The All-Prevailing Plea
And I will do whatever you ask in my name. . . . You may ask
me for anything in my name, and I will do it. . . . Then the
Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. . . . I tell
you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my
name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive. . . . In that day you will ask in my name.
John 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:23–24, 26
Until now the disciples had not asked in the name of Christ nor had He ever used the expression. The nearest approach to it was ‘‘met together in my name.’’ Here in His parting words, He repeats the words unceasingly in connection with those promises of unlimited meaning: ‘‘Whatever,’’ ‘‘Anything,’’ ‘‘Whatever you ask,’’ to teach them and us that His name is our only but all-sufficient plea. The power of prayer and the answer depend on the right use of the name.
What is a person’s name? It is that word or expression by which the person is called or known to us. When I mention or hear a name, it calls up before me the whole man—what I know of him and the impression he has made on me. The name of a king includes his honor, his power, and his kingdom. His name is the symbol of his power. And so each name of God embodies and represents some part of the glory of the unseen One. The name of Christ is the expression of all He has done and all He is and lives to do as our Mediator.
What does it mean to do something in someone’s name? It is to come with the power and authority of that one, as his representative and substitute. We know how such use of another’s name always presumes a common interest. No one would give another the free use of his name without first being assured that his honor and interest were as safe with that person as with himself.
And what does it mean when Jesus gives us power in His name, the free use of it, with the assurance that whatever we ask in it will be given to us? The ordinary comparison of one person giving another person, on some special occasion, the liberty to ask something in his name comes altogether short here. Jesus solemnly gives to all His disciples a general and unlimited power of the free use of His name at all times for all they desire. He could not do this if He did not know that He could trust us with His interests, that His honor would be safe in our hands. The free use of the name of another is always the token of great confidence and of close union. He who gives his name to another stands aside to let that person act for him. He who takes the name of another gives up his own as of no value. When I go in the name of another, I deny myself; I take not only his name but I also take who he is instead of myself and who I am.
Such a use of the name of a person may be in virtue of a legal union. A merchant leaving town gives his chief clerk power of attorney by which he can draw thousands of dollars in the merchant’s name. The clerk does this not for himself but only in the interests of the business. Because the merchant knows and trusts him as completely devoted to his interests and business, he dares to put his name and property at his command. When the Lord Jesus went to heaven, He left His work, the management of His kingdom on earth, in the hands of His servants. He could not do otherwise than to also give them His name to draw all the supplies they needed for the due conduct of His business. And they have the spiritual power to avail themselves of the name of Jesus only to the extent to which they yield themselves to live completely for the interests and the work of the Master. The use of a name always assumes the surrender of our interests to the one whom we represent.
Such use of a name may be because of a life union. In the case of the merchant and his clerk, the union is temporary. But we know how oneness of life on earth gives oneness of name. A child has his father’s name because he has his lifeblood. Often the child of a good father is honored or helped by others for the sake of the name he bears. But this would not last long if it were found that it was only a name and that the father’s character was in question. The name and the character or spirit must be in harmony. When such is the case, the child will have a double claim on his father’s friends; the character secures and increases the love and esteem rendered first for the name’s sake. So it is with Jesus and the believer: We are one. We have one life, one Spirit with Him, and for this reason we may come in His name. Our power in using that name, whether with God or men or demons, depends on the measure of our spiritual life union.
There is also the union of love that empowers the use of a name. When a bride becomes united to her bridegroom, she gives up her own name to be called by his, and with it she is given full right to use it. She makes purchases in his name and is not refused, even if she may have been raised in a poor home. This is because the bridegroom has chosen her for himself and counts on her to care for his interests. They are now one. The heavenly Bridegroom could do nothing less. Having loved us and made us one with himself, He could only give those who bear His name the right to come before the Father for all they need. No one who truly gives himself to live in the name of Jesus fails to receive in ever-increasing measure the spiritual capacity to ask and receive in that name whatever he desires. The bearing of the name of another supposes my having given up my own name and my own independent life; but it shows just as surely my possession of all there is behind the name I have taken.
Some illustrations show us how far short the common view falls, ones that picture a messenger sent to ask in the name of another, or a guilty one appealing to the name of a guardian. But Jesus himself is with the Father. It is not an absent one in whose name we come. Even when we pray to Jesus himself, it must be in His name. The name represents the person. To ask in the name is to ask in full union of interest and life and love with Him, as one who lives in and for Him. Let the name of Jesus have undivided supremacy in my heart and life and my faith will grow in assurance that what I ask in that name cannot be refused. The name and power to ask go together. When the name of Jesus has become the power that rules my life, then its power in prayer with God will be evident.
So we see that everything depends on our relationship to the name. The power it has on my life is the power it will have in my prayers. More than one expression in Scripture clarifies this. When it says, ‘‘Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’’ (Colossians 3:14), we see its counterpart in ‘‘Ask all.’’ To do all and to ask all in His name go together. When we read, ‘‘We shall walk in the name of our God,’’ we see how the power of the name must rule in the whole life. Only then will it have power in prayer. God looks not to the lips but to the life to see what the name means to us. When Scripture speaks of ‘‘men who have given their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus’’ or of one ‘‘ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus,’’ we see what our relationship to the name must be. When it is everything to me, it will obtain everything for me. If I let it have all I have, it will let me have all it has.
‘‘I will do whatever you ask in my name’’ (John 14:13). Jesus means this literally. Christians have tried to limit it. It looks too ‘‘free.’’ It is hardly safe to trust man so unconditionally. We do not understand that the words ‘‘in my name’’ are its own safeguard. It is a spiritual power that no one can use further than he has the capacity for by his living and acting in that name. As we bear that name before men, we have power to use it before God. Plead for God’s Holy Spirit to show you what the name means and what the right use of it is. Through the Spirit, that name that is above every name will reign supreme in your heart and life.
Followers of Jesus, let these lessons sink deeply into your hearts. The Master says, Pray in my name; whatever you ask will be given you. Heaven is opened to you; the treasures and powers of the spiritual world are placed at your disposal on behalf of those in need around you. So let us learn to pray in the name of Jesus. As He said to His disciples, He says also to us: ‘‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive’’ (John 16:24). Let each disciple of Jesus avail himself of the rights of his royal priesthood and use the power placed at his disposal for his family and his work. Let Christians wake up and hear the message: Your prayer can obtain what otherwise would be withheld, and it can accomplish what otherwise would remain undone. Use the name of Jesus to open the treasures of heaven for this perishing world. Learn as the servants of the King to use His name: ‘‘And I will do whatever you ask in my name.’’
The following excerpt is adapted from The Lord’s Prayer by A. Saphir (no publication data available).
What is meant by praying in Christ’s name? It cannot mean simply appearing before God with faith in the mediation of the Savior. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He supplied them with petitions. And afterward Jesus said to them, ‘‘Until now you have asked nothing in my name.’’ Until the Spirit came, the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer lay as it were dormant within them. When by the Holy Spirit Christ descended into their hearts, they desired the blessings that Christ as our High Priest obtains for us through His prayers to the Father. And such petitions are always answered. The Father is always willing to give what Christ asks. The Spirit of Christ always teaches and influences us to offer the petitions that Christ ratifies and presents to the Father. To pray in Christ’s name is therefore to be identified with Christ as our righteousness and to be identified with Him in our desires by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To pray in the Spirit, to pray according to the will of the Father, to pray in Christ’s name, are identical expressions. The Father himself loves us and is willing to hear us. Two intercessors: Christ the Advocate above and the Holy Spirit the Advocate within are the gifts of His love.
This view may appear at first less consoling than a more prevalent one, which refers prayer in Christ’s name chiefly to our trust in Christ’s merit. The defect of this opinion is that it does not combine the intercession of the Savior with the will of the Father, and the indwelling Spirit’s aid in prayer. Nor does it fully realize the mediation of Christ; for the mediation consists not merely in that for Christ’s sake the Father is able to regard me and my prayer, but also in that Christ himself presents my petitions as His petitions, desired by Him for me, even as all blessings are purchased for me by His precious blood.
In all prayer, the one essential condition is that we are able to offer it in the name of Jesus, as according to His desire for us, according to the Father’s will, and according to the Spirit’s teaching. Thus praying in Christ’s name is impossible without self-examination, without reflection, without self-denial; in short, without the aid of the Spirit.
Blessed Lord, it seems as if each lesson you give me has such fullness and depth of meaning that I think if I can only learn that one, I will truly know how to pray. Again I feel as if I need only one prayer: Lord, teach me what it is to pray in your name. Teach me to live and act, to walk and speak, to do all in the name of Jesus, that my prayer will be only in and for that blessed name.
Teach me, Lord, to hold fast the precious promise that whatever we ask for in your name, you will do and the Father will give. Though I do not yet fully understand, and still less have fully attained the wonderful union you mean when you say, ‘‘in my name,’’ I would still cling to the promise until it fills my heart with the undoubting assurance: Anything I ask in the name of Jesus.
Lord, let your Holy Spirit teach me this. You called Him ‘‘the Comforter, whom the Father will send in my name.’’ He knows what it is to be sent from heaven in your name, to reveal and to honor the power of that name in your servants, to use that name alone, and so to glorify you. Lord Jesus, let your Spirit dwell in me and fill me. I would and I do yield my whole being to His rule and leading. Your name and your Spirit are one; through Him your name will be the strength of my life and my prayer. Then I will be able for your name’s sake to forsake all, in your name to speak to men and to God, and to prove that this is indeed the name above every name.
Lord Jesus, teach me by your Holy Spirit to pray in your name. Amen.