The Spirit and Prayer
Two things jump out at me in this passage:
1) Jesus needed to go back to heaven once His work was finished so that Spirit could come.
2) The strong encouragement of the power of prayer, which seems a little frustrating as I don’t get everything I ask for!
Jesus prophesies the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, again and tells us more of what the Holy Spirit does now that He has come. Notice I describe the Holy Spirit as “He”. He is not an it, some impersonal force. And Jesus describes him as a “he” too in v.8 “when he comes, he will convict the world…”. In this passage Jesus lets us know what the Holy Spirit will do in the world and some more on what He does in believers. Note the difference!
For the world, the Holy Spirit comes to “convict”, which is a strong word because it is a declaration of guilt. The Holy Spirit will reveal to the world that they are guilty of sin. When we share the gospel with people, we use words, but they need the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and their need of a Saviour, so that is one of the things He does. He also shows the world righteousness – because we can no longer look at Jesus on earth and see the perfect model of righteousness. He also convicts the world of the judgement to come. ‘Not yet Christians’ need a revelation of sin, righteousness and judgement to be open to repent and come to faith. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work as someone responds to the gospel.
For believers Jesus shows us that He will guide us into all the truth. The Holy Spirit helps us understand the Scriptures and gives us discernment of what is truth and what is error.
Lastly on the wonderful Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, who in turn glorifies the Father. There is a beautiful culture of honour within the Trinity that the Holy Spirit helps us to emulate.
While we await Jesus’ return, we have prayer to communicate with the Lord. “In that day” – v.23 we won’t need prayer anymore because we will be with Him. Hallelujah. Then, Jesus tells us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you”. In today’s passage, v.24 links answered prayer with joy being full.
This is almost a repeat of the reading yesterday where Jesus said in John 15:7-8 “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.” There, answered prayer is about glorifying the Father and bearing fruit.
So the connection between “ask whatever you want” and getting it, has to do with the “whatever” leading to one of three things…
- The Father being glorified – mission;
- Joy being full;
- Bearing fruit.
Some of our “whatever you want” prayers don’t lead to those things, so won’t get answered the way we want. It’s a classic example of taking a verse out of context and talking nonsense! Putting “whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” on a fluffy cat poster is going to lead to frustration.
“God make me more important than you” – No!
“God wipe all the black people/white people/Jews off the earth” – No!
“God make the tax man not notice my fraudulent return” – No!
John Piper put it like this “Prayer is a war-time walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom. It exists for advancing the mission not calling the butler to turn up the thermostat”. The Lord wants our joy to be full – pray for that. The Lord wants His mission to be advanced, so pray for power to be more like Him and for loved ones to come to Him.
The truth is most Christians don’t pray much – maybe at mealtimes, before a difficult meeting or just as we crawl into bed. We don’t set aside time to pray, make a note of our prayers, so we can see them answered, or join a prayer team to pray with others. If that is you, maybe that is why your faith is weak, your hope is feeble and your passion for Christ is small.
So in the light of what Jesus says about the Spirit and prayer – come to Him so that your joy may be full and you can see Him answer prayer!