Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him,but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
I want to use this particular passage as our foundation to do a six-week study on the subject of prayer. This will not be an exhaustive study. I just want to touch on a few general ideas about prayer. And my purpose is not theoretical but practical. In other words, I want this study on prayer to motivate us to pray.
Let begin with a summary definition of what prayer is again from our WSC. (WLC 178, WCF 21.4-6, Jn.14:12-19, Jas.1:6, Mt.21:22, Jn.20:27, Mk.9:23-24, Jn.15:5-7)
WSC 98 What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God,(1) for things agreeable to his will,(2) in the name of Christ,(3) with confession of our sins,(4) and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.(5) (1) Ps. 62:8 (2) 1 John 5:14 (3) John 16:23 (4) Ps. 32:5,6; Dan. 9:4 (5) Phil. 4:6
As we go along, when I speak of prayer, I always mean acceptable prayer, prayer to the true and only God, and this means Christian prayer or prayer by sinners (now become saints) reconciled to God in Christ. More on this as we go along. But just know, all other forms of prayer to other gods and such are not prayers acceptable to the Lord of heaven and earth. (Mt.11:25-30, Jn.14:6, I Tim.2:5)
Many of you that have taught a subject know that quite often the teacher in preparing to teach learns a great deal themselves about their subject matter.
My platform passage has been for me, historically, something of a challenge. I mean, Christ’s words have perplexed me a bit. It appears as if Jesus tells us, whatever we ask in His name, Christ will grant it (without limitation). And so, I have wondered why do we often not receive what we pray for in Christ’s name?
I will give us one potential answer or clarification from a Scottish minister named John Brown of Wamphray. (1610-1679) This fellow is NOT John Brown of Harper’s Ferry raid! Among other bad things, this fellow was a Unitarian minister I believe. Denying the Trinity is a sin.
John Brown of Wamphray says, “the words have no remarkable difficulty in them. The words have this sense, that whatever they would desire to be done by them for the confirmation of the truth which they were to preach and hold forth and for the confirmation of their commission and authority to preach that doctrine, that they had no more to do, but to send up a plea to the Father in the name of Christ, and it would be granted, yea Christ Himself, when exalted, would do it by His power and Spirit”. (John Brown, Godly Prayer and Its Answers, p.2)
Very interesting. He obviously is taking the instruction on prayer to be directly tied to the context of these apostles of Jesus and their ministry. The idea is, ministers of Christ can ask anything of God to fulfill the great commission, or something along this line. (Mt.28:18-20)
Perhaps we can unpack this a bit in future studies. A partial answer to my quandary is found in James 4:1-10 and I John 5:10-15 – praying for right things with a right spirit.
But I want us to see something more basic and generally applicable to all Believers here.
V.13. Whatever you ask in My name.
Christ is speaking to His disciples, those men that believe in Him as the Savior and they in turn follow Him as their Lord. Read Heb.11:1-6.
Right away Jesus presupposes His disciples WILL pray. This is like what we see in Christ’s instructions with the Lord’s Prayer.
Matthew 6:6. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
While we will look at the truth of prayer as both duty and privilege, the first thing we see here is that prayer is a holy necessity. I mean “necessity” that true Christians must pray and they will pray because God the Holy Spirit has made us alive in Christ, alive to God.
Ezekiel 36:25. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (John 3:1-8, Acts 13:48, Acts 16:14, WLC 65-66)
This is initiated in the effectual call of God to us. God the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith in Jesus. (Eph.2:1-9) The new nature must speak toward God who gave it. (2 Cor.5:14-21) One man said, prayer is the breath of the new creature (in Christ). (Richard Baxter)
(WLC 67, WSC 31)
See how Jesus said to these men, as you have believed in Me. You believe in God. Now believe also in Me.
John 14:1. Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
John 14:11. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
The English Puritan Richard Hooker said, prayer is the first thing wherewith a righteous life begins, and the last thing wherewith it ends.
When we are born again. Mark 10:47. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When we go home. Acts 7:59. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!
St. Augustine puts it another way, He that loves little, prays little.
And obviously, Augustine is using the words that Christ used to the Pharisee that did not kiss Christ or wash His feet, whereas the sinful woman did both. Jesus said to him, Simon, which man loves more, the man forgiven much or forgiven little. Answer: the man forgiven much loves much. (Lk.7:36-59)
In context, the loving little means NO love to God in Christ, no faith.
Prayer acceptable to God or prayer received by God is evidence of saving faith in Christ.
The obvious question then is, do you pray? Do you pray to God the Father through God the Son Jesus Christ? Do you believe in Christ as your Sin-Bearer Savior? Do you obey Him as your Lord? (Lk. 6:44-49, 2 Cor.13:5)
We pray to God in Christ, because we have been united to Christ, and likewise then to the Father and to the Spirit. Prayer evidences a living union and ongoing communion with the Triune God. Prayer means that we are born again, that we are objects of God’s saving grace.
Also, we learn that prayer is given to us by God so that we would be encouraged by God. To put it simply, prayer is meant to comfort and encourage us – in God, in Christ. Speaking with God is our comfort.
I say this, because of the context of Christ’s instruction on prayer.
In the immediate context Jesus has been busy telling His disciples that He is going away, that He is returning to the Father. And of course, we know the instrumental cause of Christ’s departure from this world to heaven was crucifixion. The efficient cause of Christ’s departure was the justice and the mercy of God.
So the disciples are sad, frightened and confused. (Lk.24:21) You see Christ has said, I am going to be put to death. And He has also said, I go to the Father.
Matthew 8:31. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Christ has been teaching His disciples that as their Messiah He has two natures in one person. The Human Messiah will die. But the human Messiah is also fully God. And so, while the disciples for a time will no longer see Christ after the flesh (2 Cor.5:16). Yet they can still commune with Him through prayer – because He is fully God. Christ is our sympathetic high priest. (WLC 38-40, Heb.2 and 4)
His many miracles proved this to the disciples. (Jn.20:30-31) And then preeminently, His resurrection will prove that the Lamb Slain is now the Lamb Raised and Reigning.
Romans 1: 1. Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
The risen, ascended, and reigning Christ said this to the apostle John…
Revelation 1:17. Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Just to emphasize, prayer to God in Christ is God’s means for us to receive God’s comfort to us. By prayer our communion with Christ is maintained and strengthened and refined. God then is our comfort. One of the ways we are aware of God and interact with God is by prayer.
Psalm 62: 7. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
One of the reasons why we have so little comfort, is we pray so infrequently and so dully.
(James 4:1-8, Isa.29:13, Mal.1:6-13)
In relation to the idea of prayer as expression of true spiritual communion with God, we speak to God in our prayers, and in this context, He speaks back to us in His answers to our prayers. And we know also, the God speaks to us via His Spirit wrought word.
But I do want us to acknowledge this living “dialogue” in our prayers. We are active in speaking to and with God. And He is active in hearing and answering our prayers.
This in turn feeds our faith in Him. King Solomon speaking in reference to the ministry of the Temple says to God…
I Kings 8:30. Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive.
This brings me to praying in “Jesus’ Name” in connection with what He says here, HE will do it.
John 14:13. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. V.14. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
John 15:16. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another.
John 16:22. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. 23 “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. 25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.
Acts 3:4. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene– walk!” 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
Certainly, praying in Jesus’ name means that we are going to God through Christ as our Mediator.
I Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
But this also means that Christ inhabits the prayers of His people. He answers with His power. (Acts 4:24-30, Ezek.36:37)
By this we learn that Christ is co-equal with the Father. Just like the Father, Christ is to be prayed to, and Christ can hear all prayers and answers all prayers. He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent and loving and merciful and good!
By this Christ is encouraging us TO pray. To ask, seek, and knock.
Some practical lessons:
Just because we cannot see Christ or hear Him with our fleshly eyes and ears does not means we cannot speak with Him.
We must pray in faith, pray believing in Christ. Pray believing that God in Christ hears you and that He can and He will answer you. Pray against unbelief in prayer. Repent of it. Ask God for more faith.
Mark 11:24. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
Hebrews 11:6. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
We ought to remember, that our prayer is to a living Christ AND a glorified Christ. And an interceding Christ.
So while we are praying to and through Him, He is also praying for us!
Hebrews 7:25. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; (Heb.8:1)
1. What is prayer? Is prayer an expression of communion? (WLC 178, WCF 21.4-6, Jn.14:12-19, Jas.1:6, Mt.21:22, Jn.20:27, Mk.9:23-24, Jn.15:5-7, WSC 98).
2. What distinguishes prayer that God accepts versus prayer He rejects? What does it mean to ‘pray in Jesus’ name’? (Jn.14:12-19, Mt.11:25-30, Jn.14:6, I Tim.2:5)
3. Does John 14:12-19 teach us that God will give us absolutely anything that we ask in prayer? Use Scripture in your answer. Hint. Could we ask God for something sinful and He give it to us? What are the limits of what we are to ask? (Jas.4:1-10, I Jn.5:10-15)
4. How does our prayer in the name of Christ manifest we have true and saving faith in Christ? Describe the difference between a nominal Christian versus a vital Christian as regards to prayer. (Heb.11:1-6, Mt.6:1-18, 2 Tim.3:1-17, Eph.2:1-9, 2 Cor.5:14-21, Mt.7:13-29, Lk.6:46, Jn.14:15-24)
5. What are the two natures of Christ? How do the properties of each nature comfort us in our prayers? (Mt.8:31, 2 Cor.5:16, John 1:1-18, Jn.20:30-31, Rom.1:1-4, Rev.1:17, Heb.2:9-18, Heb.4:9-16, WCF 8.2-4, WLC 38-40)
6. Why as a lover of Christ are you encouraged and comforted in your prayers? Why do you believe that God hears and answers your prayers? (Acts 4:24-30, Ezek.36:37, Mt.11:24, Heb.11:6-7, Heb.7:25-26, Rom.8:26)