Praying in the Name of Jesus by O. Hallesby Ph.D
To pray in the name of Jesus is, in all likelihood, the deepest mystery in prayer. It is therefore exceedingly difficult for the Spirit of prayer to explain this to us. Furthermore, it is easier for us to forget this than anything else which the Spirit teaches us. Scripture speaks of “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).
The name of Jesus is the greatest mystery in heaven and on earth. In heaven, this mystery is known; on earth, it is unknown to most people. No one can fathom it fully. Behold, a sinner stands in the heavenly light which the Spirit of God has shed upon him. The longer he stands there, the more he sees of his own sins, his past life, his unclean thoughts, his impenitent heart, his aversion to God and his desire toward sin. He knows that he must turn to God and that no one else can help him. But the closer he comes to God, the worse things seem. He feels that God cannot have anything to do with any one who is as impure and dishonest in every way as he is. To him the Spirit of prayer says, “Come in the name of Jesus. That name gives unholy men access to a holy God.”
The sinner protests and enumerates all the reasons why God cannot receive him. But, sooner or later, light dawns upon his soul. He begins to see what the name of Jesus means and enters into the presence of God with all his sin and with all the impurity and impenitence of his heart. Then the Spirit says, “Now pray for whatsoever you will. In the name of Jesus you have permission, not only to stand in the presence of God, but also to pray for everything you need.”
The sinner raises a number of objections again, “I can not pray. I do not have enough faith. Nor do I have enough love and earnestness. My heart is not spiritual, and I am not sufficiently zealous.” The Spirit listens calmly to all his objections and says, “Everything you say is true. And there would be no hope for you if you were to pray in your own name. But listen again. You are to pray in the name of Jesus. It is for Jesus’ sake that you are to receive what you ask for.”
Nothing means so much to our daily prayer life as to pray in the name of Jesus. If we fail to do this, our prayer life will either die from discouragement and despair or become simply a duty which we feel we must perform. What a relief to every sincere soul who sees the un-spirituality and worldliness of his own heart and his lack of faith, love and solicitude, when it becomes clear to him that it is not necessary for us when we pray to work ourselves up to a state of spirituality which we feel that we lack. Nor do we need to put forth any effort to make what little faith we have seem as great as possible. And we do not need to fan the cold embers in our hearts in order to make our waning zeal flare up again. It is not necessary for us to go through such spiritual gymnastics when we pray. We need do but one thing: tell God about our condition, about our faith, our solicitude, and our worldly and prayer-weary heart; and then pray in the name of Jesus.
We can come before God and say to Him, “I do not have a right to pray because I do not have a truly prayerful heart. Much less do I have any right to receive what I ask for. Everything which Thou seest in my heart, O Lord, is of such a nature that it must close Thy heart to me and all my supplications. But hear me, not for my sake, nor for the sake of my prayer, and not even because of my distress, for it is a result of my own sinfulness. But hear me for Jesus’ sake.”
Such souls as these have from time immemorial rejoiced to sing:
Thy name, O Jesus, beckons me,
That trusting I shall come to Thee,
In faith and love on Thee lay hold
And deep within my heart enfold.
I call upon Thy name each day,
Where’er on earth I wander may,
It is for me a house of peace,
Where from all grief I find release.
(Translation by P. A. Sveeggen.)
We have learned that to pray in the name of Jesus is the real element of prayer in our prayers. It is the helpless soul’s helpless look unto a gracious Friend. The wonderful results which attend prayer of this kind can be accounted for only by the fact that we have opened the door unto Jesus and given Him access to our helplessness. We have seen above that Jesus wills of His own accord to come in to us and, in His own power, to deal with our needs. It is not necessary for us to constrain Him by our prayers to take an interest in us. This is another wrong way of praying.
When Jesus hears our prayers and intervenes in our distress, He does so because His love toward us is free and unmerited, and because He by His suffering and death has purchased and won for us all that we need. And He is now ready at all times to give us these things. He waits only for one thing, and for this He must wait, and that is for us to ask Him to help us. For Jesus will not and cannot force Himself into our distress. We ourselves must open unto Him. And that is the only purpose that our prayers should serve.
The idea is deeply imbedded in all of us that we can by means of our prayers influence God and make Him interested in us, good to us, and kindly disposed toward us, so as to give us what we ask of Him. This is the heathen within us, lifting his head. Among the heathen, prayer is looked upon as a means whereby man can win the favor of the gods and move them to give away some of their divine surplus. This same thought flashes upon us frequently when we pray, without our thinking a great deal about it. We feel that there is something God must see in us before He can answer our prayer.
We think that He must find an earnest, urgent, burning desire within us in the event that we are praying for something for ourselves. And if we are interceding on behalf of others, we think that He must find a hearty and spiritual solicitude for them in our prayers if He is to hear us. For this reason our prayers often become a soul-exertion by means of which we endeavor to produce within ourselves attitudes which will make an impression upon God. You have undoubtedly noticed that most of us even change our tone of voice when we pray to God. We adopt a peculiar, pleading, tearful tone of voice. With some it is pure affectation. But this is certainly not the case with most people. It is with them a naive, unaffected, genuine expression of Old Adam’s views of God and prayer: When God hears how great our need is, and how urgent it is for us to receive that for which we are praying, He will likely be moved to such an extent that He will yield and let us have it!
A complete revolution with reference to this will take place in our prayer life as soon as the Spirit has taught us to pray in the name of Jesus. He will teach us plainly that what we lack in fervency, solicitude, love and faith are not the things which prevent us from being heard and answered when we pray. These things merely reveal our helplessness. And helplessness is, as we have seen above, fundamental in prayer.
When the Spirit shows us the hardness, the slothful-ness, and the indifference of our hearts toward prayer, we now become anxious and confused no longer. Instead, they become added incentives to prayer, that is, the opening of our heart’s door to give Jesus access to all our distress and all our impotence. A new and wonderful thing now occurs. Our seasons of prayer become real hours of rest to our weary souls. They become quiet hours, hours in which we lie at the feet of Jesus and point to all those things which we lack and which make our hearts tired and weary.
When our prayer chamber thus becomes a resting place, then we begin to long for it and to look forward to it with joy and anticipation from one prayer session to the next. This again will result in another change. We will begin to accomplish something in prayer. Joyfully and thankfully we will take up the work of prayer. Our secret prayer chamber will become not only a resting place, but a workshop also.
Source: O. Hallesby, PHD from the book “Prayer” Copyright 1931
Augsburg Publishing House