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To Christian believers, Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate and therefore possessed of omnipotent power. According to the Bible, he backed up this claim by doing many miracles while on earth – casting out demons, healing the sick and the crippled, calming storms, walking on water, producing food, and raising the dead. It would seem to be pure hubris for a lay believer to ever aspire to match such miraculous feats, much less entertain the unthinkable idea of surpassing them. But in fact, that’s exactly what the Bible promises any true Christian will be able to do, as we see from the following little-known Bible verse.

This passage is John 14:12-14. The context is Jesus speaking to the apostle Philip:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

Greater works than these shall he do. According to Jesus himself, as recorded by the divinely inspired and inerrant text of the Bible, any true Christian believer will be able not only to reproduce the miracles of Jesus, but to do better miracles.

Just to make absolutely sure we understand this, the text has Jesus promise that he will grant any miracle whatsoever which a believer prays for in his name. In fact, he promises it twice. There are no loopholes or qualifications to this pledge, none of the convenient apologetic excuses used by modern believers – “but only if your faith is great enough”, “God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is no”, “God only does miracles in front of the faithful”, and so on. Jesus says plainly and clearly, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

Of course, these excuses have arisen because this promise is plainly false. Christians can not do miracles like those of Jesus, much less miracles which exceed those of Jesus. They cannot heal the paralyzed, they cannot still hurricanes, they cannot stroll across seas, they cannot raise the dead. Their prayers, like the prayers of all other believers of all other religions, are empty words and nothing more. However fervent they may be, however many times they invoke Jesus’ name, they produce no tangible effect greater than slightly stirring the air. The only power that a Christian or any other person has to affect the course of events in the world is what they can achieve through their own, non-supernatural effort.

This verse is just one of many in the Bible which promise, repeatedly and without qualification, that God will grant any prayer prayed by a faithful believer (see “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” for a more complete list). In the superstitious and credulous times when this book was written, perhaps that false promise was not such a great impediment. Its very extravagance may even have been a help. But in this somewhat more skeptical era, it seems likely that many believers would be shocked and upset if they knew their own text made promises it could not deliver. How many Christians might become disgruntled and realize they have been taken advantage of if they knew about this Bible verse?

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...