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tinctly what it is to pray in the name of Christ. After which I intend to mention some remarks, both instructive and practical.
I. Let us observe in general the meaning of the phrase, acting in another's name.
To do any thing in the name of another is to act by his authority, and according to his directions, and as his disciples.
John v. 43. Our Lord says to the Jews: "I am come in my Father's name," that is, with authority from him: and I act, as by commission under him. "But ye receive me not." John x. 25. "The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness of me."
When our Lord made his public entrance at Jerusalem, his character as the Messiah, the anointed and sent of God, was acknowledged by the people in this manner: Matt. xxi. 9. "The multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosannah to the Son of David. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Or, as in St. Luke xix. 38.. "Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord." And John xii. 13. "Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Our Lord Jesus Christ therefore acted in the name of God, by whom he was sent. Christ's disciples in like manner taught in his name, and wrought miracles in his name, that is, with his authority, and a commission from him, by virtue of powers derived from him. Mark xvi. 17, 18. "And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name shall they cast out dæmons. They shall speak with new tongues. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." St. Peter says to the lame man at the temple, Acts iii. 6. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." Afterwards, Acts iv. 1-9. Peter and John were summoned before the Jewish council, who "asked: By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" that is, by whose power and authority? "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them: Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God has raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand before you whole." That a miracle was wrought they could not deny: but that the doctrine taught by the apostles might not spread, they judged it expedient to "charge them, that they speak henceforth to no man in that name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor to teach in the name of Jesus," ver. 16-18.
When St. Peter healed Eneas at Lydda, "who had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy, he said unto him: Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. Arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately," Acts ix. 33, 34. When Paul intended to cure the young woman at Philippi, who had a spirit of divination," he said to the spirit: I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." Acts xvi. 18.
Our blessed Lord, the more effectually to convince men of the importance of real holiness, expresseth himself in this manner. Matt. vii. 22, 23. 66 Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out dæmons? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" Acting as under authority from thee we have done all these things: nevertheless, if they have been workers of iniquity, they will be rejected by him.
James v. 10. "Take, my brethren, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience." The same phrase occurs frequently in the Old Testament, in speaking of the prophets. Jer. xxvi. 9. "Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, this house shall be as Shiloh ?" ver. 16. "Then said the princes of Judah, This man is not worthy to die: for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord." See there also ver. 20. and ch. xliv. 16.
St. Paul directs Col. iii. 17. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus:" that is, according to his command and appointment.
We will observe a few more instances of the use of this phrase, where the meaning is somewhat different. Matt. x. 41. "He that receiveth a prophet, in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward. And he that receiveth a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man's reward." To receive a prophet in the name of a prophet, or a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, is to receive them as such. Accordingly, to pray in the name of Christ will be to pray as his disciples. It follows at ver. 42. whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple," that is, as a disciple of mine, “verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.'
In like manner Mark ix. 39-41. "But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name," that is, as by authority from me, or as a disciple, though he does not follow me with you, "that can lightly speak evil of me: for he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink, in my name," as a disciple of mine, “because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." And see Matt. xviii. 5. Luke ix. 48.
All these several instances of the use of this phrase are sufficient to show, that to do any thing in the name of another, and particularly in the name of Christ, is the same as to do it by his authority, according to his directions, and as his disciples, or as belonging to him.
There may be other uses of this phrase, or of a phrase resembling it. But those already mentioned are very common, and seem most suited to the point which we are considering.
Sometimes the name of a person is the same as himself. Ps. xliv. 20. "If we have forgotten the name of our God," that is, if we have forgotten our God. Ps. lxix. 30. "I will praise the name of God with a song," that is, I will praise God in a psalm. John iii. 18. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only, begotten Son of God:" that is, because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God, or the Messiah. 1 John iii. 23. "And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ." And ch. v. 13. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God:" that is, who believe in Jesus Christ, or the Son of God.
In other places the phrase is somewhat different, not "in the name," but " into the name." Such is the most exact and literal version of Christ's general commission to his apostles, after his resurrection, in Matt. xxviii. 19. "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" or into the belief and profession of, and obedience to, the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ, with the authority of God the Father, and confirmed to be divine, by miraculous works, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. So also Rom. vi. 3. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death?" that is, they who were baptized into the belief and profession of Christ, and his doctrine, were also, and particularly baptized into the belief of his death, and a profession of an obligation to be conformed to him in sufferings, if need be: and to die to sin, and live to righteousness. And 1 Cor. x. 2. the apostle argues, that the Jewish people "were baptized into Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea:" that is, were initiated into an obligation to obey the laws and commandments delivered by him, and to be his disciples.
II. Having now seen in general what it is to do any thing in any one's name, I proceed to show distinctly what it is to ask, or pray for, any thing in the name of Christ. And I apprehend that it may be comprized in three following particulars:
1. In praying in the name of Christ it is supposed, that the persons who offer those prayers. believe in Jesus Christ, and are his disciples, and do sincerely strive and endeavour to act and behave as such.
2. To pray in the name of Christ is to offer prayers to God according to his directions, and in a manner suited to his doctrine or institution.
3. Herein may be also included, that oftentimes we should present our addresses to God, through, or by him, as our great high priest, and intercessor with God.
1. In praying in the name of Christ it is supposed, that they who offer prayers believe in Jesus Christ, and are his disciples, and sincerely endeavour to act as such.
It seems, that this is necessarily implied, and presupposed. For who should think to pray in the name of Christ, who does not believe in him, and profess to do so? Who should go to God in the name of Christ, who does not believe him to be a teacher come from God?
It seems to be implied also, as before hinted, that they do strive and endeavour to behave as disciples of Jesus. For the doctrine of Christ being very practical, he who neglects the rules of life delivered by him, is not a Christian. He is so in name, but not in deed. And as there are many strict and comprehensive rules of duty enjoined by Christ, so his principles concerning the spiritual nature of God, the great love of God to us, and the promises of future happiness, all tend to secure and promote holiness of life.
We are led to this observation by the coherence, that is, by some things said by our Lord, in all the places where he speaks of praying in his name, as well as by general considerations, taken from the divine perfection in wisdom and holiness.
So in what follows soon after the text. "At that time ye shall ask in my name. And i say not, that I shall pray the Father for you." This I need not say, though I shall certainly do it.' "For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." A sincere faith in me, and an open profession of my name, without worldly views, from a conviction of truth, are in themselves very acceptable to God. And he 'will approve of you, and bless you, though I were not particularly to interest myself in your
John xiv. 14, 15. "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments." Ch. xv. 16, 17.—I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go, and bring forth fruit—that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another." All which, I think, clearly shows, that together with praying in his name our Lord enjoined, "keeping his commandments," particularly his commandment of mutual love, and the bearing fruit. And without this he does not assure that their prayers would be answered. And what is said in these texts just cited, is agreeable to 1 John iii. 22, 23. "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, [herein the whole will of God is summed up] that we believe on his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another."
And it is a certain maxim, that "God heareth not sinners. But if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him he heareth," John ix. 31.
This is not said to discourage any. For when sinful men repent, and forsake the evil of their ways, and their doings, they will find favour with God. But when men profess to repent, they should" bring forth fruits meet for repentance," and continue to walk in all God's ordinances, without returning to folly.
2. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray according to his directions, and agreeably to the nature of his institution of religion.
Good men must ask for good things in a right manner. And they who are good and wise are likely to ask for good things. And they will usually perform acts of worship in a right and acceptable manner.
Here I shall mention several particulars taken from our Lord's observations and directions concerning prayer in divers places.
Only premising this: that as for the matter of prayer, we may certainly ask for all good things, both temporal and spiritual, for ourselves and others, for all good men, for the world in general, for those who are in error and ignorance, that they may be enlightened with the knowledge of the truth, and may be saved, and for all who are in authority over us. We not only may, but we ought to pray to God for our own welfare, and for the welfare of others. We may pray for direction in our affairs, especially in things of great moment. So our Lord, before he completed the number of his twelve apostles, "continued a whole night in prayer to God," Luke vi. 12. We may pray to be preserved from evil, and for wisdom and strength, equal to the difficulties we are exercised with. We may pray for those who have done good unto us, that we may be rewarded by him who is the only infallible judge of right and wrong. We may pray for those who have injured us, that they may obtain repentance, and be saved. We may pray for our friends and relatives, that they may have all things necessary and conducive to their welfare here and hereafter.
I now proceed to mention distinctly our Lord's directions concerning prayer.
1.) Christians ought to ask for the good things of this life, and for deliverance from the evils of it, with moderation of affection and desire, and with submission to the will of God.
This is peculiarly suited to the Christian institution, by which the things of another world have been set in a very clear light. It does not become a Christian ardently to desire the great things of this world, but rather to be contented with daily bread, food and raiment, such things. as are convenient in the condition and station of life allotted to him. Matt. vi. 33. "But seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness. And all things shall be added unto you.' The good things of this life we are to desire, so far as may be needful: not to spend upon our lusts, in riot and excess, but to be employed in a sober use, for the support of nature, and fitting us for the service of God, and to give to others, as their need may require.
We are also to desire deliverance from evil, with submission to the will of God, as our Lord did, saying: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from us. Not our will, but thine be done."
So, as disciples of Jesus, we ought to pray in such cases, because we know, that God is able to overrule all these things for our good. And that if he do not see fit to prevent the evils we fear from befalling us, he can uphold us, and enable us to bear them with patience, and for his glory.
2.) Another direction of Christ concerning prayer is, that we pray, filled with love to one another, and to all men in general.
Mark xi. 25, 26. "And, when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you. For if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. To the like purpose Matt. vi. 14, 15.
Matt. v. 44. "But I say unto you: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.' All this they are prepared for, and are able to perform, who, as before shown, believe in Jesus, and endeavour to act, as his disciples.
A Christian, in his prayers, ought to be filled with good will to all men, and to desire the same things for others, which he asks for himself. And they who unite together in prayer, ought mutually to desire each other's welfare and prosperity, spiritual and temporal. This may be what our Lord intends, when he says: "Again, I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matt. xviii. 19, 20.
3.) Another direction of Christ to his disciples, is, that they should pray with humility. Luke xviii. 9-14. Our Lord "spake this parable unto certain, which trusted in themselves, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a pharisee and the other a publican. The pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are―And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; but smote upon his breast, saying: God be merciful to me a sinner. tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased. And he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted."
In the application of another parable, our Lord says to his disciples: "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants. We have done that which was our duty to do," Luke xviii. 10.
Christ taught his disciples, daily to ask forgiveness of sins. A true disciple of Jesus will confess his sins and failings, and own the defects of his service and obedience: still believing, that God is very good, and that his rewards will exceed the merit of our services.
4.) Another direction of our Lord is, that we pray in faith, with a firm persuasion of God's goodness, and of his readiness to hear and answer, and give the good things we ask for, and stand in need of.
Matt. vii. 9-11. "Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks, receives: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or, what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" And to the like purpose exactly in Luke xi. 9-13.
And it is the doctrine of the text. "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily I say unto you: whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
One reason of this, that they who pray in Christ's name, or according to his directions, ask for nothing but what is lawful and good, with a view to the glory of God, and with resignation to his will, if they are temporal things. Therefore their prayers are heard, and their petitions are granted. They either receive the good things they ask: or have what is better, strength to practise self-denial and patience, and thereby to glorify God.
However, certainly, it is the design of our Lord, to encourage his disciples to go to God, with a lively persuasion of his goodness. He requires that they should live in this world without anxiety, and depend upon the divine bounty for needful supplies: and not seek them
with an importunity which implies a supposition that God would not grant without much entreaty. Therefore he says, Matt. vi. 7. "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do. For they think to be heard for their much speaking." Again, ver 31, 32. "Therefore take no thought," be not anxious" for your life, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?--For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things."
This trust in God, this assurance of being heard, is also recommended by Christ's apostles. James i. 5, 6, 7. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering for he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind, and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." They who waver in their profession of Christianity, and are doubtful in their fidelity to Christ, will receive nothing. But they who are steadfast in their profession, and in the general tenour and course of their life act as Christians, and sincerely strive to behave in all things as such, when they seek for wisdom, will obtain it, and ought to be persuaded that God giveth liberally and upbraideth not.
And Heb. iv. 14-16. "Seeing then, that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession: for we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: 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 every time of need."
5.) Another direction of our Lord is, that we persevere in prayer, and as occasions require, renew our addresses to God, and pray with importunity, hoping he will at length hear us, and vouchsafe a gracious answer to our requests.
Luke xviii. 1-7. "And he spake a parable unto them, to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint, saying: There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a while. And he would not for a while. But afterwards he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said: Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that he will avenge them specdily."
There is also somewhat to the like purpose in Luke xi. 5-9: after the evangelist's account of our Lord's teaching the disciples to pray, or delivering to them what is called the Lord's prayer. "And he said unto them: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves. For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. And he from within shall answer, and say: Trouble me not. The door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot rise, and give thee. I say unto you: though he will not rise, and give him, because he is his friend: yet because of his importunity he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you: Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Agreeable to this doctrine of our Saviour, are various directions of the apostles in their epistles. Eph. vi. 18. " Praying always, with all prayer and supplication, in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints."
And 1 Thess. v. 17.
"Pray without ceasing."
Of such prayer, for himself, and others, we can perceive from his epistles, that St. Paul was an example. Yea our Lord himself in the time of his ministry has given us an example of frequent, renewed, believing, importunate, persevering prayer to God.
That is the second thing which we have supposed to be included in praying in the name of Christ, even according to his directions, and agreeably to the nature of his institution. Several
of which directions have been now mentioned.*
3. In praying in the name of Christ may be included, that always, or at least oftentimes, we should present our addresses to God through him, as by our high priest, and intercessor with God.
If any find this sermon too long to be read at once, here may be a proper pause.