Greater Works and Greater Prayers

March 3, 2013 Speaker: John Hansen Series: The Gospel of John

Topic: Prayer Passage: John 14:12–14:14

Greater Works and Greater Prayers
John 14:12-14

Intro to Sermon: 3 Parts
1. John 14:12-14
2. Prayer

John 14:12-14
12 “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.
• Who? – Whoever believes.
• What? – Greater works than Jesus.
• Why? – Because Jesus is going to the Father.  Someone’s got to keep this thing going. And it needs to keep improving, growing and getting better after he leaves.
Question: What does Jesus mean by “greater works”?
Does greater works mean that we’ll do bigger, better miracles than Jesus?
• Some hold this view, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying here.
• A lot of charismatics cling to this verse and use it to try to say that we’re supposed to be doing miracles all the time.
• Disclaimer: I’m not a cessationist. I believe that God did miracles and that he still does miracles today. I don’t want to put God in any kind of box that would limit what he can do.
• However, I also want to make sure we understand what this passage really means.
• If greater works = bigger, better miracles… A couple problems with the idea that greater works = bigger and better miracles:
1) No one has ever done greater miracles than Jesus. – Jesus raised the dead, walked on water, went into towns and healed every sick person in town, resurrected from the dead. Some people may have done one or two of those, but I don’t think there’s been anyone who has ever done the miracles that Jesus did, much less more miracles or greater miracles than Jesus. And if that doesn’t disqualify us already, Jesus created the universe, he resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven. No one has ever done that! And I can’t imagine how you’d improve on that.
Transition: If that was the correct interpretation that greater works = greater miracles, you have to keep in mind that Jesus is saying that this is supposed to be true not just of a select few Christians, but this will be true of every Christian. It says “whoever believes” will do these greater works. If you’re not doing these greater works then you’re not a Christian. So if greater works meant bigger, better miracles than Jesus…
2) We would all be disqualified for salvation. – If greater works means bigger and better miracles, then there has never been a believer in the history of the world. We’re all doomed!
That’s a little scary. If these “greater works” are the mark of a true believer, then I want to know what these greater works are. John, you’ve told me what they’re not, but I really need to know what they are so I can see if I’m in the faith, so that I can see if I’m a true Christian.
So what does it mean to do “greater works”?
Start by asking, what were the works that Jesus was doing?
Jesus Great Works Our Greater Works
Jesus spread the good news of the kingdom to Jews in Israel. We spread the good news of the kingdom to Jews and Gentiles across the entire planet.
Veiled Gospel: Jesus’ gospel he taught was still veiled. He hadn’t gone to the cross, hadn’t died, hadn’t resurrected. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand the gospel like we do until after the cross. Full Revelation: The gospel message we proclaim [I say this gingerly] is greater than the gospel message Jesus proclaimed because we proclaim the full revelation.
Jesus did physical healings that ultimately left bodies to later decay and die. We proclaim a gospel message that does a healing of the soul, a healing that will last longer than the body, longer even than the creation…for the creation will be rolled up like a scroll and it will perish in the flame, but a lost soul won to Christ will never see the flame.

Stephen Saucier:
When John speaks specifically of miracles, he uses the the term 'semeion' (10:21 & 12:18), which, more often than not, we translate as 'signs'. In John 14:12 he uses the term 'erga' which we translate as 'works'. For john, 'erga' is a more general term than 'semeion', so when he says that 'whoever believes will... do greater works' he's not just referring to miracles or signs, but to teaching, preaching, evangelizing, loving, showing compassion and mercy, etc.

Geographically and numerically more people will come to know Christ' by His leaving and giving the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost more people came to know Christ in one day than had come to know Him during the whole of His earthly ministry.

I've always taken the 'greater work' to be preaching the gospel of the resurrected messiah, something that Jesus wasn't able to do in the same sense that we can, in that Christ had not yet risen in victory over the grave, so when we preach the gospel, we are able to teach that the decisive blow has been struck. That's only possible this side of Christ's resurrection. - Stephen Saucier
True believers are Kingdom Builders. They do whatever God calls them to do in an effort build his Kingdom and promote His gospel.
Definition of Greater Works: Efforts expended in the promotion of the gospel that flows out of gratitude for Christ’s work in our lives.
What does that look like? It looks like…
• Evangelism locally and abroad
• Praying for the gospel to go forth (for missions, lost souls, for people to get saved)
• Reminding ourselves of the gospel – continually evangelize ourselves and make sure His kingdom is flourishing in our own hearts
• Encouraging the saints with the gospel
• Financially supporting efforts to promote the gospel (missions, ministries, local church, helping the poor, etc.)
Acid Test of a True Believer: This is a person who is all about the gospel and the declaration of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Youth Pastor: I believe this was his life verse. I’d encourage you all to become fixated, even obsessed, with doing the greater works of promoting the kingdom of God and spreading the gospel.
TRANSITION: And as you’re doing these greater works, God has given you a mighty weapon that will help you carry out the task. The weapon of prayer. [VERSE 13]
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Whatever you ask
• Why? Why would Jesus give us a blank check like this? And why don’t I see Christians all over the place with new cars and mansions?
• “Whatever you ask” he says. He explains WHY he’s doing this [13]… So the Father may be glorified in the Son.
o We pray.  We (believers who are doing the greater works) pray.
o Jesus responds to prayer and does it.
o And God is glorified as His work through His Son is seen upon the earth.

• How? How do I pray that kind of prayer that gets Jesus working and God glorified?
• Jesus says simply in verse [14] “Ask in my name”.
o You may be thinking. I knew there was a catch.
o What does it mean to pray in Jesus name?
o It doesn’t mean: Tag “in Jesus name” at the end of your prayer, although I wouldn’t discourage you to say that if you understand what you’re saying.
o Herald proclaims a message in the name of the king.
o In order to spread that message, it truly must be the message from the heart of the king and according to the will of the king.
o How do you pray in Jesus name?
 You have to be with Jesus
 You have to hear from Him
 Pray according to His will
 For His purposes
• That’s why the Lord’s prayer says: Thy will be done!
o Dean mentioned: There’s times when we’re praying and we get a strong sense of praying in his name. As we’re praying, Karl speaks forth a prayer and our hearts leap within us. We get a strong sense that God is moving, that we are in his presence and we are praying according to His will.

Insights on Prayer from the scriptures

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer

Introduction: In 2 Chron. 20, the kingdom of Judah faces certain destruction and Jehoshaphat takes leads the people in a powerful prayer. As we look at this prayer, you’ll see that there are a lot of insights we can apply to our own prayer lives.

Map: Here’s the situation. Ammon, Moab and Edom have migrated around the south end of the Dead Sea and now they’re camped in Engedi, in preparation for their attack on Jerusalem. The 3 nations are just 17 hours away. It’s 3 on 1, and King Jehoshaphat knows that Judah doesn’t stand a chance. King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah with him are afraid. The king calls the people of Judah together and leads them in prayer. [VERSE 3]

3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
1. Prayer is seeking God
a. First and foremost prayer is seeking God. Not just seeking his hand, but his face.
b. Seeking to know the mind of God, the will of God.
c. Get God’s heart on the matter.
2. Begin by looking at God and declaring what you see.

• Essence of worship: We focus our attention on God and declare the greatness that we see.
• Jehoshaphat does just that…
5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, 6 and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.
• Jehoshaphat doesn’t focus on greatness of His problem, but the greatness of his God.
• I: Problem Balloon [and needle] – I’ve heard my dad counsel men, “Get your eyes of your problem because when your eyes are on your problems, your problems just get bigger.” The problem when our problems get bigger, then we can’t see our God…but as you turn your eyes off of your problems and onto your God, your problems seem to deflate as you seem them in the light of the greatness of your God.
• Jehoshaphat isn’t looking at the dust clouds on the horizon or at the people looking to him for guidance. He focuses his gaze on His God and declares what he sees: God in heaven, ruler, power, might, he says “none is able to withstand you”

3. Recall God’s goodness to you in the past.

This is what Jehoshaphat does in [VERSE 7]
7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?
Jehoshaphat recalls how God led Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land, giving them victory over their enemies.
In prayer, remind yourself of the gospel. Remind yourself that God has been so incredibly good to you in the past. That will give you assurance that he will get your through the present trials you are facing.
You might pray: “Lord, you have chosen me to be your child. You have adopted me into your family. You gave your son to die in my place, that I might be forgiven of my sin. Oh Lord, you have been incredibly good to me.”

WIIFM: It’s so easy to focus on our problems and forget the fact that we serve a powerful God who loves us. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the greatness of the trials we’re going through, and we feel like we’re in way over our head…and if you’re at all like me, you feel like your prayer life isn’t what you’d want it to be. [Don’t raise your hand…but] Do you feel weak in the area of prayer?

I have good news for you. You’re in good company! The apostle Paul too felt weak in prayer. He says in [ROMANS 8:26].

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

• The Holy Spirit is attracted to our weakness. – When we confess our weakness he loves to help.
• Paul doesn’t know how to pray: We don’t know what to pray for as we ought and that “we” includes him.
• You might be discouraged saying, “If the apostle Paul doesn’t know how to pray, how in the world will I learn how to pray.”
• I think Paul is actually teaching us how to pray in this statement.
• I think what Paul would say to us here is, “Begin praying by admitting you don’t know how to pray.”

4. Begin by admitting your weakness.

• Luke 11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
o This disciple wants to pray. So what does he do? Who does he go to?
o He speaks to Jesus and begins with “Lord Teach us to pray.” He like, Paul, admits his weakness that he doesn’t know how to pray.
o This is when Jesus shares the Lord’s prayer.
• In verse 12, Jehoshaphat says, in the context of prayer, one of the most shocking things ever said by a king in Israel.
12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
• We are powerless: That we includes him. He admits publicly that he doesn’t know what to do.
• To make this statement all the more shocking, look at verse 13 and see who he’s with when prays these words.
13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
• Jehoshaphat is standing before the nation of Judah including the women and children, and he admits, “I have no idea what to do. There’s nothing I can do. We are powerless.”
• Imagine, in a time of calamity, the President of the United States coming before the people and saying, “I don’t know what to do. We are powerless in the face of this dilemma.” Presidents don’t do that. They always have a plan. If their afraid and don’t know what to do, they never admit it. They act strong so the stock markets don’t take a dive and so the people will have confidence in them.
• Jehoshaphat is not trying to rally the people to have confidence in himself, but to have confidence in God. He says, “Our eyes are on you.” He makes it clear to the people that if they are looking to him for a solution, they will be very disappointed. Jehoshaphat, in an incredible display of character admits his own weakness and focuses the people’s attention on the strength of his God.
TRANSITION: One time to pray is when you’re faced with serious challenges like Jehoshaphat…but according the scriptures there are lots of different contexts to pray.

5. Pray at special times and pray all the time.
• 1 Thes. 5:17: Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.”
• Proverbs 3:5-6: Pray about everything.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
• Jesus Prayed in different contexts:
o At his baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
o In Isolated Places (Luke 5:15-16)
 16 But he would withdraw [away from the crowds] to desolate places and pray.
o On the Mountain All night long (Luke 6:12-13)
o For Children (Matthew 19:13)
o In the Garden with His disciples (Matthew 26:36)
o Early in the Morning Before Preaching (Mark 1:35)

TRANSITION: Our lives are to be a continual conversation with God. Sometimes we hide away from people to have more focused times. Other times we shoot up a hello, a praise, or a request at random times throughout the day. There are a lot of reasons why we pray.

6. Pray that you will not fall into sin.

• Matthew 26:41 – the night before the crucifixion - Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
• Lord’s Prayer: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
• One of the most important things to pray for is that you won’t fall into sin.
o But remember the old saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
o Don’t just ask forgiveness after you sin.
o Ask God to help you to stop sinning before you do.
• Lord, help me to guard my eyes, to guard my tongue, help me to keep my hands from doing evil today.

7. Pray because you want to.

• I want to - I love my God and I want to spend time with Him.
• Busy Lives: I know we have busy lives. Many of you work at a job or you work even harder taking care of little ones and sometimes it seems impossible even to grab just few minutes to pray. My wife has 3 little ones and Tiffany has 5, that’s a lot of little people to take care of and it gets tricky finding time for the Lord.
• Carlos Cuellar (He his wife Jen have 4 little ones): It’s not how long you pray, but how much you long to pray.
• Do you desire to pray? Do you want to be with Him?

8. Pray with a Plan.

How do we Pray?
• Pray the Psalms.
• Book: Pray using “The Valley of Vision”. This book of Puritan prayers is incredible. This is a book that should be checked out all the time with people begging us to get more copies.
• I love to Pray through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
9 Pray then like this:
Worship: “Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

His Will: 10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Petition: 11 Give us this day our daily bread,

Confession: 12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Sanctification: 13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

o If you haven’t already, Memorize the Lord’s prayer

• Pray with a plan: ACTS

oAdoration: Notice how the Lord’s prayer puts God’s glory first. Hallowed be your name. Start your prayer time by glorifying Him.

o Confession

o Thanksgiving
o Supplication: present your requests to God

• For supplication, pray in concentric circles: Self, Family, Friends, Church Family, Work, Community, State, Nation, World…

Pray in Concentric Circles

• Pray spontaneously talking to God about whatever is on your heart

James 5:16: The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)
• We are righteous not on our own merit but because of the cross of Jesus Christ. Our sins are forgiven and we are clothed with his righteousness.
• When we come to God in prayer on the merits of Jesus, or in Jesus’ name for Jesus’ purposes, our prayers are powerful!


1. Begin by looking at your God and declaring what you see.
2. Remind yourself of the gospel and the goodness of God when you pray.
3. Admit Your Weakness.
4. Declare His strength.
5. Enjoy spending time in prayer with your God.
6. Expect God to give direction as you pray.

Spurgeon: Believing supplications are forecasts of the future, He who prays in faith is like the seer of old, he sees that which is to be: his holy expectancy, like a telescope, brings distant objects near to him. He is bold to declare that he has the petition which he has asked of God, and he therefore begins to rejoice and to praise God, even before the blessing has actually arrived. So it is: prayer prompted by the Holy Spirit is the footfall of the divine decree.

• Footfall: the sound of approaching footsteps
• In prayer, you start to hear the approaching footsteps of God as he begins to work on your behalf.


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