Hitherto You Have Asked Nothing in My Name …

Blog-09-09There is an old spiritual that says, “King Jesus is a-listenin’ all day long, to hear some sinner pray.” I thought of that line recently during my spiritual reading when, due to a page break, a quote from our Lord was interrupted. Here is the full verse:

Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24).

As my dry fingers fumbled to turn the page, I was stuck for a time with only these words: Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name …

Something told me to put down the book to ponder only these words.

“But Lord,” I thought, “I ask all kinds of things of you in my daily prayers. And in every liturgical prayer I always conclude by saying ‘through Christ our Lord.’ Of course I ask things in your name!”

Now of course the Lord has more than certain specific words in mind. It is so easy to recite formulaic prayers in a mindless way. Even private prayers can be said in a half-heartedly, or we can ask for things in a self-serving way.

Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name …

Could it be that the Lord is waiting for something deeper from us, who would be His disciples? Is He really listening all day long just to hear someone pray—really pray?

We moderns, who live in an age when even first names are casually shared with strangers, don’t fully appreciate the meaning of the words “in my name.” To know the Lord’s name and to be permitted to use it is a sign of deep love, respect, and intimacy. In the ancient world, only close friends and family members spoke to one another using first names. Surnames and titles were used between those of less intimacy. To know someone’s name was to know something of his essence, to understand more deeply his inner life, thoughts, and desires.

In sharing his name with Moses, the LORD set forth an astonishing gift and family intimacy with His people. The glory of this gift is framed and protected by the Second Commandment, which forbids us to use God’s Holy Name in any vain, self-serving, dishonest, or empty way. Knowing Jesus’ name commands of us the same kind of reverential love.

Most fully, the name points to the intimate family bond and relationship to the Lord. Asking something in the Lord’s name is no mere formula or incantation. It cannot be reduced to invoking something superstitious or magical, like saying, “Open, Sesame.”

No, to pray in Jesus’ name bespeaks an intimate relationship in which we are deeply immersed in His thoughts, His priorities, and His concern for us and those whom we love. The power of praying in Jesus’ name comes from the fact that we are asking for what He already wants to give us. Praying in Jesus’ name helps to root us in what is truly good and necessary. It means that we no longer merely say, “Bless me, Lord, by giving me what I want.” Rather, we say, “What you want, Lord, is my blessing.”

Hitherto, you have asked nothing in my name …

Help me, Lord, to get to the point where I am more truly and deeply praying in your name, not just reciting it in prayer mindlessly, or as some sort of incantation. Yes, help me so that you are not waiting all day long just to hear this sinner pray!

Some may argue that I am pulling this (half) verse out of context and that Jesus is giving more of a discourse on His divinity and power. I have already admitted my contextual “fumble.” But sometimes, even the fumbled turn of a page is a call to prayer.

Hitherto, you have asked nothing in my name …

Either turn the page, or stop and pray. You decide.

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