Christianity 201

January 24, 2015

Praying In Jesus’ Name

Praying In Jesus Name

Clark Bunch at the blog The Masters Table brought back this topic a few days ago. It may seem elementary to most of us that we pray “in the name of Jesus,” but in a church climate where traditions are often being reconstructed, this review of the basics is needful.

Why Pray In Jesus’ Name?

In the company I keep (Baptist churches in the Southeastern United States) it is a common feature of every pray to end with the words “in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.” Whether you invoke the name of Jesus at the beginning or the end of prayer, it’s probably something you do or have heard done even if you are not fully aware of the reasons behind it. We should address our prayers to the heavenly Father in the name of Jesus, but it is important to understand why and not just keep repeating words because we’re supposed to.

1) God hears and answers prayer. I like to thank God from time to time simply for listening to us when we pray. Jesus himself said that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and further that “no man comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6 God is infinitely holy (consider these passages in Isaiah and Revelation) and only what it is holy can come into his presence. Our access to God the Father is only through his Son Jesus. We receive the credit for his righteousness, he took the due penalty for our transgression. Jesus is the door, the bridge, the path or whatever analogy you want to use to describe him as the only way we have access to the Father.

2) Jesus is our Great High Priest. Unlike the Levitical priests in the Old Testament, Jesus is continually in the Holy Places. He sits at the Father’s right hand, and is our advocate with the Father. Hebrews 7:25 says he ever lives to make intercession. Look at the High Priestly prayer in John 17. We pray in Jesus’ name, and even when we are not praying he is praying for us!

3) Perhaps the most obvious reason we pray in Jesus’ name is because he told us to. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13 He repeats this instruction in chapters 15 and 16. Anything Jesus says three times…

Jesus stands at the intersection between the old and new covenants, between the Law and the Gospel, between Heaven and Earth, and most importantly between God and man. He is our contact point, our advocate with the Father, and in him our life is hidden. We have been washed in his blood and according to Paul have put on Christ. Praying in Jesus’ name gives us an audience in Heaven.

I really like the simplicity of this approach, but realizing some of you would want to add more, at the blog All About Prayer I located this more detailed listing of the supporting scriptures.

What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?

Praying in the name of Jesus is not just a magical incantation that is tacked on to the end of prayers. People end their prayers with “in the name of Jesus” without understanding all that it entails. The word “in” is a preposition of position and it carries with it a doctrinal truth that all believers need to know. The book of Ephesians could be called the “position book” and the word “in” brings our position into focus. This doctrinal truth is called our “ascension privilege” and it is our position in Jesus Christ. Therefore, our standing before God rests in Jesus Christ and praying in the name of Jesus is the way our prayers are heard.

In the name of Jesus, is an acknowledgment of the believer’s position in Jesus Christ and an understanding that our prayers are heard as we approach the throne of grace. It is in obedience to the command of Jesus, for we cannot pray in our own standing but we pray in His. “God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Praying in Jesus’ name means praying according to God’s will, “And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in Jesus’ name is praying for things that will honor and glorify Jesus.

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:13-14).

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony” (John 17:20).

“For ‘Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:13).

“We are writing to the church of God in Corinth, you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did all Christians everywhere–whoever calls upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and theirs” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

“And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

“And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

“Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).

“I am writing to you, my dear children, because your sins have been forgiven because of Jesus” (1 John 2:12).

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).


click the titles of the respective articles to read at source

January 25, 2014

The Public Speech and the Private Speech

When I was much younger, I was taught that on some issues, Christian leaders have a public position and a private position. I’ve seen this play out many times, but while I appreciate that sometimes you don’t want to get too deep into issues with people who aren’t matured enough spiritually to absorb all the nuances of those issues, there is a danger of hypocrisy if your public and private position can be conceived of as being opposites.

Anyway, I’m not sure how we got into all that, but today, I want to think about the words Jesus shared as part of his public ministry and the words shared strictly to his disciples. By this I mean The Twelve — as compared to the disciples in general which may have involved about 70 regulars, or the great multitude we only have quantified as 5,000 men who attended his gatherings elsewhere.

In the small group we were part of last fall, we looked at what is usually termed The Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. But Jesus seems to have other things reserved for the disciples in Matthew 10.  Anything that’s scripture here at C201 usually appears in green, but today we’ll revert to the more common custom of having the words of Jesus in red.

5…“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Some quick notes:

Verse 5/6 is not a universal prescription; inclusion in Jesus’ ministry will widen in the New Testament arc, just as it does in the Old Testament arc.

Verses 9 – 15 contain what is often called “The Person of Peace Principle.” You can read more about this in reference to church planting or in terms of starting any kind of ministry.

Verses 16 – 20 offer these disciples a promise that if they don’t know what to say God will give them words. (I often think of the phrase in Psalm 81, “Open your mouth and I will fill it;” though the context there is quite different!) What’s interesting here is that God promises the Holy Spirit will supply them the words, but at this point the Holy Spirit just rested on people. How much more the disciples would be able to speak with boldness when they were filled with the Spirit in Acts 2.

The remainder of the chapter begins what some call “the hard sayings of Jesus,” though being sent out without a change of clothes or money to buy food doesn’t sound like a cakewalk, either. I’ve heard stories about missions trips where pairs of people — often young people — are dropped off in a town in a foreign country with minimal money for a 24 hour period.  I’m not sure how I feel about this particular discipleship tactic, but two things strike me immediately. First, you would tend to look for that person of peace, and secondly you would tend to need the Holy Spirit’s help in a fresh way.

I’m sure some of Jesus’ disciples were equally nervous as they went out on their way.

Matthew Henry says, “This chapter is an ordination sermon, which our Lord Jesus preached, when he advanced his twelve disciples to the degree and dignity of apostles.” In succeeding chapters we hear these disciples report back successes, but also challenges they faced.


Note: A seemingly parallel section to today’s reading is found in Luke 10, but there it is directed to the seventy-two, not the twelve.

February 19, 2013

On Earth as it is in Heaven

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]  (NASB)

Nearly three years ago I barely scratched the surface of this phrase from The Lord’s Prayer (or more correctly, The Disciples Prayer)  in Matthew 6.   Today, in keeping with our motto — Digging a Little Deeper — I thought I would see what some commentaries have to say about this phrase, which is found in Matthew’s version of the prayer, but not Luke’s. Unfortunately, a few of them skipped over this particular clause entirely.

The International Bible Commentary points out that the phrase modifies all three of the previous petitions, the bringing about of God’s Kingdom, His will, and the hallowed-ness of His name.

The NIV Study Bible concurs with this, suggesting that the phrase might be repeated after each line:

  • May your name be holy on earth as it is in heaven
  • May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven
  • May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Evangelical Bible Commentary notes two things. First the phrase makes the petitions personal:

  • May your Kingdom come and your will be done by me, right now.

Second, it links the phrase to the familiar text in verse 33,

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

In other words

  • May your holiness and righteousness and your kingdom be the thing we seek (or long for) (or strive for) before anything else.

This would then link the line in the prayer to verse 33’s promise that

and all these things will be given unto you

(or ‘added unto you’ in the KJV, the things being the concerns we often are preoccupied in the ‘worry’ section in the Sermon on the Mount which precedes it.)

Matthew Henry enhances the text with these words:

“…that the earth will be made more like heaven by the observance of God’s will.”

And some of you know that in The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson takes this line from a prayer already known for its extreme concision — contrasted with those who pray long prayers thinking their “many words” will make their prayers more effective — and renders it even more concisely:

as above, so below

Scanning the Christian blogosphere, we see people taking this phrase as a springboard for everything from a glimpse of heaven, to a call to social action, to beginning from where we are and then moving out beyond, to the impossibility of doing anything without the Holy Spirit’s power.

The blog, Ragamuffin Ramblings quotes N. T. Wright:

We are to pray that God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.” The life of heaven — the life of the realm where God is already king — is to become the life of the world, transforming the present “earth” into the place of beauty and delight that God always intended. And those who follow Jesus are to begin to live by this rule here and now. That’s the point of the Sermon on the Mount, and the beatitudes in particular. They are a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future; because the future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up.


In some unrelated online research a few days ago, I came across this rendering — not necessarily recommended — of the prayer found in a used bookstore from The New Zealand Prayer Book:

“Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.

Amen”