Why does God answer some prayers but not other prayers? Why will God answer a prayer to save a cancer patient from death, but won’t have an amputee grow another limb? There are a lot of people who seem to know or at least think they know why God heals, but really, why would God heal one person, but not another? Jesus didn’t ask for qualifications when he healed anyone; he simply did what needed to be done. There was no hocus pocus, or do you have enough faith for the healing, or would it be God’s will for **you** to be healed. Jesus simply healed the person.
Today, we have all sorts of testimonials that seem to show that God is still in the healing business, but for anything to work it must be done according to Hoyle, that is, according to some rules that are set down by someone who perceives that these rules are in the Bible. But, really, when did Jesus heal by a set of rules? One can read the Bible from cover to cover, and the New Testament forward and backward, but no one is going to find a sure set of rules, whereby this one will get healed (or his prayer answered), but that one over there will not be healed (or get his prayer answered).
One might ask what Jesus meant by telling us that whatever we ask “in his name” will be answered. We have record of Jesus speaking these words only in John and then all in the discussion he had with the Apostles after his final meal with them. Each time it was used in the context of his going away and the Apostles being left behind. The first is in John 14:13-14. It has to do with carrying on the work of God after Jesus left—the work he did, they would do as well (John 14:12). In other words, ask anything in the context of glorifying God in the work he wants us to do, and he will do it through us or in his name.
The second time Jesus uses the phrase is in John 15:16. Similarly, it has to do with the disciples carrying on the work that Jesus had begun. Asking anything of the Father in Jesus name is in the context of the Apostles (and us) bearing fruit to God, and that this fruit should remain (John 15:16). Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with hocus pocus stuff, cancer patients or whether or not my favorite team will win on Sunday.
The final time we read record of Jesus using the phrase is in John 16:23-24, 26. He speaks this in the context of the disciples being rejected (John 16:1-2) even to the point where their lives would be in danger. During such a time the Apostles would need to know what they were doing was correct and not done of their own volition. The saying is spoken in the context of the Spirit within us leading us into all truth (John 16:13) and the Apostles (and us) having an answer for those who challenge them or threaten them. So that whatever the Apostles (or we) ask in Jesus name according to this context would be given.
A similar phrase “according to his will” is used by the Apostle, John, in his first epistle (1John 5:14), and his reasoning is based upon Jesus’ remarks in John 14, 15 & 16. John says that we have the assurance that if we ask anything according to God’s will or his overall plan, he hears us, and if he hears us, we have the petition we desired of him (1John 5:14-15). Does this mean it might be God’s will for me to win that lottery ticket, ace the exam or have that certain someone fall in love with me? No, sorry, but John’s words cannot be used for these reasons. John writes them in the context of praying for a brother who is caught in a fault, that whatsoever we pray – according to God’s will – for that one’s salvation or being saved out of the predicament he is in would be done according to our prayer (1John 5:16).
Folks like to take Jesus words out of their context to be used carte blanche as though Jesus had written us a blank check, except for the fact that it is endorsed so we could use it according to our will. This simply is not true, and the context of Jesus’ remarks should show the phrase cannot be honestly used for such a purpose. Nevertheless, this has not kept some people from using it as such and claiming it as a formula for answered prayer.