I promised to share some post-teaching thoughts on prayer. Last week, as I taught women’s bible study, we came to John 14:13-14, when Jesus says:
“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
This is an amazing promise. Of course, it’s not a blank check for us to cash anytime we want to. Notice that there are two conditions. The first condition is that we must ask in Jesus name. Here’s one area where I wish I would have elaborated more at bible study.
We train ourselves quite well to end our prayers with the phrase, “in Jesus’ name.” However, I don’t think that this is what Jesus had in mind when He made the promise. We tack this phrase on the end of all of our prayers, but are we really mindful of what we are saying? Are we contemplating the power of Jesus name at that moment? Philippians 2:9 says that God gave Jesus the name that is above every name. The Psalms tell us that the Lord’s name is so powerful, that we can run to it for safety. We are cautioned not to use this wonderful name in vain. But how often do we say it out of habit, rather than awe???
What Jesus was talking about in this verse is our ability to call on His name in the midst of our need. Being around my pastor, friend, and mentor Kathryn has taught me something about the power of Jesus’ name. I noticed that something happens when she calls His name. HE COMES. Following in her footsteps, I have felt His “arrival” (so to speak) when I’ve called on His name. JESUS. In an anxious moment or situation, I’ve called out for Him, and I’ve sensed the wind of His Spirit blow into my presence. Have you felt it too?
As I’ve faced spiritual opposition, I’ve learned to pray against the enemy’s tactics “in the name of Jesus.” Boy, that’ll do it. The enemy can’t stand to hear that name, and he must bow to it. He must flee.
Then one day, I realized that it’s not just spiritual warfare that demands a request in the name of Jesus. I’ve started praying more fervently and intentionally about things, and I’m requesting these things in His name. Right there in the middle of my prayer. I call on the name of Jesus.
When I do that, it makes me slow down. I must think about what I’m asking. I’m speaking the most powerful name, addressing the most powerful being in the universe. Is this request worthy of His name? Do you see how this line of prayer keeps me from praying selfish, thoughtless prayers? I have to stop and think about it.
There’s another condition for this promise from Jesus. He says He will do whatever we ask, “so that the Son may bring glory to the Father”. The thing we’re asking for must bring glory to the Father. Doesn’t that rule out a lot of requests?? This is where I made a statement (at the evening bible study) that might seem perplexing to some:
We need to ask God what we should be praying for.
That seems kind of funny. Ask God what to ask Him for? Isn’t prayer about asking for what you want or need? Isn’t it obvious what I should be praying for?
The question is, are you always sure of what God’s will is? Haven’t you faced some needs in your life or the life of others that were SO overwhelming that honestly you didn’t know WHAT to pray for?
For years, I would throw out my wish list, my wants, my perspective on things in prayer. Of course, I learned to add a quick, “if that’s your will, Lord” near the end. That sounded so spiritual. But something changed over the last few years. I’ve experienced a “prayer revolution” in my life. I spent some time praying with an amazing group of women, and they taught me how to come to God and just be still. To begin with praise and confession. To sit and wait for the Lord to lead our prayers. Soon, a nudge would come. Maybe a single word like “patience” or “freedom”. Sometimes a picture would come to mind, illustrating the true nature of the situation we were praying for. Often I felt the urge to turn to a certain bible passage that gave me guidance for prayer. There were even times that I was overwhelmed by an emotion (like anger or grief) and it showed me what to ask the Lord for. I can also recall moments when the prayer I had on my tongue would not come out of my mouth, no matter how hard I tried. Clearly, the Lord was telling me that this was not the direction to go. In all these things, I learned to follow His lead in prayer.
When a situation is bigger than you (which is so often the case in our lives, right?) it’s time to recognize your limitations. We cannot see all the forces at work. We cannot see the future. We cannot predict what the enemy will attempt. We may not be sure what God’s will is. So why not let God lead the prayers? If He knows the outcome, then He can guide our hearts to pray for the right things.
How often have I sat with someone to pray with them, and I was clueless what to pray? I didn’t want to offend. I certainly didn’t want to get their hopes up. I have learned to be quiet and let God quietly whisper to me a word, reveal a need, or show me a picture in my mind that will guide what I pray for. It’s okay to just be quiet and wait… instead of trying to fill the silence with unnecessary words. Do you know how many times I have looked up from these prayer sessions and seen a look of wonder on the friend’s face? They’ll inevitably say that what I prayed was perfect. Even if they told me all the details of their struggle, I may not know what to ask God for. If I wait for Him, God gives me insight to pray in the right direction. Praying this way can give God the opportunity to confirm or correct someone. When we let Him lead, He does His work.
So, Jesus’ words present a promise and a challenge. He WILL answer. All we have to do is seek Him first, so He can show us what to pray. Then we can call on the mighty name of Jesus our Lord. The rest is just watching and waiting for results. Praising Him until the answers arrive. He is so good!