In my name -- repeated six times over. Our Lord knew how slow our hearts would be to take it in, and He so longed that we should really believe that His Name is the power in which every knee should bow, and in which every prayer could be heard, that He did not weary of saying it over and over: In My Name! Between the wonderful whatsoever ye shall ask, and the Divine I will do it, the Father will give it, this one word is the simple link: In My Name. Our asking and the Father's giving are to be equally in the Name of Christ. Everything in prayer depends upon our apprehending this -- In My Name.
We know what a name is: a word by which we call up to our mind the whole being and nature of an object. When I speak of a lamb or a lion, the name at once suggests the different nature peculiar to each. The Name of God is meant to express His whole Divine nature and glory. And so the Name of Christ means His whole nature, His person and work, His disposition and Spirit. To ask in the Name of Christ is to pray in union with Him. When first a sinner believes in Christ, he only knows and thinks of His merit and intercession. And to the very end that is the one foundation of our confidence. And yet, as the believer grows in grace and enters more deeply and truly into union with Christ -- that is, as he abides in Him -- he learns that to pray in the Name of Christ also means in His Spirit, and in the possession of His nature, as the Holy Spirit imparts it to us. As we grasp the meaning of the words, "At that day ye shall ask in My Name" -- the day when in the Holy Spirit Christ came to live in His disciples -- we shall no longer be staggered at the greatness of the promise: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, I will do it." We shall get some insight into the unchangeable necessity and certainty of the law: what is asked in the Name of Christ, in union with Him, out of His nature and Spirit, must be given. As Christ's prayer-nature lives in us, His prayer-power becomes ours too. Not that the measure of our attainment or experience is the ground of our confidence, but the honesty and whole-heartedness of our surrender to all that we see that Christ seeks to be in us, will be the measure of our spiritual fitness and power to pray in His Name. "If ye abide in Me," He says, "ye shall ask what ye will." As we live in Him, we get the spiritual power to avail ourselves of His Name. As the branch wholly given up to the life and service of the Vine can count upon all its sap and strength for its fruit, so the believer, who in faith has accepted the fulness of the Spirit to possess his whole life, can indeed avail himself of all the power of Christ's Name.
Here on earth Christ as man came to reveal what prayer is. To pray in the Name of Christ we must pray as He prayed on earth; as He taught us to pray; in union with Him, as He now prays in heaven. We must in love study, and in faith accept, Him as our Example, our Teacher, our Intercessor.
CHRIST OUR EXAMPLE.
Prayer in Christ on earth and in us cannot be two different things. Just as there is but one God, who is a Spirit, who hears prayer, there is but one spirit of acceptable prayer. When we realise what time Christ spent in prayer, and how the great events of His life were all connected with special prayer, we learn the necessity of absolute dependence on and unceasing direct communication with the heavenly world, if we are to live a heavenly life, or to exercise heavenly power around us. We see how foolish and fruitless the attempt must be to do work for God and heaven, without in the first place in prayer getting the life and the power of heaven to possess us. Unless this truth lives in us, we cannot avail ourselves aright of the mighty power of the Name of Christ. His example must teach us the meaning of His Name.
Of His baptism we read, "Jesus having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened." It was in prayer heaven was opened to Him, that heaven came down to Him with the Spirit and the voice of the Father. In the power of these He was led into the wilderness, in fasting and prayer to have them tested and fully appropriated. Early in His ministry Mark records (i.35), "And in the morning, a great while before day, He rose and departed into a desert place, and there prayed." And somewhat later Luke tells (v.16), "Multitudes came together to hear and to be healed. But He withdrew Himself into the desert, and prayed." He knew how the holiest service, preaching and healing, can exhaust the spirit; how too much intercourse with men could cloud the fellowship with God; how time, time, full time, is needed if the spirit is to rest and root in Him; how no pressure of duty among men can free from the absolute need of much prayer. If anyone could have been satisfied with always living and working in the spirit of prayer, it would have been our Master. But He could not; He needed to have His supplies replenished by continual and long-continued seasons of prayer. To use Christ's Name in prayer surely includes this, to follow His example and to pray as He did.
Of the night before choosing His apostles we read (Luke vi.12), "He went out into the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." The first step towards the constitution of the Church, and the separation of men to be His witnesses and successors, called Him to special long-continued prayer. All had to be done according to the pattern on the mount. "The Son can do nothing of Himself: the Father showeth Him all things that Himself doeth." It was in the night of prayer it was shown Him.
In the night between the feeding of the five thousand, when Jesus knew that they wanted to take Him by force and make Him King, and the walking on the sea, "He withdrew again into the mountain, Himself alone, to pray" (Matt. xiv.23; Mark vi.46; John vi.15). It was God's will He was come to do, and God's power He was to show forth. He had it not as a possession of His own; it had to be prayed for and received from above. The first announcement of His approaching death, after He had elicited from Peter the confession that He was the Christ, is introduced by the words (Luke ix.15), "And it came to pass that He was praying alone." The introduction to the story of the Transfiguration is (Luke ix.28), "He went up into the mountain to pray." The request of the disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke xi.1), follows on, "It came to pass as He was praying in a certain place." In His own personal life, in His intercourse with the Father, in all He is and does for men, the Christ whose name we are to use is a Man of prayer. It is prayer gives Him His power of blessing, and transfigures His very body with the glory of heaven. It is His own prayer-life makes Him the teacher of others how to pray. How much more must it be prayer, prayer alone, much prayer, that can fit us to share His glory of a transfigured life, or make us the channel of heavenly blessing and teaching to others. To pray in the Name of Christ is to pray as He prays.
As the end approaches, it is still more prayer. When the Greeks asked to see Him, and He spoke of His approaching death, He prayed. At Lazarus' grave He prayed. In the last night He prayed His prayer as our High-Priest, that we might know what His sacrifice would win, and what His everlasting intercession on the throne would be. In Gethsemane He prayed His prayer as Victim, the Lamb giving itself to the slaughter. On the Cross it is still all prayer -- the prayer of compassion for His murderers; the prayer of atoning suffering in the thick darkness; the prayer in death of confiding resignation of His spirit to the Father. (Note E.)
Christ's life and work, His suffering and death -- it was all prayer, all dependence on God, trust in God, receiving from God, surrender to God. Thy redemption, O believer, is a redemption wrought out by prayer and intercession: thy Christ is a praying Christ: the life He lived for thee, the life He lives in thee, is a praying life, that delights to wait on God and receive all from Him. To pray in His Name is to pray as He prayed. Christ is only our example because He is our Head, our Saviour, and our Life. In virtue of His Deity and of His Spirit He can live in us: we can pray in His Name, because we abide in Him and He in us.
CHRIST OUR TEACHER.
Christ was what He taught. All His teaching was just the revelation of how He lived, and -- praise God -- of the life He was to live in us. His teaching of the disciples was first to awaken desire, and so prepare them for what He would by the Holy Spirit be and work in them. Let us believe very confidently: all He was in prayer, and all He taught, He Himself will give. He came to fulfil the law; much more will He fulfil the gospel in all He taught us, as to what to pray, and how.
What to pray. -- It has sometimes been said that direct petitions, as compared with the exercise of fellowship with God, are but a subordinate part of prayer, and that "in the prayer of those who pray best and most, they occupy but an inconsiderable place." If we carefully study all that our Lord spoke of prayer, we shall see that this is not His teaching. In the Lord's Prayer, in the parables on prayer, in the illustration of a child asking bread, of our seeking and knocking, in the central thought of the prayer of faith, "Whatsoever ye pray, believe that ye have received," in the oft-repeated "whatsoever" of the last evening -- everywhere our Lord urges and encourages us to offer definite petitions, and to expect definite answers. It is only because we have too much confined prayer to our own needs, that it has been thought needful to free it from the appearance of selfishness, by giving the petitions a subordinate place. If once believers were to awake to the glory of the work of intercession, and to see that in it, and the definite pleading for definite gifts on definite spheres and persons, lie our highest fellowship with our glorified Lord, and our only real power to bless men, it would be seen that there can be no truer fellowship with God than these definite petitions and their answers, by which we become the channel of His grace and life to men. Then our fellowship with the Father is even such as the Son has in His intercession.
How to pray. -- Our Lord taught us to pray in secret, in simplicity, with the eye on God alone, in humility, in the spirit of forgiving love. But the chief truth He reiterated was ever this: to pray in faith. And He defined that faith, not only as a trust in God's goodness or power, but as the definite assurance that we have received the very thing we ask. And then, in view of the delay in the answer, He insisted on perseverance and urgency. We must be followers of those "who through faith and patience inherit the promises" -- the faith that accepts the promise, and knows it has what it has asked -- the patience that obtains the promise and inherits the blessing. We shall then learn to understand why God, who promises to avenge His elect speedily, bears with them in seeming delay. It is that their faith may be purified from all that is of the flesh, and tested and strengthened to become that spiritual power that can do all things -- can even cast mountains into the heart of the sea.
CHRIST AS OUR INTERCESSOR.
We have gazed on Christ in His prayers; we have listened to His teaching as to how we must pray; to know fully what it is to pray in His Name, we must know Him too in His heavenly intercession.
Just think what it means: that all His saving work wrought from heaven is still carried on, just as on earth, in unceasing communication with, and direct intercession to the Father, who worketh all in all, who is All in All. Every act of grace in Christ has been preceded by, and owes its power to, intercession. God has been honoured and acknowledged as its Author. On the throne of God, Christ's highest fellowship with the Father, and His partnership in His rule of the world, is in intercession. Every blessing that comes down to us from above bears upon it the stamp from God: through Christ's intercession. His intercession is nothing but the fruit and the glory of His atonement. When He gave Himself a sacrifice to God for men, He proved that His whole heart had the one object: the glory of God, in the salvation of men. In His intercession this great purpose is realised: He glorifies the Father by asking and receiving all of Him; He saves men by bestowing what He has obtained from the Father. Christ's intercession is the Father's glory, His own glory, our glory.
And now, this Christ, the Intercessor, is our life; He is our Head, and we are His body; His Spirit and life breathe in us. As in heaven so on earth, intercession is God's chosen, God's only channel of blessing. Let us learn from Christ what glory there is in it; what the way to exercise this wondrous power; what the part it is to take in work for God.
The glory of it. -- By it, beyond anything, we glorify God. By it we glorify Christ. By it we bring blessing to the Church and the world. By it we obtain our highest nobility -- the Godlike power of saving men.
The way to it. -- Paul writes, "Walk in love, even as Christ loved us, and gave Himself a sacrifice to God for us." If we live as Christ lived, we will, as He did, give ourselves, for our whole life, to God, to be used by Him for men. When once we have done this, given ourselves, no more to seek anything for ourselves, but for men, and that to God, for Him to use us, and to impart to us what we can bestow on others, intercession will become to us, as it is in Christ in heaven, the great work of our life. And if ever the thought comes that the call is too high, or the work too great, the faith in Christ, the Interceding Christ, who lives in us, will give us the victory. We will listen to Him who said, "The works that I do, shall ye do; and greater works shall ye do." We shall remember that we are not under the law, with its impotence, but under grace with its omnipotence, working all in us. We shall believe again in Him who said to us, Rise and walk, and gave us -- and we received it -- His life as our strength. We shall claim afresh the fulness of God's Spirit as His sufficient provision for our need, and count Him to be in us the Spirit of Intercession, who makes us one with Christ in His. Oh! let us only keep our place -- giving up ourselves, like Him, in Him, to God for men.
Then we shall understand the part intercession is to take in God's work through us. We shall no longer try to work for God, and ask Him to follow it with His blessing. We shall do what the friend at midnight did, what Christ did on earth, and ever does in heaven -- we shall first get from God, and then turn to men to give what He gave us. As with Christ, we shall make our chief work, we shall count no time or trouble too great, to receive from the Father; giving to men will then be in power.
Servants of Christ! children of God! be of good courage. Let no fear of feebleness or poverty make you afraid -- ask in the Name of Christ. His Name is Himself, in all His perfection and power. He is the living Christ, and will Himself make His Name a power in you. Fear not to plead the Name; His promise is a threefold cord that cannot be broken: Whatsoever ye ask -- in My Name -- IT SHALL BE DONE UNTO YOU.