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Pray in the Name of Jesus
ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
There are few things in life more frustrating than not being listened to by those who should listen to us. When there is trouble in the home, inevitably one of the root causes of the trouble is someone, or maybe everyone, not listening to the others when they should be listening. And it follows that the failure to listen is a problem for our praying. We don’t pray as we should, or as well as we should, because we do not listen to God as we should. Our prayers should be formed and informed by the richness of the Word of God and not by the poverty of our hearts. To pray rightly, we need to listen to God and not so much to our own sinful hearts. We speak of prayer as “talking to God,” which it certainly is, as far as that goes. But prayer is really a conversation, and a conversation is never a monologue; it is never one person speaking to the exclusion of the other. Above all, we need to be listening to God.
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.” But sinners like to believe these words mean that you can ask for anything you want, and as long as you are praying with sincerity, and if you add the tag line, “in Jesus’ name,” God is going to give it to you. Prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen refer to this approach to prayer as “name it and claim it.” If you pray for something by name and claim it as your own, and truly believe that God will give it to you, then God is duty-bound to give it to you—be it a better-paying job, healing from some disease, a new car, or any number of things. But those are the kinds of things that can happen when prayer becomes a monologue rather than a conversation in which we do a lot of listening to God first and foremost; when prayer becomes more a matter of our telling God what we think we need rather than listening to Him tell us what is important, and what we need to be bringing to Him in prayer. These words of Jesus may sound as if they are putting an emphasis on our speaking to God. But we need to understand what He means when He says that we are to pray in His name.
Quite simply, to pray in the name of Jesus means to pray in faith. It means to realize that we can come before the throne of grace in prayer only because our Savior has gone to that throne before us and has claimed us there as His own. This is what opens the path that leads to the Father’s gracious ears. And faith wants to hear nothing but the voice of God, for it is in that voice that truth and wisdom are heard.
This is also why we can never merely entrust prayer to our hearts. You know the condition of your own heart, and knowing that, you also have a pretty good idea of what is going on in the hearts of others. Scripture tells us that the human heart is desperately wicked. Jesus said that it is out of the heart that murder and adultery and all kinds of other evil come. That is what flows out of the human heart when left to itself.
And this is why, to pray rightly, we must listen to God first, last, and always. When Jesus asked if His disciples were going to leave Him, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life...” If this is so—and it most certainly is—then what better way of praying can be found than to use those words God Himself has given us first to hear? These are the words of forgiveness and life; words that tell us that, “if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” They are those words that remind us that we belong to God; that in Holy Baptism He has called us by name, and we are His; that He will never desert those who bears His name. They are those words that tell us that. when we pray faithfully—that is when we pray in faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord—God will hear and answer our prayers; not because we are so good and pious, nor because we have phrased our prayer in a certain way, but solely because the merits of Christ have gained for us the gracious ears of God.
When we try to go it alone with our salvation, you know what happens: we are lost. The same is true with our praying: unless we listen first to the Word of God, unless we let the Lord have His say, we cannot know how to pray. If you want to know how to listen and pray, then you are exactly where you need to be. The best way to prepare for prayer is to be engaged in the praying of the Church, in the divine service of Word and Sacrament. And that should lead you right into meditation: meditation on the sure and certain Word of God. Faithfully read your Bible; review your Catechism; utilize your hymnal. In these gifts, you have enough to listen to and to keep you praying for the rest of your life.
To pray in the name of Jesus means to pray in faith: faith which comes by hearing the Word of God. May God bless our praying, that it would be faithful to His Word and, therefore, fruitful in the blessing such faith receives. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.