Earlier this year, I spoke to my church’s Best Years Club and to those present at our 2nd Annual Gospel Singing about going through dark times. I said the Bible teaches us that God has some treasures for us in those dark times and that what he teaches us in those dark times, he wants us to share with others. I shared that the darkest time in my life was when my dad died. The following is one of those things that I learned during that dark time in my life.
John 14:13-14 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Many Christians will end their prayers with “in Jesus’ name” based on the above passage. I confess that I usually do that too. Sometimes it seems that Christians believe they can ask for whatever they want and if they add “in Jesus’ name” to the end, God is required to answer that prayer. But is that really so? Is this passage teaching us to add “in Jesus’ name” to our prayers?
We are taught that if we ask amiss – if we ask to consume it upon on our own lusts – then we will not receive that which we wanted – even if we added “in Jesus’ name” to the end of that prayer.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
When the Bible tells us to ask in his (Jesus’) name, it is not telling us to add “in Jesus’ name” to the end of our prayers as an insurance policy to get the prayer answered. What it means to ask in his name is to ask on his behalf. In other words, it means we are to ask only for those things that are in agreement with the will of Jesus. If it is not the will of Jesus, then we are not asking in Jesus’ name. We are not acting on his behalf, we are acting on our own behalf.
When we found out my dad had cancer around Thanksgiving of 1995, I immediately began praying and asking God to remove that cancer and even to give it to me instead. After praying that way for several days, God reminded me of something I had prayed at my church’s first tent meeting. That night, Jack Shuler had preached a message on Hell and when he had finished, my heart was burdened for my family so much that I prayed that God would do whatever it would take to see someone in my family saved – even if it meant hearing the gospel preached at my funeral. My oldest son, Malachi, was only about 4 months old at that time so I knew that I would leave behind my wife and son if God used my funeral as the means to save some in my family. I knew it would be difficult for them, but I had such a burden for my family. When God reminded me of that prayer as I was praying for the healing of my dad, God told me he was doing what it takes to save my dad. I knew that it was God’s will to save my dad and he was going to use cancer as the means to do such. The thought of losing my dad to cancer was a bitter pill to swallow, but I took comfort that God was in control. I ceased praying for my dad to be healed. Instead, I began to pray “God, do whatever it takes.” I began to see doors opening for me and my dad’s pride melting away and his heart and eyes and ears opening. Watching him suffer was not as hard as it might have been knowing that God was working a mighty work.
God did answer my prayer to do whatever it takes. He saved my dad just 16 hours before he took his last breath. Through it all, I saw how God used the cancer to get my dad to the place where he had to rely on others for everything – where he had to lose his pride, and he was able to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. My dad possibly could still be here if I had continued praying for his healing, but he most likely would not be saved. I had to learn to pray in Jesus’ name – to pray for what Jesus wanted, rather than what I wanted. I would love to have my dad still here but I am so thankful that I will see him again.
I no longer have found it possible to pray to God to heal someone if I don’t know that it is God’s will to heal that person. I know that sounds cruel or hearltess, but I would rather see God glorified than to see my own will or someone else’s will satisfied. What God has for us is far better than what we want for ourselves. God may intend to use that sickness for a far greater purpose.
Let us no longer use “in Jesus’ name” as some kind of guarantee to get our prayers answered, but rather, let us pray according to his will.