Prayer in the Name of the Lord Jesus -- Joh_16:23-33
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou earnest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
In the first part of this section our Lord brings before us in a truly illuminating way the privilege now extended to us, as believers, to go directly to the Father in prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not think that there is any subject on which there seems to be more confusion than that of prayer. So many people have an idea that prayer is the effort to overcome God’s unwillingness, to make Him willing to do something for us which He does not desire to do. That is not the case.
We are not told to pray in order to overcome God’s unwillingness. Our God delights to bless, but He chooses to bless in answer to prayer, and that for a number of reasons. You see, when I go to God directly, when various things are pressing upon heart and mind, and they drive me to Him, I find that just speaking to Him of the things that burden me has a sanctifying effect upon my own soul. The psalmist said, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psa_73:28). If some of us did not have some special exercises to make us go to God, we would probably move on from day to day forgetting the privilege of speaking to the Father. Our needs send us to Him, and if we talk things over with Him, oh what blessing it gives, what a change a little time in His presence will make!
Perhaps pressure has been brought to bear. You have been worried and anxious about many things, concerned about loved ones going astray perhaps, and the more you have thought about these things the more distressed you have become. And then you have said, “How foolish I am to be worried. Why not act upon the verses that reads, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’“ (Php_4:6-7)? And so you have pressed into His presence and poured out your heart to Him. You have told Him about the financial worries, family affairs, the loved one whose salvation you long for, and as you unburdened your heart, He drew near. Then you went out to take up the affairs of life again with a lightened heart and mind, and more than that, such a spiritual sense of blessing, for as you were pouring out your heart, you felt constrained to talk about yourself and confessed your own failure and your own sin. And after you had confessed, you had the joy of knowing that He forgave.
So prayer was meant to be a means of sanctification, but more than that, God chooses to give in answer to prayer what He may not give apart from prayer, in order that we may have constant proof that we have to do with a living God. You see, when I go to God in secret, tell Him my story, then go forth to meet the world and see Him working in His wonderful way, I know by practical experience that I have to do with a living God.
I read a remarkable testimony that I think will be a blessing to all who hear it. It had to do with a money matter. Down in Columbia, South Carolina, is located the Columbia Bible College of which Dr. Robert McQuilken is the president. Some time ago they started to buy a large building to be used as a men’s dormitory. They put the amount of money needed before the Lord, and it came in. Then the next year they were to pay ten thousand dollars on October 1. This letter came telling us that on the last day of September, singularly enough, the balance needed was exactly $2,121.21. They took it to the Lord in prayer, and then went out and opened a little box into which donations had been dropped. When they counted the money put in that morning, it was $21.21. That left $2,100 to be made up. They had a day of prayer, and as they waited before the Lord that day, gifts began to come in from different sources. The largest gift that morning was one hundred dollars. Later a gift of five hundred was received. By evening they had received in all, exactly $2,121.22, just one cent more than they needed.
What a wonderful bookkeeper God is. He gave all they needed and one cent more toward the next ten thousand dollars! How could anyone doubt but that they had to do with a living God. It was as they were gathered together waiting upon God that the money came from different places, from people who did not know they were praying for it at that time. Prayer then is a God-ordained method of demonstrating the reality of God and His definite interest in the affairs of His people.
Now see how our blessed Lord puts it in this passage in Joh_16:23, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you [he will give it you in my name].” Notice, I have changed the position of “in my name,” and I will explain why. It says in our Authorized Version, “Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name.” Another verse shows us we are to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, but the best manuscript read this way, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name.” Notice then what the Lord is saying: “In that day,” that is, after His death, when the Comforter has come, when the present day of grace is brought in-the day in which we are living-“ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you.”
Now it is very interesting to note that there are two different Greek words here that are translated “ask,” and they have quite different meanings. In the first place where He says, “In that day ye shall ask me nothing,” the word means literally “familiar entreaty,” as you might go to a very loved friend and put a case before him definitely. Whereas, in the other sentence, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you,” the word there means literally, “petition,” “taking the place of a suppliant,” “begging for the help you need.” And you notice the difference. The Lord says, “In that day ye shall ask me nothing.” You see, when here on earth, they went to Him, and He answered their questions and made things clear. Now He says, I am going away, and I won’t be here for you to come to Me in that free, familiar way. I won’t be here for you to ask for My personal help in the way you could then.
For nineteen hundred years our Lord has been absent in heaven. You take some of the questions that have troubled the church. Would it not be delightful if we could go to Him and ask, saying, “Master, there has been a great deal of difference in the church concerning baptism. Would you tell us plainly whether you mean we are to sprinkle or baptize by immersion, or whether we should immerse only once or three times? Should we put them in forward or backward?” Now wouldn’t it be delightful if we could just go to Him and ask Him? Why, He could tell us in a moment. But He isn’t here, and so we have to study His Word and act in accordance with what we gather from our meditations upon it.
Though we cannot go directly to Him, He says there is something even better than that. “In that day ye shall [make no ‘familiar entreaty’ of me]. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask [and here the word means to plead for something you need] the Father in my name, he will give it you.” So we are invited there to go directly to God, the Father, with our petitions. Are you in need of financial help, comfort, and health, and so forth? What is there that is pressing upon your heart? He says, “You cannot come to Me personally, but you can go to the Father and bring your request to Him, and He will give you what you ask for in My name. He will do it for Me.” The Father loves the Son and has committed all things into His hand, and He delights to do things for us because it pleases His blessed Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He does it in His name.
You may have heard the story of that poor boy who was dying on the battlefield after one of the great conflicts in the war between the States. Another soldier nearby crawled to him and found this poor boy in a dreadful condition and did everything he could to help him. They talked together, and then the other said, “Now, if I get out alive, is there anything I could do for you?” “Well,” he said, “maybe I can do something for you. My father is wealthy. If you get through this conflict alive and are ever in need, take this little card (and he wrote a few words upon it) and go to see my father. I know he will be ready to help you out.” The soldier did not think he would ever use the card, but the time came when he was in dire need, and he remembered the conversation. He went and found this wealthy man. Through the underlings and secretaries, he sent in his own card and got no response. And then he thought of the other card and got it out, and on it was written these words, “Father, if you can ever do anything for my friend who helped me when I was dying, please do so.” And it was signed “Charlie.” In a moment, out came the big business man and he said, “Oh, why didn’t you send that in before? I will do anything that I can for you for Charlie’s sake!”
That is the way God feels about His Son. He wants us to come with our questions, our sorrows, our heartbreak, and our need. He will do anything for us for Jesus’ sake, anything, of course, which is consistent with His righteousness and holiness. So how encouraged we ought to be to draw near to God in prayer.
Then, notice, the Lord continues to open up this subject. Now He uses that word which means to beg for something: “Ask, and ye shall receive” (Joh_16:24). While He was here on earth they could come directly to Him, and He did not urge them to go to the Father in His name. Even the Lord’s Prayer (really the Disciples’ Prayer) does not conclude in the name of the Lord Jesus. He did not ask them to do that when here on earth, but now He was going away, and He says, “Ask, [and ask in my name], and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (Joh_16:24). It means to ask by His authority. He has authorized me to come to the Father and present His name and say, “Father, Thy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, told me to come, and so I am coming in His name to present my petition.”
That was difficult for them to understand. “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father” (Joh_16:25), because God the Father and the Son are One. He does not mean that they are not to address Him in prayer. The disciples called on the name of the Lord Jesus. Stephen cried, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Act_7:59). Paul, when he had the thorn in the flesh, said, “I besought the Lord [three times], that it might depart from me” (2Co_12:8). It was perfectly right and proper for him to go to Jesus. The last prayer in the Bible is addressing Him: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev_22:20).
But that our finite minds might grasp it, He uses this allegory of going to the one person of the Godhead in the name of the other. “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.” That was the time of resurrection when He said, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God” (Joh_20:17). He would have us understand that we can go to God the Father, just as you go to your own father.
“At that day ye shall ask in my name; and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (Joh_16:26-27). Do you get the implication of it? Do you know, if we could just see this, it would do away with all intermediaries, and we would go directly to God for whatever we want? It is a strange thing that very early in the history of the church people began to feel that God was so great and far removed from us, and that we are such sinful people that we dare not call on the Father directly. So men thought of our Lord Jesus Christ as an intermediary who seeks to persuade the Father to help us. We hear people pray in this way, “We ask, Lord Jesus, that You will entreat for us.” Or, “we pray that You will plead with the Father for us.” WJiy, you need not do that! You don’t need to go to the Lord Jesus and say, “Won’t you please ask the Father to do something for me?” No, because the Son and the Father are really One, not in person, but in essence.
And if we should not even go to Jesus as an intermediary in this sense, then what shall be said of those who have put a whole lot of mere creatures in between the soul and God? Did you ever hear this? “Holy Mary, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us. St. Mark, pray for us. St. Paul, pray for us.” Did you ever hear people pray like that? Wliat does that imply? That they do not realize that the veil has been rent. We do not need any intermediaries.
“Well,” you say, “isn’t the Lord Jesus Christ our Mediator?” Oh, yes, that is what we are told. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Ti_2:5). But that does not mean that we have to go to Him about our ordinary affairs of life and ask Him to persuade the Father to do something for us. He is there ever bearing us up before God, but we are invited to bring our petitions as to the details of life directly to God Himself in the name of the Son.
Look at the verse again and get the good of it. “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you.” Are you afraid of God then? Afraid to go to Him directly? Why, the Father Himself loveth you.
Suppose here is a family with a loving father, a wayward son, and a sweet daughter. This son comes to his sister and says, “Mary, I wish you would go to Dad and ask for money for a new suit of clothes for me.” WTiat would that imply? Why, that the son did not have confidence in his father’s love, and so he says, “Mary, won’t you please go in and plead with father to give me the money.”
If he had confidence in his father’s love he would go to him direct, confess his sin, and say, “But, Dad, look at my suit of clothes. I need new ones.” And then father would say, “Come, my boy, we will go down and get a suit.” He would not need anybody to go to his father for him. You and I should understand that we need not go to the Son to pray to the Father for us. “The Father himself loveth you.” And notice why, “Because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” That is what the world does not believe. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” (Joh_16:28).
And they were quite sure now that they understood, but they did not really see what He meant. “His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou earnest forth from God” (Joh_16:29-30). Well, they did understand later on, but actually at that time, they were overconfident, as their future behavior shows. “Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (Joh_16:31-32). Who would have thought that such a thing would be true? And yet, within a very few hours’ time His words were fulfilled.
He says, “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” The time soon came when they all forsook Jesus, but even in that dark hour He was conscious of the Father’s will and His presence with Him.
And now He closes His valedictory discourse that has covered chapters 14-16, and says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Joh_16:33).
It took some of us a long time to find that peace. We tried to find it ourselves and could not. But at last we turned to Him, confessing our sin, and we found peace with God. We came to Him about our care and found the peace of God filling our hearts. Have you learned that? God is light and love. Trust in Him and you will have peace, a peace that the world knows nothing of. In the world you will have tribulation. You will have your share of it. And yet, think of it, you can go through every trial triumphantly. He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Just trust Him, and everything will come out right at last. Does the present war condition trouble you? Do you ask, “Why doesn’t God stop it all?” Listen, God is taking everything into consideration. These conditions are the direct result of sin. God did not bring them about. They were brought about by the Devil. God is letting them go on and on until they come to their fullness. Soon He is going to send His Son back again who will reign for a thousand glorious years. Be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world! And we can take everything to God in prayer.