesus said.

He said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name,” John 14:13, and in verse 14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

And if that isn’t guarantee enough, Jesus said it again in John 15:7, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you,” and again in verse 16, “the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” 

And if that still isn’t guarantee enough, he said it yet again in John 16:23, “my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,” and in verse 24, “Ask and you shall receive.”

What more could Jesus say to hammer home that our requests in prayer come with a guaranteed answer? Which sounds great – but – we live in a world where warranties always have conditions attached. The warranty on a new fridge, for instance, only applies if we use the fridge for what it was made for, and any hint of misuse or improper care cancels the warranty entirely. So is that how it is with prayer too, that conditions apply as well?

Yes, but the conditions make total sense, like John 15:7 that says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, etc.” So, yes, there’s an “if,” a condition attached, but it makes the same obvious sense as not using a new fridge as a boat. Obviously we won’t ask for anything that doesn’t tie in with Jesus’ teachings, right? And obviously we’d only ask for something we know would please him.

And exactly the same conditions applied to Jesus in his prayers too. “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me,” John 5:30, and everything he prayed for was to bring “glory to the Father,” John 14:13 and 15:8, by Jesus always saying and doing only what the Father wanted said and done, John 5:19 and 7:16. In other words, Jesus stuck like glue to his Father’s teachings to please his Father because he loved him, just like we stick like glue to Jesus’ teachings to please him because we love him too. And with Jesus as our example, we know that’s what gets prayers answered. There are conditions, yes, but they are just as obvious in their reasons as the conditions attached to the use of a new fridge.

And all Jesus needs from us after that is John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth (it’s guaranteed, in other words) that anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” Trust him, and that’s that, an answer to our request is guaranteed.

Did Adam need to pray?

The question of whether Adam needed to pray, or not, came from studying Genesis chapter 2 and realizing he actually had God instructing him personally. In verse 15 God himself “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden,” and in verse 16 God personally “commanded the man” not to eat off a certain tree, and in verse 19 God actually “brought” animals and birds to Adam to name. Adam had God right there with him doing all these things. I’m assuming, then, that this was the kind of relationship God wanted with humans. It was never meant to be God “up there” and us “down here,” or the only contact being possible by prayer. It was meant to be face-to-face, and instructions given by God directly and in person.

The man didn’t need to pray for wisdom or guidance, therefore, because he could go to God in person and talk things over right there with him in the Garden of Eden. And God had chosen this man for just that purpose, to work closely with him, so that the man would know exactly how God wanted his creation to be ruled. And since God had also made the man in his own image, it made communication between them easy.

The woman then made the unfortunate mistake of not consulting with the man God had chosen when the serpent turned up. It was unfortunate because God had made it clear up to this point that he’d chosen the man to work with first of all, and then the woman later on as Adam’s perfect other half and helper, so it was certainly not God’s purpose for the woman to act independently of the man, just as the man shouldn’t work independently of God.

The unfortunate result was the loss of the free and open relationship God had begun with Adam. We see that in Genesis 3:8 when Adam and Eve both hid from God when they heard him walking in the garden. So even at this point God was still willing to be with them and talk to them personally, but they didn’t want that anymore. They preferred God to be distant, not up close and personal.

You could say, then, that it was Adam and Eve that stuck us with this distant relationship with God, where contact is now limited to prayer. And even Jesus in human form was stuck with prayer being the only way he could contact God too. It’s like texting instead of talking today, but thanks to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-26 that free and easy, one-on-one and face-to-face relationship with God that Adam had will be fully restored.

No prayer goes unanswered

We take it for granted that God listens to us when we pray, right? Of course he listens. But John takes us one step further, because in 1 John 5:15 do we take it for granted just as much that “whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him”? Or as other Bible translations phrase it, “what we asked for is as good as ours,” or “is already ours.”

John is saying that God has set things up so that whatever we ask for he’ll answer us every time. God’s even put himself on the spot where he HAS to answer too, because it was he who gave us the Spirit and the Spirit is now stirring us to pray to him, so how can God resist himself?!

And what if the Spirit is stirring us to pray about things that God just loves hearing his children pray about, like helping a friend (or an enemy) in need? Thanks to the Spirit we’re constantly thinking of others and what’s best for them. The Spirit has created that love in us, love which then stirs us to pray for others, asking God to do for them what we cannot do but deeply wish we could. But that was exactly what God sent the Spirit to create in us, so that when we pray we’re asking in love for the right and good things for others.

And that puts God on the spot, because it was he who gave us that love in the first place, and now he’s faced with us praying in love, love that HE created, which he knew would make us pray to him for help. Is he now going to stop there and not complete the circle? We’re praying, and we’re praying with the mind of the Spirit, so for God not to answer now would be going against what he himself put in place. It’s like a Dad telling his child, “If you have anything you need, son, just ask,” so that’s what the child does, he asks, but all he gets back from Dad is, “Well done, son, you asked” – and he leaves it at that!

What Dad has got on his hands now is one frustrated son, because what’s the point of asking Dad for anything if Dad doesn’t answer? And God faces the same frustration from us too if he doesn’t answer us. So he assures us that not only does he hear every word we pray, he ALSO goes to work on it to make it happen. It may take time, but never will God frustrate HIS children with no answer at all.

I need comfort too when others are suffering

It’s hard taking on board the suffering of others. It knocks my day to pieces when bad news comes through about a fellow Christian. It’s depressing. It’s depressing not knowing what to pray about too, because I have no idea if God intends to heal the person’s illness, or stop the person from dying, or if he’ll ease the desperate situation the person is in. I can’t read God’s mind, so I can’t promise the person a good outcome either. What do I say at his bedside, or at church? I feel utterly helpless.

So that’s two of us now suffering. The sick or dying person is suffering and I am as well, and I can’t just blank it out of my head and carry on my day unperturbed, because as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:26 we can’t help suffering when a fellow Christian suffers. When one part of your body is in pain the whole body feels it. In the church that’s the way it is.

But Paul also made the rather startling statement in 2 Corinthians 1:6 that his suffering brought “comfort and salvation” to others. Oh, so in the church that’s the way it is too, is it? But how? How can suffering cause comfort? And Paul goes one step further too, when he says his suffering brought “salvation,” meaning it actually spared people from despairing.

Paul does not back off the fact in verse 5 that Christ allows us to suffer, but he adds a bit on the end of the verse, “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” With Christ, suffering never travels alone. It is always accompanied by comfort. But not just comfort for the one suffering; it’s comfort for the ones watching and hearing about the person suffering too. That’s why Paul could say in verse 7, “our hope in you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” And I appreciate that, because I need comfort too when others are suffering.

Here’s how it works, says Paul: He explains how terribly he suffered in Asia, to the point that he and his coworkers “despaired even of life,” verse 8, but their hope was kept alive “as you help us by your prayers,” verse 10-11. And that’s where comfort comes from for those watching others suffer. It comes from knowing our prayers keep the suffering person’s hope in God alive. Jesus literally transforms our prayers into hope. And how comforting that is, that no matter how badly a person is suffering, our prayers guarantee God’s “gracious favour” on him, verse 11.

Does God also answer before we pray?

In 1 John 5:14-15 John tells us we can be absolutely assured “that if we ask anything according to God’s will, he hears. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Assuming, then, that what we’re asking for is according to his will, like the ability to love one another in chapter 2:23, we know he’s heard us and we know he’s answered.

Ah, but when did he hear us, and when did he answer? Did he wait for us to pray and then answer? Or did he know we’d be praying that prayer, and rather than wait until we asked it he already answered it? I mean, if he knows us that well, and he knows what the Holy Spirit has put into our hearts (Romans 8:27), why wait until we finally form the words that express what’s already in our heart?

This was stirred by an intriguing statement by C.S. Lewis that “We can (in our prayer) at noon become part causes of an event occurring at ten a.m.” In other words, we may be praying at noon for some event to happen that God already answered and made happen two hours earlier, because he knew at 10 a.m. that we’d be praying about it two hours later. God already answered, therefore, two hours before we asked.

Does that mean, then, that God has already decided the outcome before we pray? In which case, why bother praying if God’s already decided? But that’s not the point Lewis is making. Here’s what he’s saying in more detail: “When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that the event is already decided one way or the other. (And) the event certainly has been decided. But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering.”

He’s saying my prayers may well be the cause of events that happened before I prayed. In other words, my prayers after the event may have been part cause of the event happening earlier, because God knew I’d be praying about it. God still decides the outcome, but he decided the outcome based on a prayer he knew I’d be making later.

Who knows what events God has already made happen based on a prayer I’m making now? But if it’s according to his will he hears. Or better put, he already heard it – and answered it – before I thought to ask.