In John 14:14 Jesus told the Apostles "And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Does this promise apply to anyone and everyone from that time forward or was it just for his Apostles?
John uses the 2nd person plural form of the verb αἰτέω (aiteō). The King James and other archaic versions correctly preserve the original Greek by using the pronoun "ye":
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
The last verse that explicitly states to whom Jesus was speaking is John 13:21-22:
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples [μαθηται] looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
Disciples and apostles are two different words in Greek ("Apostle" is ἀπόστολος - apostolos), but we generally equate the two in the Gospels. In the case of John 14:14 we usually assume that John is being consistent with Matthew (26:20), Mark (14:17), and Luke 22:14), who write that Jesus was dining with the twelve. We assume that John is referring to the same dinner in 13:2ff as Matthew, Mark and Luke.
So John is literally giving the teaching to the twelve Apostles.
It is interesting to note, I think, that Matthew and Mark also recount the same teaching, but in different contexts.
In Matthew's account, Jesus is also speaking to the disciples (21:20), but at a much earlier time - just after the fig tree withered (21:18ff). Mark recounts something similar, but interestingly Jesus seems to be alternating between speaking just to Peter and to some unnamed group:
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God ... I say unto you [Gr. singular], What things soever ye [Gr. plural] desire, when ye [pl.] pray, believe that ye [pl.] receive them, and ye [pl.] shall have them (11:20-21,24)
One could argue, of course, that the Greek (or Aramaic) expression signified by "Whatever you ask ..." could be interpreted as we might in English - "you" meaning "whoever".
The reason that Jesus seems to direct this teaching directly to the Apostles and not to humanity in general at this particular instance in the Gospels probably has less to do with any doctrine of Apostolic authority and more to do with the fact that there was a need to specially fortify the Apostles at the time. John Chrysostom, a 4th century Byzantine commentator (ca 349-407), writes:
For their sakes this was done, that He might train them to feel confidence, hear what He saith afterwards. But what saith He? “Ye also shall do greater things, if ye are willing to believe and to be confident in prayer.” Seest thou that all is done for their sake, so that they might not be afraid and tremble at plots against them? Wherefore He saith this a second time also, to make them cleave to prayer and faith. "For not this only shall ye do, but also shall remove mountains; and many more things shall ye do, being confident in faith and prayer.”1
The passage begins back at John 13:1 and there are seven questions asked and answered :
- 13:6 (Peter) Lord, doth thou wash my feet ?
- 13:25 (John) Lord, is it I ?
- 13:36 (Peter) Lord, whither goest thou ?
- 13:37 (Peter) Lord, why cannot I follow thee now ?
- 14:5 (Thomas) Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way ?
- 14:8 (Philip) Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
- 14:22 (Jude) Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us ?
Every question is addressed to 'Lord'.
At the introduction of the passage, it is not said who is present or who is not present. John 13:1.
At the introduction of the passage, it is said only that :
having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
Therefore, it must be the case that the promise in John 14:14 -'If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it' refers to his own, whom he loved, and who call him 'Lord'.
And therefore it must refer to all of them.
But there are many who call him 'Lord, Lord' and to whom he says, in that Great Day, 'I never knew you', Matthew 7:22. Only they who do the will of his Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 7:21.
He knows his own; and he loves them unto the end.
Jesus was talking to the apostles, but throughout this conversation over the Passover meal, he clarifies that he is speaking to those who believe in him, who know him, love him and keep his commands. So this promise can be seen to extend to anyone else who also does this. The potential is there for anyone, but not everyone is willing. And it's not as easy as it sounds.
I should point out that if a person asks for something that would bring worldly rewards, for instance, I don't think this qualifies. This kind of request would demonstrate that he/she does not obey the teachings of Jesus, nor follow his example. When he says 'in my name', he doesn't just mean saying the words 'in the name of Jesus' - he means in keeping with the example that Jesus himself has set. There are certain things many of us would ask for if we thought our every wish would be granted, that Jesus would never have asked for himself.