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"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." John 16:23
Praying in the Name of Christ
1. Negatively. It is not a bare faithless mentioning of his name in our prayers, nor finishing our prayers with them, Matthew 7:21. The saints use the words, "through Jesus Christ our Lord," 1 Corinthians 15:57, but often is that scabbard produced, while the sword of the Spirit is not in it. The words are said, but the faith is not exercised.
Praying at His Command
2. Positively. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray,
first, At his command, to go to God by his order, John 16:24, "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive." Christ as God commands all men to pray, to offer that piece of natural duty to God; but that is not the command meant. But Christ as Mediator sends his own to his Father to ask supply of their wants, and allows them to tell that he sent them, as one recommends a poor body to a friend, John 16:24, just cited. So to pray in the name of Christ is to go to God as sent by the poor man's friend. So it implies,
1. The soul's having come to Christ in the first place, John 15:7, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." He that would pray aright, must do as those who made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend first, and then made their plea to their king, Acts 12:20.
2. The soul's taking its encouragement to pray from Jesus Christ, Hebrews 4:14, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
The way to the throne in heaven is blocked up by our sins. And sinners have no confidence to seek the Lord. Jesus Christ came down from heaven, died for the criminals, and gathers them to himself by effectual calling. He, as having all interest with his Father, bids them go to his Father in his name, and ask what they need, assuring them of acceptance. And from thence they take their encouragement, viz. from his promises in the word. And he gives them his token with them, which the Father will own, and that is his own Spirit, Romans 8:26,27, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
Praying to God through Christ
Secondly, It is to direct our prayers to God through Jesus Christ, Hebrews 7:25, "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them," and in chapter 13:15, "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
Praying Christ's name is depending wholly on Christ's merit and intercession for access, acceptance, and a gracious return:
1. Depending on Christ for access to God, Ephesians 3:12, "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him." There is no access to God but through him, John 14:6 "No one comes to the Father except through Me." They that attempt otherwise to come to God, will get the door thrown in their face. But we must take hold of the Mediator, and come in at his side, who is the Secretary of heaven.
2. Depending on him for acceptance of our prayers, Ephesians 1:6 "He has made us accepted in the Beloved." Our Lord Christ is the only altar that can sanctify our gift. If one lay the stress of the acceptance of his prayers on his attitude, feelings, tenderness, and so on, the prayer will not be accepted. A crucified Christ only can bear the weight of the acceptance of either our persons or performances.
3. Depending on him for a gracious answer, 1 John 5:14, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." No prayers are heard and answered but for the Mediator's sake; and whatever petitions agreeable to God's will are put up to God, in this dependence, are heard.
Why Must We Pray in the Name of Christ?
The reason of this may be taken up in these two things
1. There is no access for a sinful creature to God without a Mediator, Isaiah 59:2, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear." John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Sin has set us at a distance from God, and has bolted the door of our access to him, that it is beyond our power, or that of any creature, to open it for us. His justice rejects the criminal, his holiness the unclean creature, unless there be an acceptable person to go between him and us. Our God is a consuming fire: and so there is no immediate access for a sinner to him.
2. And there is none appointed nor fit for that work but Christ, 1 Timothy 2:5. It is he alone who is our great High Priest. None but he has satisfied justice for our sins. And as he is the only Mediator of redemption, so he is the only Mediator of intercession, 1 John 2:1 "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The sweet savour of his merit alone is capable to procure acceptance to our prayers, in themselves unworthy, Revelation 8:3,4.
By Thomas Boston