By not taking my own advice, for years I’ve missed the meaning of Jesus’ words in the first verse of this passage.
“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. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12–14)
My advice? Meaning is always determined by context. Verse 12 is a puzzle, but the next two verses put the pieces together. Chambers says it well: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.”
I tend to think of prayer only as taking my burdens to the Lord that He might do something about them. That is, He is doing the work and all I am doing is talking.
However, I’m involved in a Bible study entitled, “Hearing God.” From it, I now recognize that sometimes (and this is a great mystery) God is using my prayers to speak His will. This makes me somewhat of a partner in the great things that He is doing.
For example, when I pray for the salvation of a soul, even a person that I don’t know personally, and that soul is saved, my prayer is part of the “greater work” that brought that person into the kingdom. Actually, Christ is doing all the work, yet graciously partners me in it and even says it is my work!
Chambers says that when God’s people labor at prayer, results happen all the time from God’s standpoint. We cannot see all that He is doing. We will be astonished “when the veil is lifted, the souls that have been reaped” simply because we are listening to God when we pray and saying aloud the thoughts that He puts in our minds.
Prayer is not preparation for the day’s work, the Lord’s work, or something like rubbing a lamp so the genie will grant my wishes. Prayer is work, even a battle. It is seeking God’s will so the forces of darkness might be pushed back and that His light will shine in those dark places. Prayer is also an intimacy. It is seeking the face of God that I might know Him as deeply as possible.
When I talk, or when I write, I’m not listening — except in the pauses, but it is in the pauses that God equips me that I might do ‘greater works than these.’
I need to pause more often!