Prayer Expressions

There are certain expressions used in prayer meaning of which is not always fully understood. One of these is the common closing sentence of a prayer, “We ask this in the name of Jesus, “ or “Grant us this prayer, O Lord, because we ask it in the name of Jesus.” These expressions are based on Christ’s promise, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.” John 16:23. The promise seems to imply that the name of Jesus will validate any claim.


This is a wonderful promise and opens the door wide to the believing soul. This promise, however, must be interpreted in harmony with other statements and not made to stand-alone without any conditions attached. We may not, for example, ask God for permission to sin. We may not – as one man did – exact a promise from God to forgive him a certain sin he intended to commit. This man wanted to make sure that God would forgive it; hence, he wanted God to bind Himself beforehand so he would be sure that it was safe to proceed. It is apparent that no magical words or a simple phrase will warrant God in giving us what we want. Our desire must conform to His will.


It will be concluded that whatever request we make of God should be within reason. We may not, for example ask for the abolition of the Ten Commandments or the repeal of the law that the wages of sin is death. Such would be absurd. What then, is the meaning of Christ’s “whatsoever”?


When Christ made this promise, He was discussing the sorrows and disappointments that would come to the disciples at His death. While the world would rejoice, the disciples would weep and lament. Verse 20. However, soon their sorrows would turn to joy, which no man should take from them. Verse 22. At this point, He makes the promise that whatsoever they ask In His name, the Father will give it to them. However, they had asked nothing in His name. Now they would receive whatever they should ask, if only they asked in His name. Then He adds this significant statement: “These things I have spoken unto you in proverbs [margin, “parables”].” Verse 25.


From this expression, it is evident that Christ gave them a blessed promise, but that it must not be taken in its extreme meaning, as it is a parable, a proverb. A proverb is defined as “a general truth stated in a graphic way.” A parable is a simple story from which a lesson may be drawn. It must not be made “to go on all four,” however; that is, it must not be interpreted too strictly or too extremely. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a case in point.


When Solomon says, “the liberal soul shall be made fat” (Proverbs 11:25, he states a proverb, a general truth: God will prosper those who are liberal. When he says that “there shall no evil happen to the just” (proverbs 12:21), he states another truth, but it needs interpretation. 


After Christ had given the disciples the promise mentioned above, He said, “The time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.” John 16:25. According to this, there is a difference between speaking in a proverb and speaking plainly. We are therefore warranted in making a difference also. In the present instance, we need “to understand a proverb, and the interpretation.” Proverbs 1:6. The interpretation seems to be this:


Understanding a Proverb

Christ was about to enter upon His mediatorial work. Up to this time, the disciples had never prayed to the Father in Christ’s name. John 16:24. However, Christ had now finished the work He had been given to do. John 17:4. Jesus had earned the right of intercession. With boldness He demands of the Father, “I will….” Verse 24. These were strange words for Christ to use. Before, He had always said, “Thy will be done.” However, He had finished His work, He had the right to say, “I will.” In the covenant agreement between Father and Son, Christ was to do His part, and when He had done this, He had a right to demand that the Father do His.


“In the intercessory prayer of Jesus with His Father, He claimed that He had fulfilled the conditions which made it obligatory upon the Father to fulfill His part of the contract made in heaven with regard to fallen man.” Redemption: or the Resurrection of Christ; and His Ascension, pages 77,78.


“He had also a request to prefer concerning His chosen ones upon earth. He wished to have a relation clearly defined that His redeemed should hereafter sustain to heaven, and to His Father. His church must be justified and accepted before He could accept heavenly honor. He declared it to be His will that where He was, there His church should be; if He was to have glory, His people must share it with Him…. In the most explicit manner Christ pleaded for His church, identifying His interest with their, and advocating, with a love and constancy stronger than death, their rights and titles gained through Him.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol 3, pp.202, 203.


In telling the disciples that henceforth they could ask the Father in His name, and God would do whatsoever they desired, Christ was announcing the new relation He sustained to the Father. He had earned the right of intercession. He had finished the work God had given Him to do; and it was now for the Father to do His part. “I will, “ says Christ confidently. Christ5 was yet to die. However, thus far He had finished His work. John 17:4.


On the cross, Christ finished another part of His work. “Jesus knowing that al things were now accomplished, … said, it is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” John 19:28-30. When Christ died – “God bowed His head satisfied. Now justice and mercy could blend. Now He could be just and yet the justifier of all who should believe on Christ. He looked upon the victim expiring on the cross, and said, ‘It is finished. The human race shall have another trial.”


In view of Christ’s finished work, He had the right to demand that all that had been promised to the One who should justify God in the eyes of the universe-and thus settle the controversy that had been initiated by Lucifer-be given Him. The Father freely granted this. With this knowledge and this assurance, Christ could confidently say to the disciples that henceforth they could ask the Father in His name, and they would receive. However, this promise of the “whatsoever” must be held strictly within the provisions of the covenant agreement. It is not possible to introduce anything extraneous into the petition.


This is born out by Christ’s strange statement about what to expect from God in answer to prayer in Christ’s name: “I say unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.” John 16:26,27.


Interpreted this mean: I can pray the Father for you, but it is not necessary that I do so, for the Father Himself loves you as He loves Me. In addition, He loves you because you love Me. So all you need to do is to pray in My name.


Our first work, then, in praying, is to get Christ’s endorsement. Before He will give this, our request must be harmony with His general plans and desires. If we are to pray in His name, and if a name stands for what the person really is, his character, the particular traits which make up the total personality, then in taking Christ’s name we identify ourselves with the characteristics of that name and become one with Him in ideas and purposes.


This changes the term “in His name” from a formula to a life. The question may therefore rightly be asked, do we present our requests in His name, merely as a phrase added to our petition, or are we in character like the name?


A Blank Check

Some liken the promise that whatsoever we ask of God in Christ’s name will be granted us, to a check on the bank of heaven, signed by Christ, but with no amount written in. That we insert. In addition, the promise gives us authority to ask any amount we please. The check will not be dishonored, for it has Christ’s name on it. We present it in His name. Moreover, God will stand by His promise.


This, they assert, is the meaning of the promise that we may ask anything in His name and it will be granted. However, this would be unlike God’s usual manner of procedure.


Always there are conditions upon which God hears us. God never makes an unconditional promise. Christ never signs a check unless the amount is stated. That would be like the man mentioned above, who wanted God to promise to forgive a sin he intended to commit. The promise that God will grant any request whatsoever, if presented in the name of Christ, is interpreted by John to mean, “that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” 1 John 5:14.


This, we understand, is the meaning of the promise. We must keep in close touch with God ascertain what His will is, find out what He wants us to do, and then form our request” according to His will;” and He will hear us.


“Without the Loss of One”

There are some phrases often used in prayer that are well meant, but do not really express what we have in mind, and which should be revised and omitted. One of these is the pious wish, “Lord, save us all without the loss of one.”


We call this a pious wish, for it is doubtless the sincere wish of the one who prays. However, generally speaking, it is a prayer that is impossible of fulfillment, for the simple reason that it is not possible for God to save anyone who will not be saved.


If God had His way, no one would be lost; for the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. However, the Lord does not have His way. He would gladly save all if He could; but having a given man freedom of choice, He avoids the compulsion that would be a denial of the very freedom He has given. God will do the best that can be done under all circumstances; but let us not ask Him to do what He has left to the decision of someone else. We may ask God to help us do our part. However, we must not think that when we have prayed we have done our part, and that it is for God to do the rest.


“No Visible Signs”

“We thank Thee, God, that there are no visible signs of Thy displeasure resting upon us.” This is a dangerous prayer. For the fact that there are no signs of God’s displeasure is no assurance that all is well. There were no visible signs in the days of Noah. Men ate, drank, married and were given in marriage, “until the day Noah entered the ark, and knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away.” Matthew 24:38,39.


There was no sign of God’s displeasure in the days of Lot. “They did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:28,29. While we may be happy that there are no signs of God’s displeasure resting upon us, this is not in itself conclusive evidence that God is with us.


“God Forbid”

“Forbid, O Lord, that I should have done anything this day displeasing to Thee.” This also is a pious and well-meant prayer, but quite impossible of fulfillment. God Himself cannot forbid anything to be done that is done already.


God knows what we mean. We hope and pray that if we have done something we should not have done, that He will forgive and blot out the record. This God can do, and this He will do if we ask Him. Such a prayer is an earnest wish to have the record clear. God is pleased with this kind of prayer.


We may all lean on the promise that if we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit will make intercession for us according to the will of God. Romans 8:26. So let us pray the best we know, but also rest in the confidence that if we fail to present our prayers, as we ought, God knows the sincere desire of the heart, and will answer.


 Memory Verse:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3: 9 NIV.



1.   Do all of our prayers have to conform to God’s will to be answered? Explain.


2.   Have you taken the self-test lately to see if your personal life is in tune with God?



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