And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.Revelation 8:4Christ the Bearer of Prayer and Praise.
I. It was a thought very dear to our Master, especially just before He left this earth, to tell His people that they should pray in His name. Five times the direction recurs in those four chapters of St. John which enshrine such legacies of love. In glad obedience, then, to this kind mandate, our Church has been very careful to wind up all its prayers and praises,—for they are one; praise is prayer jubilant, and prayer, as St. Paul teaches us, stripped of thanksgiving, is no prayer at all,—all its prayers and praises with some form of words to express that name of Jesus, equivalent to "through Jesus Christ our Lord." And that final form of doxology and supplication is, indeed, the committal of the petition or the song to the Lord Jesus Christ, that He may be its Bearer to the throne of God. It is sending it up to mingle with the incense. Accordingly, out of all the prayers and collects which are in the Prayer-book, there are only nine which do not end through the name and intercession of Christ. And for those nine there are special reasons. Four are prayers addressed to the Second Person of the Trinity Himself, and therefore of course do not close with the usual termination. These are the prayer of St. Chrysostom, the collect for the third Sunday in Advent, the collect for the first Sunday in Lent, the collect for Trinity Sunday, in part, at least, the prayer before the consecration in the office for the Holy Communion, and the form of consecration of the elements, because that, not ending in prayer, has not the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at the close. The absence of the name of Christ in the collect for Trinity Sunday is to be accounted for by the same principle: that Christ is addressed in the collect. In three others,—the collect for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, the first of the three collects for Good Friday, and the collect for Ascension,—the whole prayer is so full in its tissue of the person, and the work, and the glory of Christ, that it is really tantamount to an address both directed to Christ, and presented through Christ. And in the only remaining instance of which I am aware,—the prayer pronounced by the bishop before confirming,—it partakes so much of the nature of a blessing that it is to be regarded rather as a benediction than as a supplication.
II. But it may have occurred to some to ask, Why do we not conclude the Lord's Prayer with the name of Christ? Does not the absence of His name mar its evangelical character? And if it be said, It was given before Christ's death and ascension, and therefore it would have been premature if our Lord had taught us to put His name at the end of it, then the suggestion would arise, Ought not the Church to add it? But I believe the right answer to the question is this: First, being a prayer given us by our Lord Himself, it necessarily so associates itself throughout with Him, and makes Him so present to the mind, that if His name be not there, His image is, and we cannot choose but pray it through Christ; and, secondly, as they are our Lord's own words, and therefore not human, they do not need the closing words, "through Christ," for many of the reasons for which other invocations need them, for they ascend to heaven in their own right, by their Divine original.
III. But now let us look more closely what it means when we say, at the end of our prayers, "through Jesus Christ." (1) First, it is a confession of our unworthiness and sinfulness in all our words and thoughts. We claim audience only through another. (2) Secondly, we recognise the great fact that there is no access to God but by Him who is "the Way." There was a barrier, a range of untraversable heights, masses upon masses of sin, between us and God. Christ came and bore away that mountain, and the road was open; He was the Bearer of sin first, that He might be the Bearer of prayer always. (3) But, thirdly, this was not all. The access made, Christ took His place at God's right hand, as High-priest of His people, to receive and present their sacrifices of prayer and praise. The Israelite brought the lamb, but Aaron offered it. So we lay down our heart's best feelings at Jesus's feet, and then Jesus gives them to the Father. (4) And, fourthly, in doing this, Christ makes our prayers what they were not in themselves: fit to enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. But for that, the very best prayer that ever went out of the heart of man would defile heaven; but now God perceives the incense: and just as He sees, not the sinner, but the righteousness of Christ, in which that sinner stands, so He sees, not so much the prayer as the incense which mingles with that prayer; and He is well pleased with the supplication for the incense' sake. Cain's sacrifice, without the lamb, did not go up; Abel's, with it, did. (5) But, fifthly, what we do in the name of another, it is the same as if that other did it. Pray in Christ's name, the prayer is as if Christ prayed it. As Christ represents me in heaven, so, in a sense, I am representing Christ upon earth. And this is the explanation of the greatness of the undertaking which God makes, that whatever we ask in the name of Jesus Christ we shall receive. For, in the name of Christ, I can only ask what I am sure Christ would have asked if He were here. And what am I sure that Christ would have asked if He were here? Only either what He did ask when He was upon earth, or what He has told me that it is in God's mind to give. Therefore when I pray I can only put the name of Christ to a promised or to an unpromised thing subject to the will and glory of God.
IV. Note three most happy results of thus making Jesus the Bearer of your prayers. (1) First, He separates and refines those prayers which are put into His hands to offer. You have been asking, perhaps, some thing which would not be good for you to have. Christ does not present that. You give Him your mixed nosegay; He takes out the weeds, and offers only the flowers. (2) Secondly, He will add something to the prayers you give Him. "The wounded side of Christ," George Herbert says, "is the believer's post-bag"; and thus he ends his sweet poem, with these words out of the mouth of Christ:—
"Or if hereafter any of my friends
Will give me of this kind, the door
Shall still be open; what he sends
I will present, and somewhat more,
Not to his hurt. Sighs will convey
Anything to me. Hark, despair! away!"
(3) And, thirdly, what you have once really entrusted to Christ, you need be careful about no more. Some persons are anxious about their prayers when they have said them, how they will speed. There is no need; you may leave all with Christ; it is all now a part of His undertaking.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 29.
References: Revelation 9:6.—Homilist, 1st series, vol. vi., p. 345. Revelation 10:4.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 11. Revelation 10:5, Revelation 10:6.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 77. Revelation 10:11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 106.
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.
And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!