‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do. If ye shall ask me anything in my Name, that will I do. That whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, He may give it you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, He will give it you in my Name. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name: ask, and ye shall receive. In that day ye shall ask in my Name.’—John 14:13, 14, 15:16, 16:23, 24, 26.
Hitherto the disciples had not asked in the Name of Christ, nor had He Himself ever used the expression. The nearest approach is, ‘met together in my Name.’ Here in His parting words, He repeats the word unceasingly in connection with those promises of unlimited meaning, ‘Whatsoever,’ ‘Anything,’ ‘What ye will,’ to teach them and us that His Name is our only, but also our all-sufficient plea. The power of prayer and the answer depend on the right use of the Name.
What is a person’s name? That word or expression in which the person is called up or represented to us. When I mention or hear a name, it calls up before me the whole man, what I know of him, and also the impression he has made on me. The name of a king includes his honor, his power, his kingdom. His name is the symbol of his power. And so each name of God embodies and represents some part of the glory of the Unseen One. And the Name of Christ is the expression of all He has done and all He is and lives to do as our Mediator.
And what is it to do a thing in the name of another? It is to come with the power and authority of that other, as his representative and substitute. We know how such a use of another’s name always supposes a community of interest. No one would give another the free use of his name without first being assured that his honor and interest were as safe with that other as with himself.
And what is it when Jesus gives us power over His Name, the free use of it, with the assurance that whatever we ask in it will be given to us? The ordinary comparison of one person giving another, on some special occasion, the liberty to ask something in his name, comes altogether short here,—Jesus solemnly gives to all His disciples a general and unlimited power of the free use of His Name at all times for all they desire. He could not do this if He did not know that He could trust us with His interests, that His honor would be safe in our hands. The free use of the name of another is always the token of great confidence, of close union. He who gives his name to another stands aside, to let that other act for him; he who takes the name of another, gives up his own as of no value. When I go in the name of another, I deny myself, I take not only his name, but himself and what he is, instead of myself and what I am.
Such a use of the name of a person may be in virtue of a legal union. A merchant leaving his home and business, gives his chief clerk a general power, by which he can draw thousands of pounds in the merchant’s name. The clerk does this, not for himself, but only in the interests of the business. It is because the merchant knows and trusts him as wholly devoted to his interests and business, that he dares put his name and property at his command. When the Lord Jesus went to heaven, He left His work, the management of His kingdom on earth, in the hands of His servants. He could not do otherwise than also give them His Name to draw all the supplies they needed for the due conduct of His business. And they have the spiritual power to avail themselves of the Name of Jesus just to the extent to which they yield themselves to live only for the interests and the work of the Master. The use of the Name always supposes the surrender of our interests to Him whom we represent.
Or such a use of the name may be in virtue of a life union. In the case of the merchant and his clerk, the union is temporary. But we know how oneness of life on earth gives oneness of name: a child has the father’s name because he has his life. And often the child of a good father has been honored or helped by others for the sake of the name he bore. But this would not last long if it were found that it was only a name, and that the father’s character was wanting. The name and the character or spirit must be in harmony. When such is the case, the child will have a double claim on the father’s friends: the character secures and increases the love and esteem rendered first for the name’s sake. So it is with Jesus and the believer: we are one, we have one life, one Spirit with Him; for this reason we may come in His Name. Our power in using that Name, whether with God, or men, or devils depends on the measure of our spiritual life-union. The use of the name rests on the unity of life; the Name and the Spirit of Jesus are one. 2
Or the union that empowers to the use of the Name may be the union of love. When a bride whose life has been one of poverty, becomes united to the bridegroom, she gives up her own name, to be called by his, and has now the full right to use it. She purchases in his name, and that name is not refused. And this is done because the bridegroom has chosen her for himself, counting on her to care for his interests: they are now one. And so the Heavenly Bridegroom could do nothing less; having loved us and made us one with Himself, what could He do but give those who bear His Name the right to present it before the Father, or to come with it to Himself for all they need. And there is no one who gives himself really to live in the Name of Jesus, who does not receive in ever-increasing measure the spiritual capacity to ask and receive in that Name what he will. The bearing of the name of another supposes my having given up my own, and with it my own independent life; but then, as surely, my possession of all there is in the name I have taken instead of my own.
Such illustrations show us how defective the common view is of a messenger sent to ask in the name of another, or a guilty one appealing to the name of a surety. No Jesus Himself is with the Father; it is not an absent one in whose name we come. Even when we pray to Jesus Himself, it must be in His Name. The name represents the person; to ask in the Name is to ask in full union of interest and life and love with Himself, as one who lives in and for Him. Let the Name of Jesus only have undivided supremacy in my heart and life, my faith will grow to the assurance that what I ask in that Name cannot be refused. The name and the power of asking go together: when the Name of Jesus has become the power that rules my life, its power in prayer with God will be seen too.
We see thus that everything depends on our own relation to the Name: the power it has on my life is the power it will have in my prayers. There is more than one expression in Scripture which can make this clear to us. When it says, ‘Do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus,’ we see how this is the counterpart of the other, ‘Ask all.’ To do all and to ask all in His Name, these go together. When we read, ‘We shall walk in the Name of our God,’ we see how the power of the Name must rule in the whole life; only then will it have power in prayer. It is not to the lips but to the life God looks to see what the Name is to us. When Scripture speaks of ‘men who have given their lives for the Name of the Lord Jesus,’ or of one ‘ready to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus,’ we see what our relation to the Name must be: when it is everything to me, it will obtain everything for me. If I let it have all I have, it will let me have all it has.
‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.’ Jesus means the promise literally. Christians have sought to limit it: it looked too free; it was hardly safe to trust man so unconditionally. We did not understand that the word ‘in my Name’ is its own safeguard. It is a spiritual power which no one can use further than he obtains the capacity for, by his living and acting in that Name. As we bear that Name before men, we have power to use it before God. O let us plead for God’s Holy Spirit to show us what the Name means, and what the right use of it is. It is through the Spirit that the Name, which is above every name in heaven, will take the place of supremacy in our heart and life too.
Disciples of Jesus! Let the lessons of this day enter deep into your hearts. The Master says: Only pray in my Name; whatsoever ye ask will be given. Heaven is set open to you; the treasures and powers of the world of spirit are placed at your disposal on behalf of men around you. O come, and let us learn to pray in the Name of Jesus. As to the disciples, He says to us, ‘Hitherto ye have not asked in my Name: ask, and ye shall receive.’ Let each disciple of Jesus seek to avail himself of the rights of his royal priesthood, and use the power placed at his disposal for his circle and his work. Let Christians awake and hear the message: your prayer can obtain what otherwise will be withheld, can accomplish what otherwise remains undone. O awake, and use the name of Jesus to open the treasures of heaven for this perishing world. Learn as the servants of the King to use His Name: ‘WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in my Name, THAT WILL I DO.’
‘LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’
Blessed Lord! It is as if each lesson Thou givest me has such fullness and depths of meaning, that if I can only learn that one, I shall know how to pray aright. This day I feel again as if I needed but one prayer every day: Lord! Teach me what it is to pray in Thy Name. Teach me so to live and act, to walk and speak, so to do all in the Name of Jesus, that my prayer cannot be anything else but in that blessed Name too.
And teach me, Lord! to hold fast the precious promise that WHATSOEVER we ask in Thy Name, Thou wilt do, the Father will give. Though I do not yet fully understand, and still less have fully attained, the wondrous union Thou meanest when Thou sayest, IN MY NAME, I would yet hold fast the promise until it fills my heart with the undoubting assurance: Anything in the Name of Jesus.
O my Lord! let Thy Holy Spirit teach me this. Thou didst say of Him, ‘The Comforter, whom the Father shall send IN MY NAME.’ He knows what it is to be sent from heaven in Thy Name, to reveal and to honor the power of that Name in Thy servants, to use that Name alone, and so to glorify Thee. Lord Jesus! let Thy Spirit dwell in me, and fill me. I would, I do yield my whole being to His rule and leading. Thy Name and Thy Spirit are one; through Him Thy Name will be the strength of my life and my prayer. Then I shall be able for Thy Name’s sake to forsake all, in Thy Name to speak to men and to God, and to prove that this is indeed the Name above every name.
Lord Jesus! O teach me by Thy Holy Spirit to pray in Thy Name. Amen.
‘What is meant by praying in Christ’s name? It cannot mean simply appearing before God with faith in the mediation of the Savior. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He supplied them with petitions. And afterwards Jesus said to them, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my Name.” Until the Spirit came, the seven petitions of the Lord’s prayer lay as it were dormant within them. When by the Holy Ghost Christ descended into their hearts, they desired the very blessings which Christ as our High Priest obtains for us by His prayer from the Father. And such petitions are always answered. The Father is always willing to give what Christ asks. The Spirit of Christ always teaches and influences us to offer the petitions which Christ ratifies and presents to the Father. To pray in Christ’s name is therefore to be identified with Christ as to our righteousness, and to be identified with Christ in our desires by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. To pray in the Spirit, to pray according to the will of the Father, to pray in Christ’s name, are identical expressions. The Father Himself loveth us, and is willing to hear us: two intercessors, Christ the Advocate above, and the Holy Ghost, the Advocate within, are the gifts of His love.
‘This view may appear at first less consoling than a more prevalent one, which refers prayer in Christ’s name chiefly to our trust in Christ’s merit. The defect of this opinion is, that it does not combine the intercession of the Savior with the will of the Father, and the indwelling Spirit’s aid in prayer. Nor does it fully realize the mediation of Christ; for the mediation consists not merely in that for Christ’s sake the Holy Father is able to regard me and my prayer; but also, in that Christ Himself presents my petitions as His petitions, desired by Him for me, even as all blessings are purchased for me by His precious blood.
‘In all prayer, the one essential condition is that we are able to offer it in the name of Jesus, as according to His desire for us, according to the Father’s will, according to the Spirit’s teaching. And thus praying in Christ’s name is impossible without self-examination, without reflection, without self-denial; in short, without the aid of the Spirit.’—Saphiv, The Lord’s Prayer, pp. 411, 142.