In My Name
John’s Gospel was written to unfold the glories of Christ as Son of God, and because of its wondrous theme is the deepest and most precious of the four divine biographies in a volume where all is deep and precious. It is perhaps not saying too much if we add that the very holy of holies of this tabernacle of truth is the series of chapters from 13 to 17. In this section we see our blessed Lord, shut in with “His own”, instructing them as to their path, revealing secrets hitherto unknown, and praying for them in the most sacred intimacy. Significantly it is here that we get much valuable instruction about prayer, which is to be the resource of His tried and needy people during His absence.
He first speaks of prayer in connection with service. In John 14: 12–14 He says, “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works which I do shall he do also, and he shall do greater than these, because I go to the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Perhaps few of His sayings have been more perverted or misunderstood than these. Let us weigh them carefully as He evidently desired that we should. His solemn “Verily, verily,” is always a challenge to our hearts, and bids us pause and thoughtfully consider what follows.
His works have testified to the Father’s delight in Him, and declared His Messiahship. Now He is going away, and He empowers His disciples to continue the hallowed service which He had begun. Undoubtedly this involved, for a time at least, the power to work miracles, though it would be a great mistake to confine it to that. What were “the works” He did? Luke 7: 22 gives the answer. “Go, bring back word to John of what ye have seen and heard: that blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, poor are evangelised.” These were His works, and of these the last is by no means least. As for the other works we have only to read the Acts to see how truly they did follow His believing apostles, thus corroborating the message they carried to a godless world. They did not heal everybody, nor were there many occasions when the dead were raised, but they did “go every where preaching the Word”, (Acts 8: 4 AV). This was their ministry, and miracles were but the signs to attest their divine commission.
What however, are the “greater works” which He promised they should do? Surely not miracles, as commonly understood. If we think of these, who has ever performed greater works of power than Christ? Have any of His disciples called from the tomb a man four days dead, and whose body was already corrupting? Have any stilled the waves, and quieted the winds by a word? Have any multiplied food so as to feed great multitudes? The centuries answer, “No”. The “greater works” cannot therefore refer to such wonders as these. Surely, the opening chapter of Acts, and all the pages that follow, indicate what He meant. The conversion of thousands, the eventual overturning of the paganism of the Roman Empire by the advancing light of Christianity, the miraculous changes wrought, not only in a few individuals, but in whole communities, and even nations, by the power of the Gospel, the widespread dissemination of the Holy Scriptures carrying light and salvation to myriads––these are the greater works which have been accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. And linked with this promise is His assurance regarding prayer. It is only as His servants pray that they see the glory of the Lord and behold His power working. And so He says, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, this will I do … If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it”, (my emphasis).
Again in John 15: 16, He links the Father with Himself in thus answering, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and have set you that ye should go and [that] ye should bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should abide, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he may give you”. Here is complete furnishing for the servant’s path. All that is needed, all that faith can ask in His name, the Father and the Son engage to supply. Yet let there be no mistake here. To present a petition and then to add, “In the name of the Lord Jesus”, is not necessarily to pray in His name. If it were so, the promise would have failed more often that it has been fulfilled! For millions of such prayers have gone unheeded, as every thoughtful person knows. Indeed, haven’t you often so prayed only to be denied? Does this invalidate the promise? Surely not. It should lead one to inquire, “What is it to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus?” The answer is clearly this: To pray in His name is to ask by His authority; and to ask by His authority is to ask in accordance with His will as revealed in His Word.
Let me illustrate what I mean by citing three prayers that recently came to my attention. At a political convention some time ago, a chaplain offered the invocation. He prayed “that it may please Thee to give wisdom to select a man for this high office who will lead the party to victory”, and he closed with the words, “This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ Thy Son”. At a rival convention a very similar prayer was offered and closed in almost the same language. Now were either or both of these petitions “in the name of the Lord Jesus”? Certainly God could not answer both of them. Nor if He seemed to answer one, by permitting the chosen man of one party to become President, would that in itself be proof that the prayer of the chaplain had been in the name of the Lord Jesus.
About the time that my attention was called to these rival “prayers”, I attended a little gathering where a few simple–minded Christians had met together to wait on God. There I heard one and another fervently pray for the country, for those in high office and for those aspiring thereto, that all might be so ordered that blessing might come to man and God be glorified, and that His people might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness. This prayer was in accordance with the Word (1 Tim 2: 1–4), and therefore in the name––that is, by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Consider the clear, unequivocal declaration of 1 John 5: 14, 15: “And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him”. What words are these: “if we ask him anything”, and “whatsoever we ask”! Observe however, the all–important condition, “according to his will”. Now God has been pleased, in wonderful grace, to make known His will in a book. We rightly call the Scriptures by the sublime title our Lord Himself used, “the word of God” (John 10: 35). If I would know His will, I must study this book. Ignorance of the revealed Word accounts for many unanswered prayers. In regard to prayer, as in other matters, we err through not knowing the Scriptures. He who would pray rightly must be taught of the Spirit through the written Word. Learning thus the mind of God, prayer becomes, not the whimsical expression of our own poor minds, but it takes on a high and holy character: it is asking of God what He delights to give, indeed, what he has declared is His desire and purpose.
Here again we have to meet the natural objection of our unbelieving hearts––if it is God’s will to do a certain thing, why need I pray about it? Daniel may well teach us a lesson here. When he “understood by the books” (Dan. 9: 2 ) what God was about to do, he immediately set himself to pray in accordance with the prophetic message, and as he thus asked “according to His will”, God answered in a way marvellously confirming the faith of His servant.
It is therefore all important that we search the Scriptures in a self–judged and teachable spirit, in order that we enter into the current of the divine counsels. Then as we learn anything that is in accordance with the will of God, we can bear it up before Him in confidence.
“I prayed for years”, said an almost distracted woman to the writer on one occasion, “that God would sanctify me wholly by rooting out all inbred sin and making me absolutely pure within, and He has not heard my cry”. I could only reply, “But you had no title to pray for anything of the kind. God has expressed His mind too clearly for any subject soul to be mistaken. His will is, not that inbred sin should be rooted out of you, but that through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, sin should not reign in your mortal body”. To pray in the name of the Lord Jesus, I must be intelligent as to the mind of Christ and be in communion with Him as to God’s present and future plans. Well may we cry with earnest hearts “Teach me thy will”, and then “Lord teach us to pray”.
If we go through the Acts and Epistles and notice how the expressions, “in the name of the Lord”, “For His name’s sake”, and similar phrases are employed, we shall see this very clearly.
Baptism is in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Lord Jesus––that is, by His authority––therefore as owning subjection to Him. To the lame man Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazaraean rise up and walk”. The apostles disavowed any personal holiness or power, but what they did was by His authority––as representing Him (Acts 3: 1–16).
They prayed, having been let go “that signs and wonders take place through the name of thy holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4: 30). This was in exact accord with the promise we have been considering. Preaching was in His name. Forgiveness was offered only through His name. Demons were cast out in His name; but when unregenerate men attempted to use that Holy Name as a part of a magical formula, they retreated in confusion, overcome by the power of Satan (Acts 19: 13–16). In the Epistles we learn that valid discipline was “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 5: 4), and forgiveness was to be extended to the repentant offender “in [the] person of Christ”, that is, by the apostle acting in the name, or by the authority of the Lord (2 Cor. 2: 10). Of evangelists it is said “for for the name have they gone forth, taking nothing of those of the nations” (3 John 7), but cast entirely upon the Lord, and therefore to be cared for by His people. To these instances might be added many more, all proving clearly that “In my name” implies “By my authority”.
As the soul enters into this, what a solemn thing prayer becomes! It is no light matter to come before God bringing the petitions that the Holy Spirit lays upon the heart, in accordance with the revealed will of the Lord. To pray rightly we must walk in the Spirit. To pray rightly we must study to show ourselves approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth. To pray rightly we must be in communion with Him who has said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, this will I do”, (my emphasis). Lord, teach us to pray! As we become intelligent as to what it is to pray in His name we shall be saved from many a disappointment.
Take for instance, the question of bodily healing, which occupies so large a place in the thoughts of many today, when an ever–increasing emphasis seems to be laid upon what is purely physical. If the Lord had promised continued health of body to all obedient believers in this dispensation, or if His work on the cross was for sickness as well as for sin, then we would be authorised, not only to pray for, but claim healing on all occasions, providing there be self–judgement and confession of all known sin on our part. Facts however, are stubborn things, and facts prove conclusively that many of the godliest saints are familiar with affliction, pain and sickness.
Moreover, those who advocate prayer as the divine and only remedy for illness, invariably succumb at last to some disease from which they pray to be healed, only to be denied. What then is the conclusion? Either that they are not praying in faith, or that it is not always the will of God to heal the bodies of His people in the present age. The latter is clearly the testimony of Scripture. We are “... blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1: 3), but we are not promised all temporal or physical blessings. We still await the redemption of the body. Therefore the prayer for health must be supplemented by subjection to the Father’s will. We dare not demand healing “in the name” of the Lord because He has not authorised us thus to pray.
As one becomes better acquainted with the Word of God, and walks in the power of the Spirit, one will understand better what it means really to ask in the name that cannot be denied.