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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 • favour.'
John xiv. 14, 15. “ If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye keep my commandments.” Ch. xv. 16, 17. I have chosen you, and ordained you, that 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.”
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 cominandments, 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.
Anl 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. I 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. 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 speedily."
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 i 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.
This particular may be illustrated by several things in the Acts, and the Epistles.
Eph. iii. 14–16. “ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, --that he would grant you to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” That is, he worships God in the character of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So in the Old Testament the pious among the Jews often worshipped God in the character of the God of Abraham, and the other patriarchs. 1 Kings xviii. 36. « And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, let it be known this day, that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant.” See also 1 Chron. xxix. 10, and 18,
Morcover it is a respect due to Jesus Christ, by whom we have been brought nigh unto God, and through whom God dispenseth blessings to us, not only that our prayers, but our praises also, and all our sacrifices and services should be presented to the Father, as by his means, and through his hands.
In Heb. iv. 14—16, before quoted, the apostle says, “ Seeing then, we have a great High Priest, who is passed into the heavens, let us hold fast our profession: for we have not an High Priest, which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Having such an High Priest
, we have encouragement in all our pressures and difficulties, especially in the cause and service of true religion, to offer up prayers, through him, with hopes of obtaining all needful aid and succour.
In the same epistle the apostle gives a like direction concerning praise. And it may be applied to every part of worship, and
to every kind of religious and spiritual service. Heb. xii. 15, 16. “By him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name. But to do good, and to communicate, forget not. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Agreeable hereto is what St. Peter says: “ Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” 1 Pet. ii. 5. Which words, I apprehend, might be more properly rendered thus : “ Ye are a royal priesthood, to offer up through Jesus Christ spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God.” Denoting, not that they are acceptable through Christ, but that those spiritual acceptable sacrifices, should be offered up to God through Christ. St. Peter exactly agrees with the apostle Paul, Rom. xii. 1. Spiritual sacrifices are such as God requires, and are in themselves acceptable to him. This interpretation is also confirmed by the text just quoted from the epistle to the Hebrews : By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.”
And it is frequent with the apostle Paul, to address praise or thanks to God in or through Jesus Christ. Rom. xvi. 27. “To God only wise be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” And near the beginning of that epistle, i. 8. “ First, I thank my God, through Jesus Christ, for
faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” And it is fit that our spiritual sacrifices should be offered to God through Christ, who has taught us to offer such sacrifices, and through whom God has bestowed upon us invaluable blessings and privileges. As it is said by the apostle, Rom. v. 1, 2. “ Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace.” Acts x. 43. St. Peter preaching to Cornelius, and the gentiles, assembled at his house, says: “ To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name,". or · through him, “ whosoever believeth in him should receive remission of sins.” And Eph. i. 3–5. “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” See likewise Eph. ii. 4—7, and iv. 32, and Rom. vi. 23, and 1 Pet. v. 10, and 2 Pet. i. 3.
It may then be thought fit and reasonable, that as all the distinguishing spiritual benefits and advantages, which we enjoy, have been conferred upon us through Christ; so our services and sacrifices, which we are enabled to perform and offer, should be presented to God the Father, in and through him.
Moreover Christ is spoken of as our intercessor and advocate, now he is in heaven..
Rom. viii. 34. “Who is he that condemneth ? Christ that died ? yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us?”
Heb. vii. 24, 25. “ But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost, or for ever, “ that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
And St. John 1 Ep. ii. 1, speaks of Jesus Christ as our “ advocate with the Father.” St. Paul, 1 Tim. ii. 5, says, he is “ the one mediator between God and men,”
Some therefore have supposed, that this is the principal thing, or all that our Lord intends in those places of St. John's gospel, where he speaks to his disciples of “ asking in his name :" that all their addresses should be presented to God through him, as high priest, mediator, and intercessor or advocate.
And indeed, I think it appears, from the directions and examples, just alleged, to be very proper frequently to offer up our prayers to God through him, and in his name, expressly. And it is highly becoming us to worship God in the character of the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Moreover, for certain, Jesus Christ, now in heaven, intercedes for his people. Of which his prayers for the disciples, when with them, especially those recorded by St. John, ch. xvii. may help us to form some idea.
Nevertheless I think that is not all that our Lord means by “ praying,” or “ asking the Father in his name:" nor the principal intention of it. But he teaches his disciples to take care to pray, according to the directions, which at divers times and often, he had given them : and in a manner suited to the spiritual and heavenly doctrine, which they had received from him.
That asking through his intercession is not the only or principal thing intended by asking in his name, may be argued from this very context: ver: 25, 26, “At that day ye shall” or will “ ask in my name.
And I say 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.”
Therein he assures them, that soon, meaning after his resurrection, or rather, after his ascension, when the Spirit should be poured down upon them, they would be able, and actually would pray to the Father in his name: and when they did so, there would be no absolute necessity that he should pray the Father for them. For when they prayed in his name, as his disciples, God would hear them, though he did not intercede.
This plainly shews, that praying in his name does not necessarily imply, desiring to be heard and accepted through his intercession.
Moreover our Lord seems to attribute more virtue to praying in his name, than can be ascribed to praying to be heard through his intercession. For he says to the disciples : “ Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” Barely calling Christ Lord, and making use of his name in our prayers, will not secure a favourable answer. But if we pray to God, as disciples of Jesus, and according to the directions which he has given; then it may be very reasonable to hope, that whatever we ask, God will give it unto us.
Once more, it must be supposed, that after our Lord's ascension the apostles did pray in his name, and as his disciples. Nevertheless in their epistles are found prayers and praises, which are not offered up through Christ, or in his name expressly. Prayers without that expression may be seen in Acts i. 24, 25; Col. i. 9—11; 1 Thess. v. 23; and elsewhere.
We quoted some while ago two places of the epistle to the Romans, where St. Paul thanks God, and gives glory to God through Jesus Christ. So also Eph. iii. 20, 21. “ Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think—unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” But in 1 Tim. i. 17, omitting by or through Christ, he says: “ Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” And Philip. iv. 20. “ Now unto God, even our Father, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” And St. Jude concludes his epistle with these words. “ To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory, and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen."
I beg leave to observe farther, that the apostles never pray to God to grant them any thing for the sake of Christ. Nor is God any where in the New Testament said to vouchsafe blessings to men for Christ's sake. We read in our version, Eph. iv. 32. “ And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,"