It has been taught recently that John 16: 23 proves that it is unintelligent to address the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and worship. Is this right?
John 16: 23 reads: “And in that day ye shall demand nothing of me: verily, verily, I say to you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give you”. Christ’s words here are interpreted to mean that he is forbidding all prayer and praise that might be addressed to Himself. Worship must only be addressed to the Father. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
First of all, notice that the Greek word here translated “demand”, means either “ask” or “enquire”, and so the interpretation of the verse must be contained within those meanings. To argue that this Scripture forbids all communication with the Son of God is to read into it what is not there. The verse refers only to “asking” or “enquiring”. It has no bearing on praise, worship, or simple communion with Christ.
So what does the verse mean? The Lord is really signifying the great change from recourse to Him as their Messiah on earth for every difficulty, to that access to His Father to which He would soon introduce them. Up till now they had been accustomed to go to the Lord with every problem, need, and question, and He had demanded of the Father for them, but once He had been into death, and the Spirit had come, then “in that day ye shall ask in my name; and I say not to you that I will demand of the Father for you, for the Father himself has affection for you”, (vs. 26, 27). They would be empowered to take their place as representatives of the Son, and so ask in His name. The Lord would soon be leaving them, but no matter, for, “whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give you,” (v23). Previous to the completion of the redemptive work it would have been presumptuous for the disciples to have drawn near to the Father as the Son did. Even the prayer given them then, the so–called Lord’s prayer, implied distance: “Our Father who art in the heavens”, (Matt. 6: 9). Consequent on His death and going on high, however, they would be able to go directly to the Father, in the full liberty of sonship. They would no longer need to ask the Lord in order to get something from the Father; “in that day ye shall demand nothing of me”. You can go straight to the Father Himself and ask in my name. He loves you because you have loved me.
Far from it being unintelligent for the Christian to speak directly, the first Corinthian epistle was addressed to “all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”, (1: 2). Later we read that the faithful believer is to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart”, (2 Tim. 2: 22). Indeed, the Christian begins his career by calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved, (Rom. 10: 13; Acts 2: 21). No one doubts that when Peter speaks of “invoking” the Father, (1 Pet. 1: 17), he means addressing Him, yet the same Greek word is here translated “call”!
We are told to hold the Apostle’s doctrine, (Acts 2: 42). Well what do they teach on this subject? Is it not significant that they, and all who were persevering in their doctrine, directly addressed the Lord Jesus? Stephen, for instance, cried “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”, (Acts 7: 59–60). Was he wrong? A little later we find Saul, on the Damascus road crying out “who art thou, Lord?”, (Acts 9: 5). The Scripture leaves no doubt that this was the Lord Jesus. Later on, (22: 10), we find that even after Saul knew that it was Christ, he nevertheless continues addressing Him: “What shall I do, Lord?” In Acts 9: 10–16 we find Ananias involved in an intimate conversation with the Lord. Lest there be any doubt that this Lord is the Lord Jesus, read verse 17: “the Lord has sent me, Jesus that appeared to thee in the way”. Indeed a careful examination of the occurrence of “Lord” in the NT, shows that unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the title belongs to Christ. Peter, next, refuses the great sheet by saying “In no wise, Lord; for I have never eaten anything common or unclean”, (10: 14). Paul, again, thrice besought the Lord to remove the thorn in the flesh, (2 Cor. 12: 8). The following verses, (9, 10), make it clear that he means the Lord Jesus. Finally, John, in the last prayer of the Bible, exclaims “come, Lord Jesus”, (Rev. 22: 20). Was this just said to the air? No of course not! It is a heartfelt communication to his longed–for Lord.
Look at the Lord”s supper. How is it possible to celebrate it without directly addressing the One of whom it speaks? He Himself said “This do in remembrance of me”, (1 Cor. 11: 24)—that is, the occasion is one in which the saints are to be peculiarly occupied with Christ. Yet how can that be if we cannot pray or even sing to Him? The fact is, the whole idea is an attempt by Satan to hinder the rightful worship of the Son of God, (see John 5: 23).