Externals and then there are those prayers from the heart that really are effective. I'd like to read something this morning, a poem that I found called "The Prayer of Cyrus Brown" by Sam Walter Faus. "'The proper way for a man to pray,' said Deacon Lemuel Keys, 'and the only proper attitude is down upon his knees.' 'No, I should say the way to pray,' said Reverend Doctor Wise, 'is standing straight with outstretched arms and rapt and upturned eyes.' 'Oh no, no, no,' said Elder Slow, 'such posture is too proud, a man should pray with eyes fst closed and head contritely bowed.' 'Seems to me, his hands should be austerely clasped in front with both thumbs pointing toward the ground,' said Reverend Doctor Blunt. 'Well last year I fell in Hitchkin's well headfirst,' said Cyrus Brown, 'with both my heels astickin' up and my head apointin' down. And I made a prayer right then and there, the best prayer I ever said, the prayin'est prayer I ever prayed was standin' on my head.'" When he was in that well he meant it. It was effective. It probably wasn't long and drawn and out but it was really from the heart.
In the upper room Jesus gets his disciples together before he goes to the cross. There are several chapters that are this discourse and he mentions many things. Some of the things concern effectively communicating to God through prayer. The disciples are saddened, they know that the master will be going away soon. Jesus is going away, He's on his way to the cross and then to ascend to the right hand of the Father. But, he tells them about prayer, that though there is a distance, it can be bridged. It can be an effective relationship through the possibility of prayer. So Jesus said in verse 13, "Whatever you ask in My name that I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it." Jesus opens up in those sentences the possibility of prayer very wide. As soon as He does, He balances it out by saying there are certain limitations, certain boundaries to keep. The disciples need to learn how to communicate effectively to the Father. And verses 13 and 14 have some of the most important keys of communicating with God, but some of the most understood verses are what we just read. We've heard it quoted, we have quoted it, sometimes out of its context. Sometimes we think that all we have to do as Jesus said is pray in His Name, and so we will tack that on at the end of our prayers. We will say whatever we want and then say, "Oh by the way, in Jesus' name." Which to some of us means, "over and out, I'm done, Amen." But it's more than that. There are the boundaries of prayer as well as the broadness of prayer that is spoken about in these verses. And there's one thing that I think we all know is needed desperately in our prayer life and that is freshness, spontaneity. It doesn't have to be many words, in fact when you talk to God, one thing we ought to do is think before we talk. Now he knows your heart and I think that anything is better than nothing but the most effective communication I think is chosen words that we really mean, we've thought about, we haven't just turned off the brain and turned on the prayer mouth. We really think about them.
Listen to what Solomon wrote in the Old Testament, he said, "Do not be rash with your mouth and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth, therefore let your words be few." One author in his fine book on prayer said, "Let's break loose from those old bromides. For starters, I dare you to pray without using bless; or lead, guide and direct; or help so-and-so; or thy will; or each and every; or any number of those institutionalized and galvanized terms.
Today we want to look at praying in the name of Jesus Christ as these verses imply. And first of all we want to look at the broadness of prayer. You can ask anything. But then also the boundaries of prayer, asking in Jesus' name and what that means. First of all the broadness of prayer, again notice, let's emphasize those words, "And whatever, whatever you ask in My Name I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it." Turn right to chapter 15, same discourse. Verse 15, Jesus says, "No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing. I've called you friends. For all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, that your fruit should remain and that whatever you ask the Father in My Name He may give you. These things I command you that you should love one another." Keep turning right over to chapter 16, verse 22, he continues, "Therefore you now have sorrow but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice and your joy no one will take from you." He knows that he's leaving. He knows that they know that he's leaving. He knows that their hearts are filled with sorrow, for it says, "You're sad now but there will come a time when you will see me again and you will rejoice." "But," he says in verse 23, "in that day you will ask me nothing. Most assuredly I say to you whatever you ask the Father in My Name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."
It's not in the upper room discourse but there was another time when Jesus gets his disciples together and said these words, "I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours." The point being is that the scope of prayer is, is it about that big? Does it cover about that much? Or does it cover absolutely everything in life? That's the idea. The scope of prayer is that we should never feel, "Well this is too insignificant to bring before God, it's not a real important issue. God has a busy job running the universe, spinning the earth on its axis. He's the Chairman of the Board of the world. I don't have the rights to come before him with this insignificant little matter." But Jesus said, "Anything, everything, whatsoever." The scope is broadened. You can come before the Lord regarding anything.
Like the little girl who was on her way upstairs to say her bedtime prayers. She stops at the landing of the stairs, looks down at everybody and said, "Hey you guys. I'm going to say my prayers before I go to bed, do you want anything?" Now though she didn't have probably the proper theological outlook on prayer, she knew something, she could tell anything to God. I love it when my son will say things like, "Lord I just pray for my Ninja Turtle, or for my teddy bear, or my dog." Instead of just saying, "Lord, bless me, good night. Amen." He's thinking about something that is dear to his heart. I love it and I think God says, "Right on," that he is free to bring anything that concerns him before the Lord. The Bible says, "The Lord will protect that which concerns Me." What concerns me? Lots of stuff. Lots of stuff. And we have access before God.
Concerning that word in chapter 14 verse 13, "Whatever you ask," I'd like to read to you what a Greek scholar named Richard Lensky concerning the original meaning of that word and its phrase. He said, "This word includes far more than what pertains to our spiritual work among men. It covers every personal need both temporal and spiritual." It covers everything. God is concerned about you, he said the very hairs of your head are numbered, imagine that. He numbers the hairs of your head. Now granted he has an easier time with some of you than others, as the years go on. He might say, "Three." And he might say, "Four hundred thousand." I don't know how many hairs are on the head but he knows, he's concerned. The scripture says, "In him we live and we move and we have our being." When I used to live in California, Huntington Beach, I'd get up, go to the first service at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, 7:45 in the morning. I'd come fully dressed in my swimming trunks, my T-shirt, my thongs. And right after first service I'd head down to San Clemente and I'd surf. And I felt really spiritual, going to church, and I'd always pray for waves. My friend used to say, "You're going to ask God for waves?" I said, "Sure, he created them. I think he's concerned." And I'd sit down and I'd pray a great prayer, "Lord, you created the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything that is in them. Make them roar a little bit now, I'd like to surf." I know people who pray for parking spots. You get into a crowded mall, "Lord just..." And you might sya, "Oh come on." Hey, why not?
G. Campbell Morgan, a great British preacher was approached by a lady who said, "Dr. Morgan, do I have the right to bring even the small things in my life before God?" And he with his British wit said, "Dear lady, can you think of anything in your life that's big to God?" Good response, huh? We think that way. We think, "Well this is just a toothache," but "This is cancer, this is something I should bring before God," but this? Hey this is no bigger than that before the Almighty. Bring it all to Him. "Whatever you ask in my name."
I've noticed that in any relationship there is a progression. When you meet someone, you're concerned about big things: what is your name, what do you do, and so forth. They're ice-breaking questions. It starts out very formal. But as the relationship progresses, it goes from formal to informal. You're concerned about little things: favorite colors, songs that that person might like to listen to. So it is in our communication with God. Instead of limiting God and saying, "Let's bring the biggies before him." You say, "I have a relationship established with God and He's concerned about even the little things." It's just part of an ongoing relationship. And prayer is to be a Christian's natural response to God. Just like our response in the physical realm to air is to breathe, our response in the spiritual realm to the presence of God is to pray. The apostle Paul said, "Pray without ceasing," that ongoing communication of fellowship before the Lord. In Saudi Arabia there is a custom, it's actually a custom in all of the Arab world but it became a law in 1952 by the king who said that every subject in Saudi Arabia had the right of access to his ruler, any petitions, any complaint, he would have the right to tell it to his authority, whether it's the sheik of a tribe, a local governor or the monarch himself. Recently Prince Fahd, the crown prince, speaking about this custom said, "Anyone absolutely anyone, can come here, that will give them confidence in their government. They know that they can look to us for help." Now we have access before the monarch of the universe. He doesn't shut us out, he doesn't say, "I can't see you now, I have an appointment. Billy Graham's praying to me and when he's done then I'll have a few minutes for you." Or, "See me next week at three o'clock." You have access before him at any time. And we ought to take advantage of it and not limit it to certain things. Nancy Spiegelberg in her prayer life said, "Lord, I crawled cross my barrenness with my empty cup to you, uncertain to ask any small drop of refreshment, oh if only I had known you better, I'd have come running with a bucket." "Lord, here's my little cup, it's not your important and I know you're not concerned, but please..." No, that's not prayer. Whatever, anything, you bring it before the Lord. I think that's what Paul meant or whoever wrote the epistle to Hebrews when he said, "Therefore let us come timidly before his throne." Some of you are shaking your heads because you know that verse. It doesn't say that, it says "Therefore let us come boldly before his throne of grace that we can find the grace to help in time of need." Sir Walter Raleigh who used to come Queen Elizabeth quite regularly with a petition came with his petition one day and she said, "Walter, when will you stop asking things from me?" And he quickly said, "Your majesty, when you quit granting me my requests. As long as you keep opening the door, I'm going to come running in." And the Lord has opened the door. It says to us in the book of Romans, "He who did not spare his only son but delivered him up for us all. How will he not freely with him give us all things." All things. Hey, Jesus died on the cross for you, the Father gave you Jesus. Do you think he'll say, "Well I gave you Jesus but that's all." Paul said, "How will he not freely with him give us all things?" That great preacher Charles Spurgeon, he was quotable, said, "Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God, (Great way to put it) Some scarcely stir the bell for they pray so languidly, others give only an occasional jerk at the rope but he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continually with all of his might." That's great.
Now there's a reason that Jesus opens up prayer to become so broad and I think it centers around the word Father. Every time that we read in the upper room discourse this morning, when Jesus spoke about prayer, he mentioned 'your father.' In other words, you have a relationship with God where your Father listens carefully to the cries of his kids, a relationship has been established. My son has access any time, simply because he is my son and I'm his dad. And sometimes people get taken off guard when after a service on Sunday or during a counseling session during the week, they may be pouring out their heart but I've said, "Nathan, whenever Daddy's in the office, you don't even have to knock, you just come in." "Really?" You know he takes advantage of that, believe me. Even though if I'm studying at home my wife will say, "Now Nathan, stay out of Daddy's office," Nathan knows that he can come in any time, it's Dad. He's got access. Now no one else has that privilege except for my wife and my son. But there is a relationship of intimacy that's been established and I never want to lose that with him.
Now that ws different from the Greeks, who during this time believed that the gods were angry and hostile and you better watch out h ow you approach them. You dare not ask anything in prayer because you might catch them at a bad time, they might be in a bad mood and kill you. The Greeks had a story about their god Prometheus who wanting to show a man good favor gave fire as a gift to mankind. When Zeus the chief ot he gods heard about Prometheus' kindness, the took the inferior god and had him chained to an island in the Adriatic Sea and commanded birds to pluck out his innards because he was gracious in granting the requests of men. That ws their view of God.
The Romans believed that if there were gods, they were certainly distant, they were deists. They believed in their presence but they were not concerned with mankind. Even the Jews did not know the intimacy of the fatherhood of God, though they saw God as a father. Judaism had become so formal, so legalistic, in the extreme, that no one could dare say, "Father God. I want to pour out my request." In fact, the Jews when they would pray, they would never even mention the name of God. They would simply bow their heads and say, "Hashim." (which means the name). So Jesus comes along and reintroduces a radical concept, he said, "When you guys pray, don't say, 'Oh dreadful sovereign of the universe.' Just say Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And that intimacy was reintroduced.
Before we move on, notice the humility that's built into this verse. Jesus said, "And whatever," there's the broadness, "You ask." I wanted to stop there because it does not say whatever you claim or demand, it says whatever you ask. The word in Greek is aheteo, it's used 71 times in the New Testament, it never means demand, it always is to humbly ask. Knowing that I'm a subject, Father knows best, and I'm not going to try and claim or try to manipulate his sovereignty in any way. Yet, there's teaching going around today that says, 'Faith is the power, words are the container of the force, and you can direct God by claiming or demanding your rights." And every now and then I'll hear a person pray prayers like that and I always think, "Excuse me. Do you think God is going to arbitrarily let you have reins of his power?" That would be like giving nuclear weapons to a five-year-old and saying, "Go have fun." We're not capable of directing his sovereign providence. And so we ask, we ask in his name.
That's the broadness. Now lets' look at the boundaries of prayer, contained in the phrase "if you ask anything in my name." In my name, "that the Father may be glorified." And so the curtain goes all of a sudden from asking anything to doing it in a certain manner for a certain reason. There's the broadness of the prayer but then there are the boundaries of prayer. If you ask anything in my name, Jesus said, 'I will do it that the Father may be glorified in the Son.' In that phrase there are certain boundaries. Number one, to pray in Jesus name means identity. Have you ever heard a Buddhist say, "In Jesus' name, amen." No, why? He doesn't' identify with Jesus, he identifies with another leader. Have you ever heard a new ager pray, "In Jesus' name?" No, he prays in everything's name. You are called a Christian because you identify with Jesus Christ and you pray in Jesus' name. And that's how Jesus taught us to pray. He didn't say, "When you pray, talk to me." He said, "Talk to my Father." That's why when I pray, I say, not "Holy Spirit or dear Jesus," but "Father I come to you in the name of Jesus," I identify with him, that's how Jesus taught us to pray. And it means that I identify with him. And prayer rises and falls with your concept of Jesus. If you have a low view of Jesus, you have worthless ineffective prayers. If you have a high view of Christ, your prayers will work for Jesus said, "Wherever two or three are gathered in my Name, I will be in their midst." It means that true prayer is for Christians only. Though many people do pray, as we read in the article last week in Newsweek or Time, I forget which one it was but one of those magazines spoke about talking with God. True prayer is only for the Christian. How do I know that? Because Jesus said, "Whatever you ask..." Who was he speaking to? Disciples. And look at the context, verse 12, "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in me," that's the context. "The works that I do, he will also do and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask," he's speaking about those who have embraced Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Peter said, "there is no other name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved."
Do you remember when Thomas said, first of all Jesus said, "I'm going away and you know where I'm going." And Thomas said, "We don't know where you're going, how can we know the way?" What did Jesus say? He said, "I am the way. I am the truth and I am the life." More literally, "I am the only way," an exclusion to everyone else, "I am the only truth, I am the only life and no one can come to the Father but through me." No one can get to God except through Jesus Christ. So you want to pray and have it effective, you've go to know Jesus. And if you don't personally know the Savior this morning, your prayer needs to be, "Jesus Christ, I'm a sinner, I repent of my sins and I turn to you, here's my life. I'm going to follow you." Then you've made it to the Father. But you don't make it to the Father without going through the Son.
Before we get on to the next meaning of Jesus' name, have you noticed how much animosity is created by His name? Have you ever gone into a place, a crowd of people, conversations are going around, people milling around, try this sometime, mention the name of Jesus, you know just a little bit louder than normal, don't shout it, just "Jesus loves me," or "I really was speaking with the Lord and Jesus said," You could talk about any other religious leader, any other subject, but you mention Jesus and all of a sudden a defense goes up, there's an animosity toward that name. Have you also noticed that when people want to swear that they use the name of Jesus? I've never heard a person say, "Oh, Krishna." But I've heard htem say, "Oh Jesus Christ." The one that I love and the one that you love. And you get flak because of it. Why? Because you identify with his name and Jesus predicted it. He said, "They will treat you this way because of my name." So first of all to pray in Jesus' name means we identify with him, we're his own, we're Christians. Secondly, to pray in Jesus' name means authority. Identity, authority. There's authority when you pray in the name of Jesus Christ. To the Jews, a person's name meant a person's authority. To the disciples in Jerusalem, they said, "By what name are you doing these things? By what authority are you pulling this off?" A name represents a person's authority. And when you pray in Jesus' name, it's the only signature that heaven will accept.
There was a dad who took his three kids to the county fair. And Dad, being a smart dad, knew that the kids would not be interested in seeing the animal exhibits primarily, where did they want to go? The rides, right? The Midway. So he bought a huge roll of tickets. And they would go to a ride and each kid would stick out his hand, Dad would rip off a ticket, give it to each one of the kids, "One, two, three, take a ride." On one ride, there was a fourth hand that came into the scene. A little kid he didn't know and he was about to give him a ticket and he realized, "this is not my son, I don't know who he is." And he quickly drew it back. His little son, Stephen, saw the event and he quickly rushed over and said, "Daddy it's all right, this is my friend Timmy, I told him if he asked for a ticket, you'd give him one." What did Dad do? His dad honored the name of his son, even though that kid didn't deserve a ticket, he wasn't in relationship with him, he honored his son because he asked and Stephen said, "I told him if he would ask that you would give him one." And so the father gave him one. That's how we approach God, that's our authority. You don't stand before God and say, "I come to you God in my name." Really? You dare not. You don't come in Skip's name or the church's name but you come in Jesus' name.
If you were to find my parent's home in California, let's just say you said, "Oh yeah, that's where Skip used to live." And let's just say you walked in the front door. You know what would happen? If my father had his wits about him he would probably run for his shotgun, knowing him, wanting to protect the family. He doesn't know who you are, you have no right to that home. But if you were to knock on the door and say, "Mr. Heitzig, Skip sent me. He told me I could come and you'd let me stay the night." Now he might say, "Let me call him first." But he'd let you in. You'd have access because of my name. Hve you ever dropped names? Have you ever used someone's name, somebody said, "Hey listen, call this number, tell them I sent you, he'll work out a good deal." You're coming in the name of another person because that name has authority. And believers in the early church knew that the name of Jesus had authority, in their prayer life and in their ministry. In Jerusalem, there was a man who was at the Gate Beautiful. He was lame from birth and he asked for a handouat and Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none but what I have I'll give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk." Paul the apostle, when he wrote his letters, he said, "I write to you in the name of Jesus Christ," to the Thessalonians, "that you do not keep company with brothers who are idle." He did it in the name of Jesus Christ. But, but there are people who will cover the first two bases and have an ineffective prayer life, meaning they'll use the name of Jesus saying, "I identify with him." And they'll speak with all authority, "In Jesus' name," and yet their prayers don't work, they're a failure. That's possible. Even Jesus said, "Many will come to me in that day and say, 'Lord in your name we cast out demons and did miracles." And Jesus wil say, "I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity." Which means that to say, "In Jesus' name," is not a formula or an incantation, it means we identify with him, we're using his authority. But it also means something else: conformity. Conformity. If you say that you are a Christian and you come before the Lord in the name of Jesus Christ, it means that you are praying and living a life that is in line with his character and reputation. Because to a Jew again, a name represents the person who bears that name.
I looked up name in the Greek dictionary and it said that it means one's rank, authority, interest, pleasures, command, excellences and deeds. In other words, his reputation. In the Old Testament, David went out to battle and it says, "He behaved himself more wisely than all of the servants of Saul so that his name became esteemed greatly. In other words, his reputation ws on the rise. David was becoming popular. A name represents all that a person is. The name of God represents all of who God is. It's not just a calling card, it represents him. God, in the book of Exodus (listen to this) said, 'Then the Lord descended in a cloud and stood with Moses and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin and by no means clearing the guilty. Did you get that? There's a comprehensive definition of God and that's the name of him. The name. The Lord. The Lord God, gracious, merciful. All of that encompasses the very character and the very nature of God. So to pray in Jesus' name means you're praying in conformity to what the name represents. You're praying according to his will.
People every now and then when they shop look for certain name brands. They want a certain label. Some do it just for show and for status symbol, others for quality, because they know the name upon the product was put there by the manufacturer because the reputation of that manufacturer is at stake and they can trust it. For instance Rolls Royce would never let you take their logo and stick it on a Chevy. They want to protect their reputation, and they want to charge the bucks too. But it's their reputation. When Jesus taught us to pray, he said, "Say Father in heaven hallowed be thy name." I want your name to be glorified, that's the idea," Jesus says here. "If you ask anything in my name (according to my reputation and character) my Father will do it." But it's that the Father may be glorified in his Son. See what it says here, "That the Father may be glorified (verse 13) in the Son." That word glorified in Greek is doxozo, it means to extol, it means to praise but it also means to cause the dignity and worth of some person to become manifest and acknowledged. Here's my point: There's a lot of Christians who will use the name of Jesus Christ as their authority or tack it on at the end of their prayer but they are not living a life or praying in conformity to the will of God and they wonder why their prayers are not being answered. To pray in Jesus' name is to pray according to Jesus. That's why Jesus said, "Whatever we ask, we receive of him because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." We receive them because we keep his commandments.
So, prayer is broad, you ask anything, anything that concerns you concerns God but there are boundaries in prayer that we are to pray according to the will of God. And to pray according to the will of God, what do we do? We pray according to the word of God. Don't you think it's silly to ask God something in direct contradiction to this book? If God said specifically, "I don't want this," to say, "God do you want this? Is this your will?" That's why it's important that we learn the message of the Bible so we can pray according to the will of God in the name of Jesus.
The disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray." He said, "When you pray, say 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done." A lot of us have prayed that prayer but I wonder if we really could pray in the name and the character of Jesus.
An anonymous author said, "I cannot say our if I live only for myself. I cannot say Our Father, if I do not endeavor to each day act like his child. I cannot say Our Father who art in heaven if I am laying up treasure here and not there. I cannot say hallowed be thy name if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say thy kingdom come if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful event. I cannot say thy will be done if I'm disobedient to his word. I cannot say on earth as it is in heaven if I will not serve him here and now. I cannot say give us this day our daily bread if I am dishonest or seeking things by subterfuge. I cannot say forgive us our debts if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say lead us not into temptation if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say deliver us from evil if I do not put on the whole armor of God. I canot say thine is the kingdom if I do not give the king loyalty due him as a faithful subject. I cannot attribute to him power if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to him glory if I am seeking honor only for myself. And I cannot say forever and ever if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by time."
Father, we come before you in the name of Jesus because we identify with him, because there's authority in the courts of heaven and because we come in conformity to the will of Jesus Christ, to glorify and honor our Father. Thank you for the requests that you have denied us in our prayer lives. Thank you for the application of your wisdom. Lord I pray that our communication with you would be so effective that it would avail much because we're praying with the identity, authority, and conformity of the name of Jesus Christ. I pray that we will cherish all that he stands for, all that that name embodies and that our lives would not go against the name of Jesus. For we ask it, in humility, in the name of your Son Jesus our Savior. Amen.