And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.John 14:13-14
Whatever ... anything ... I will do it. We sense immediately that this is too wide. If we take this as absolutely unlimited, a sort of magical Aladdin's lamp that we can rub and ask for any possible thing in the world, certainly we have missed the true point of this passage. It is too wide to take unreservedly. We sense also that it is too contradictory if taken without limit. We can see problems arising. What if a Christian athlete is praying for clear weather and a Christian farmer is praying for rain? Which one wins?
No, this promise cannot be limitless. There is a condition here. Our Lord means exactly what he says but we must understand what he says. This is a magnificent promise of vast scope, of tremendous encompassment, but what he says is
if you ask in my name. This is the condition.
That certainly means a great deal more than a magical formula to tack on to the end of our prayers. There is nothing quite as pagan, or silly, as this meaningless phrase,
this we ask in Jesus' name, added to our prayers without any understanding if the prayer is actually being asked in Jesus' name. We do this because it is traditionally acceptable, and we do not understand what
in his name means.
In Christ's name means in his authority and on the basis of his character.
All of us are familiar with the phrase,
In the name of the law. Policemen do their business
in the name of the law. Suppose a policeman goes into a cheap slum area of the city at three o'clock in the afternoon. He is called there because of some murderous activity that is going on, and he comes up to the address that has been given him, and knocks at the door, and says,
Open in the name of the law. No one opens the door, so after he knocks again and requests that it be opened in the name of the law and there still is no answer, he breaks it down and goes in. But what if that same policeman is drunk? He is out in a residential area and for some reason on his own, in his drunken stupor, he stumbles up the steps of a house, and knocks on the door, and says,
Open in the name of the law. Those within hear the thick voice and recognize that it is a drunk and refuse to open. So the policeman breaks down the door, and when he does, he is arrested and taken to jail himself.
Why? It is the same action, and exactly the same man. What is the difference? One was truly done in the name of the law, the other was done outside the law, even though the same words were used. One was authorized activity, the other was unauthorized. That is what Jesus means. When we ask in Jesus' name we are to ask within the realm and scope of his work and his character. Whatever he is interested in having done on earth, then we, as the instruments of his activity, are involved in accomplishing it.
Whatever you need, he says,
ask for it and it shall be done. Whatever! Anything! If it is a need within this limit, you can ask for it and it shall be done, without failure.
Lord, search my heart and save me from talking truth and not living it, of echoing orthodoxy but refusing to submit in practical ways. Keep me from this, that I may know the fulness of the glory of these promises fulfilled in my life.
Have we been naively tacking the name of Jesus onto our prayers? Is this equivalent to using his name in vain -- a manipulative gimmick? How can we truly honor the name of our Lord Jesus in our prayers?