Friday, July 13, 2012

John 16:23-28

Today’s passage I find somewhat difficult, so it surprises me when the disciples declare in verse 29 that they finally “get it.” I’m thinking at that point, “Really? Because I’m a little confused!” Thank you to Jon Courson for helping me through the first verses of this passage! He doesn’t really touch on my questions for verses 25-28, so I’m relying on the Holy Spirit for clarity here. See what you think...

Jesus is encouraging the disciples by assuring them that their grief at his departure will be replaced by joy. First joy in knowing that their pain will be transforming, and next, as we’ll see in today’s passage, joy because they will have the power of answered prayer.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24)

Many people seem to take this promise to mean that you can request ANYTHING and force God, like a genie, to answer your prayer so long as you tag “in Jesus’ name” at the end. But what does it really mean to pray in His name? Jon Courson says it means two things: in His authority and in conformity with Jesus’ character.

Praying in Jesus’ name means that I don’t come to the Father with my own authority or counting on my own righteousness to seal the deal. Courson writes, “... when I approach the Father in heaven, I don’t come saying, ‘Did You see how long I prayed last week, Father? Fourteen hours logged in, eighteen chapters read, twenty-two verses memorized. On that basis I come to You with these requests, and I’m sure You’ll give them to me.’ No, I simply come on the authority of the name I’ve been given to use: Jesus’ name.” (Courson, P. 571)

We pray in His name in conformity to it. My prayers need to be in line with Kingdom values. They need to reflect the heart of Christ as it is revealed in the New Testament. My pastor is currently doing a series that will continue through the year called “Reading the Red.” We are looking at everything Jesus said to discover His will. Learning what His Word says is how we will know whether or not our prayers are in conformity. For sure I know that when I ask the LORD to help me love someone or to forgive someone, I know I’m praying in His will. When I pray that someone will come to know the LORD, I know I’m praying in His will. When I pray that my coworker who hurt me will suffer, I know I’m NOT praying in His will!! :)

Jesus tells the disciple that when we receive what we ask for in His name, in His authority and in conformity to it, our joy will be complete! There is no greater joy than knowing we have pleased our Father by our prayers! And He delights to answer! This seems clear to me from the next verses:

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.  In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (vs. 25-28)

The Father delights to answer our prayers because He LOVES us - and that is because we have loved the Son and have believed in Him. This is John’s constant refrain in His gospel. We are made right with God when we BELIEVE in Jesus - in the fact that He is the Son of God and God the Son, who died for our sins, was resurrected and now sits at the right hand of the Father. And when we pray in the authority of His name, and in conformity with His character, the Father answers.

 Now I thought those were difficult passages, but apparently the disciples claimed to finally understand. We’ll see next time if that is truly so! In the meantime, I have a new appreciation for that rote, “in Jesus’ name” that we ritualistically tag onto our prayers. I’m going to try to be mindful of what I’m saying, what it means, and the power behind it!  

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