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.(John 14:12)
The “greater works” (John 14:12) are an ingathering of souls- accomplished by the disciples at Pentecost with three thousand baptized and multitudes added to the Lord; and by Phillip at Samaria with the whole city filled with joy; and by the men of Cyprus and Cyrene, and later on, Barnabas at Antioch, with much people added to the Lord and by Paul in his travels; and by a countless host of Christ’s servants down to our day. All have done what the Master calls “greater works” than His own.
The reason is plain: “Because I am going to my Father.” When He entered the glory of the Father, all power in heaven and earth was given Him as our Redeemer. In a way more glorious than ever, the Father was to work through Him, and He was the to work through His disciples. Even as His own work on earth “in the days of the weakness through the flesh” had been in a power received from the Father in heaven, so His people, in their weakness, would do works like His- and greater works- in the same way, through a power received from heaven.
Christ connects these greater works with this promise: the Father will do whatever the believer asks (John 14:13-14). Prayer in the name of Jesus will be the expression of that dependence that waits on Him for His working.
Let every believer strive to learn the blessed lesson: I am to do the works I have seen Christ doing; I may even do greater works, as I yield myself to Christ exalted on the throne, in a power He had not on earth. I may count on Him working in me according to that power. My one need is the spirit of dependence and waiting, and prayer and faith, that Christ abiding in me will do the works, even whatsoever I ask.
The disciples took notice that when Jesus prayed, and He prayed often, that things happened. It was so obvious to them that they came to Jesus and asked Him to teach them to pray as He prayed and they and we were given the model prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer.
In the fifth chapter of James, we are told that the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James tells of such a man and a prayer as he tells of Elijah who prayed that it would not rain, and it didn’t for three years and he prayed again and it rained.
Now I know in our modern church that few believe that prayer has such power or that we as believers can pray such powerful prayers and yet Christ says plainly in John 14 that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. It is apparent that Christ was successful in asking and receiving from the Father. It is equally apparent that the disciples also discovered this secret for throughout the book of Acts we see God answering their prayers. Consider the lame man healed, Cornelius receiving the gospel, Paul receiving his sight after being struck blind, all the people with Paul on the ship being saved from the wreck and so on.
What is this secret of answered prayer? Is it because we attain some great level of spirituality and live such a holy life? Does God only answer the prayers of a select few? Are there periods in history in which God answers prayers and other times when He doesn’t? Is it because we don’t use the right words or phrases?
Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions. James gives us one of the answers when he teaches about prayer.
“You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires.”
James says that when we pray with wrong motives and selfish desires, our prayers will be hindered. Now let me say this, this does not mean that we cease to ask for our needs to be met for the Lord’s Prayer instructs us to pray that God will “give us our daily bread.” But our prayers ought to consist of more than just our personal needs and desires. Again the Lord’s Prayer speaks to this: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So if our prayers are to be effective, they must include the petition for the kingdom of God to come.
Jesus connected our work and answered prayer together in John 14.
12 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in My name [ as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified and celebrated in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it. 15 “If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.
Notice the order- anyone who believes in Me; he will do even greater things; and I will do whatever you ask in my name. It all begins with us surrendering our hearts and lives to Christ. Salvation has never been intended to be a one time religious experience whose purpose is solely to get us to heaven. Salvation is the invitation to Christ to sit on the throne of our hearts as Master and Lord and we in turn become His servant working and living at His bidding. We are not saved just to escape judgement but we are saved to become vessels that God can work through. Prior to salvation we were tools that the devil used for his purposes and after salvation we ought to be tools used solely by God for His glory.
In the seventeenth chapter of John, Jesus give us the second secret to answered prayer:
4 I have glorified You [down here] on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do. 8 For the words which You gave Me I have given them; and they received and accepted them and truly understood [with confident assurance] that I came from You [from Your presence], and they believed [without any doubt] that You sent Me. 18 Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world. 19 For their sake I sanctify Myself [to do Your will], so that they also may be sanctified [set apart, dedicated, made holy] in [Your] truth. 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them [overwhelming their heart], and I [may be] in them.”
Jesus says in this prayer, “ I have glorified You….by completing the work you gave me to do.” As we see Jesus praying, the theme of His prayers was to glorify God and to do the work He was sent to do. What is this work of Jesus and what are these greater works we have been called to do?
10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
This sums up the entire mission of Christ from the calling of the disciples to the ascension on the mount. His focus and purpose was to bring fallen humanity back into relationship with God. He in turn commissioned the church with the same work and because as He went back to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every believer so that they too might do this work of God.
The third piece of answered prayer is asking and we are instructed to ask and keep asking until we receive an answer. Often we grow weary of asking and stop short of pushing through to an answer. The old saints called it praying through. James describes this kind of prayer this way: “ the heartfelt and persistent prayer can accomplish much.”
Jesus basically tells us that those who believe in Him and those who do their assigned tasks in obedience to Him, when they ask anything in His name they receive. That’s a pretty powerful promise for Christ to make to us. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
So maybe today your prayer might need to be one of full surrender to Christ, yielding your plans and desires and direction to Him; asking the Holy Spirit to fill you and to direct you and to control you. Maybe it needs to be one of questioning God about what He wishes you to do in the harvest of seeking and saving the lost. Maybe it needs to be a confession of doubt and a request for the Lord “ to increase your faith. Or it could be that you just need to keep being persistent in praying. Whatever it is, realize that the reward of it all will be that you will experience the power of God working in your life and you will see His work and will being done as His kingdom comes first in our hearts and then through us to the world around us.
To the “greater works” until He comes!
Dr. John Thompson