16 ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’ 17Then some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying to us, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”; and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ 18They said, ‘What does he mean by this “a little while”? We do not know what he is talking about.’ 19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”? 20Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23On that day you will ask nothing of me.* Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.* 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
Jesus tells the disciples that he will be leaving them, but they do not understand what he is talking about; they are confused. He is, of course, talking about his death and resurrection, but they do not wish to admit that he will die, and thus cannot understand that his death will be followed by resurrection. They ask one another what he means. And, of course, Jesus knows what they are talking about, and he asks them if that is what they are asking. And he tells them again, in a different way. They will grieve, but their grief will become joy, just as a mother has pain when her child is born but rejoices after the birth. Their hearts will rejoice. And after the resurrection their prayers offered in Jesus name will be answered, and they will rejoice.
Does this mean that we get anything we want by attaching Jesus’ name to our prayer? I have heard people quote this scripture as if it meant just that. But what is Jesus saying? He is saying that after his death and resurrection the disciples will share fully in the same relationship he has with the Father through him, so that when they pray to the Father, they can speak directly to him, and he will respond to their prayers. This is true for us as well – adding Jesus’ name to a prayer is not a magic formula for getting what we think we want (which is often not good for us anyway, like a child wanting candy before dinner), but praying in Jesus’ name is a reminder to us of the relationship he established for us with the Father. And let us not forget that he died on a cross to purchase that relationship for us. We come to a new relationship with the Father through his sacrifice, in his name. And the Spirit helps us to share in that relationship. The one thing that the Father always gives in response to prayer in Jesus’ name is the presence of the Spirit with us. Ask for the presence of the Spirit, and you will receive him.