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In Jesus’ name [repost]

Jesus prayingWhat does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?

Here’s Jesus Himself using the phrase ‘in my name’:

Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am He’ and will lead many astray.  (Mark 13:6)

This is a very strong understanding of ‘in my name’.  Here to act “in Jesus’ name” is to act as Jesus and to appear to others as Jesus.

Well now – Jesus Himself asks you to pray to the Father ‘in His name’ (John 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23).  So when you come to the Father, come as Jesus.  Come as son, come as christ (anointed one).  Call on God Most High with Jesus’ own cry – ‘Abba, Father’ (Mark 14:36 <=> Gal 4:6).  By the Spirit, you are so identified with the Son in prayer that you pray as Jesus.  And the Father hears you as His very own Beloved.

Jesus does not point the way to prayer, nor simply blaze a trail and ask you to follow along.  He incorporates you into Himself in His own self-offering to the Father.  As you pray you are not outside the Trinity.  But neither are you a fourth member of the Trinity.  You are in Christ, filled with the  Spirit of adoption, calling on your Abba, Father.

That’s prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  But of course we do all of life – whether in word or deed – “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).  We don’t only approach the Father “clothed in Christ”, we approach the world “clothed in Christ.”  That’s our true identity.  More true than any phony masks we wear.

I say this stuff with glib assurance but as I write I realise I have no idea of the magnitude of Christ’s mediation both to God but also the world!

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This was first published on Emma’s site.  If you haven’t already, go and subscribe.  Best blog ever!

How much thought do you give to the Priesthood of Jesus?  It seems to me to be a much neglected teaching.  But it’s absolutely crucial, especially when thinking about mental illness.

What’s it all about?  Well here’s Job, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews…

“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.”  (Job 16:18-20)

“Christ Jesus… is also interceding for us.”  (Romans 8:34)

“Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25)

According to the bible we have a Friend in high places.  And He’s praying for us.  Continually.

I remember speaking at a prayer meeting and beginning with these words “You’re all late to prayers.”  One person who’d only just stolen in at the back spoke up sheepishly, “Sorry I had car trouble…”  I said, “You’re not the only one late.  I was late.  Everyone was late.  We are all always late to prayers.  Before we ever think to pray, Jesus has already been offering up to the Father the perfect prayer, the perfect obedience, the perfect worship, the perfect love.  He has been doing it in our place and on our behalf.  And He always will.  Any prayers we pray are just the Amen to His perfect prayer.”

In other words, Jesus is our Priest.  And He will continue to be our Priest forever. Our whole lives are offered up to the Father perfectly by Jesus, no matter where we are or what we are doing.

That’s crucial when dealing with depression or with any kind of dark time.  When it seems impossible to pray, when I don’t even want to pray, Jesus is praying for me.  When my heart is as hard as nails towards God, Jesus is the true Man after God’s heart.  When my internal world is completely chaotic, Jesus is my peace.  And He always lives to intercede for me.  My status before God is not me – it’s Him!

Therefore when times are hard and my heart’s a mess, my hope is not in sorting myself out.  My hope is not in me rising above it all.  My hope is seated far above my stormy circumstances and He is immovably secure.

Emma and I have a friend who wrote to us with a letter addressed to God.  It was full of mixed emotions – wanting to serve God yet feeling completely unworthy.  On the one hand she had great love for God but on the other, terrible anger and feelings of distance and loneliness.  It was an unresolved tension throughout her prayer.  Extremely presumptuously, I wrote a reply to her as Jesus.  It was His Priesthood that I really wanted to communicate.  Here’s what I wrote (in Jesus’ name):

Dear Lucy,

I hear you.  I know you.  I’m for you.

In the midst of your darkness and pain and in the midst of your sin I hear you, I know you and I’m for you.
I have you on my heart before the Father and I pray for you.  Constantly.  However you feel and however you rebel, you are secure before the throne of God.  I’ve got you.

I offer to God the perfect praise, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect obedience, in your name and on your behalf.

You are more than forgiven Lucy.  Your sins have been covered, cleansed and removed as far as the east is from the west.  My work on the cross was complete.  There’s nothing between you and God now.  Only me.  And I am keeping you together.  I will do that forever – I will never leave you or forsake you.

When you feel unable to pray – I am praying for you.
When you feel far from God – I am lifting you to Him.
When you wallow in the darkness – I’ve got you in the light.
When you sin – I am bearing the wounds of your forgiveness.
When you cut – I am robing you in righteousness and love.

I am yours forever,
Jesus

Cheesy I know.  But it’s the Priesthood of Christ that lifts us out of ourselves and allows us to take our eyes off our own stuck-ness.  Even if we don’t feel it, that’s ok.  It’s true.  Far above and beyond our own hearts it is true.  So then, let’s allow ourselves to be told the truth:

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect Plea,
A Great High Priest Whose name is love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

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Audio Here

What does true prayer look like?  Let me give you a picture of true prayer.

I’ll read out from Luke chapter 11, you imagine the scene in your mind’s eye:

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

And Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer.  Luke 11 is Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, but Luke gives us that extra detail.  It all begins’ with Jesus’ prayer life.

He is the Ultimate Pray-er.  From before the world began Jesus has been communing with the Father in the power of the Spirit.  Between Jesus and the Father there has always been a word-full, joy-full heart to heart.  And now Jesus has come into the world and has come INTO our human life.  And He carries on the conversation.  He’s still talking to God, but He’s talking to God as one of us.  Jesus has earthed the Prayer Life of God into our Human Existence.  And He carries on the conversation.

There He is praying on the mountaintop – God the Son who has become God our Brother – and He’s praying “My Father, My Father, My Father”.  In fact it’s more intimate than that.  We know from Mark chapter 14, verse 36 that He calls God, “Abba, Father.”  Last week Tony talked to you about the intimacy of the word Abba, meaning Father or Daddy.  It’s a beautiful term of intimacy and respect.  “Abba, Father”

God the Son comes into our humanity and as a Man – as our Brother – He continues calling God “Daddy.”

The disciples see it from a distance and they want in on it. “Lord teach us to pray.”

And, wonder of wonders, Jesus replies – let’s see it in our passage, Matthew 6, verse 9:

“This then is how you should pray “Our Father…”

Glory!  We get to call God Most High, what Jesus does.

Not because I’m good.  I’m wicked.  Not because I’m religious.  I’m not.  Not because I’m a prayer-warrior.  I’m anything but.

How do I get to call God Father?  God the Son became my Brother, He took me to Himself and brought me home.  Now I am IN on the eternal prayer-life of God.

And this revolutionizes our prayers.

So often we feel we have to yell our prayers up to a silent heaven.  Jesus says, “Come on in, Come in to the heart of heaven.  Come in my name.  In Me you are as close to God as I am.  You don’t have to yell up to heaven.  You can whisper in His ear and call Him ‘Father’”

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Today was my last official 1662 Book of Common Prayer communion service as curate.  Aside from the prayer of humble access, this is the prayer I really love from the service.  It’s said after receiving communion and saying the Lord’s prayer:

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son. And we most humbly beseech thee , O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen

What is communion according to this prayer?

1) The Father feeding us with Christ,

2) Assuring us of His favour and goodness towards us, namely…

3) That we are members of Christ, and…

4) We are heirs of the kingdom

5)  All through the death of Christ

.

Now what?

1) Please Father, helps us to continue in communion with Christ

3) And that we walk in the good works you’ve prepared for us.

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Glory!

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Sermon Audio

Do you ever worry that you’re not a proper Christian?  Do you fear you might not be a child of God after all?

Do you ever struggle to pray?

Do you worry about friends who are caught in certain sins?

Do you wonder what to do about those who once said they were Christians and now they’re speaking against Christ?

Do you ever find your heart wandering from Christ, and falling for other things?

John is going to address all these questions as he concludes his letter.  And his answer to all these questions is to bring us back to Jesus.  If Jesus is at the heart of our thinking then we’ll be able to handle these question.

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From here (ht Rich Owen)

LORD, we would come to Thee, but do Thou come to us. Draw us and we will run after Thee. Blessed Spirit, help our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. Come, Holy Spirit, and give right thoughts and right utterance that we may all be able to pray in the common prayer, the whole company feeling that for each one there is a portion. We are grateful as we remember that if the minister in the sanctuary should not be able to pray for any one of us there is One who bears the names of all His redeemed upon His breast, and upon His shoulder, who will take care with the love of His heart and the power of His hand to maintain the cause of all His own.


Dear Savior, we put ourselves under Thy sacred patronage. Advocate with the Father, plead for us this day, yea, make intercession for the transgressors. We desire to praise the name of the Lord with our whole heart, so many of us as have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Truly Thou hast delivered us from the gulf of dark despair, wherein we wretched sinners lay. Thou hast brought us up also out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay, Thou hast set our feet upon a rock, and the new song which Thou hast put into our mouths we would not stifle, but we would bless the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.

We thank Thee, Lord, for the love without beginning which chose us or ever the earth was, for the love without measure which entered into covenant for our redemption, for the love without failure which in due time appeared in the person of Christ and wrought out our redemption, for that love which has never changed, though we have wandered; that love which abideth faithful even when we are unfaithful.


O God, we praise Thee for keeping us till this day, and for the full assurance that Thou wilt never let us go. Some can say, “He restoreth my soul,” they had wandered, wandered sadly, but Thou hast brought them back again.  Bless the Lord, our inmost soul blesses the Lord. Blessed be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Triune; blessed be the Lord for every office sustained by each divine person, and for the divine blessing which has come streaming down to us through each one of those, condescending titles worn by the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.


We feel like singing all the time; we would take down our harp from the willows, if we had hung it there, and we would waken every string to the sweetest melody of praise unto the Lord our God. Yet, Lord, we cannot close with praise, for we are obliged to come before Thee with humble confession of sin. We are not worthy of the least of all these favors; we cannot say, “He is worthy for whom Thou shouldst do this thing,” nay, but we are altogether unworthy, and Thy gifts are according to the riches of Thy grace, for which again we praise Thee.


Lord, forgive us all our sin. May Thy pardoned ones have a renewed sense of their acceptance in the Beloved. If any cloud has arisen to hide Thee from any believing eye, take that cloud away. If in our march through this world, so full of mire as it is, we have any spot on us, dear Savior, wash our feet with that blessed foot-bath, and then say to us, “Ye are clean every whit.” May we know it so, that there is no condemnation, no separation; sin is removed as to its separating as well as its destroying power, and may we enter into full fellowship with God. May we walk in the light as God is in the light, and have fellowship with Him, while the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin. Let no child of Thine have any dead work upon his conscience, and may our conscience be purged from dead works to serve the living and true God.


And oh! if there are any that after having made the profession of religion have gone astray by any form of sin, Lord, restore them. If they have fallen by strong drink, if they have fallen by unchastity, if they have fallen by dishonesty; if, in any way, they have stained their garments, Oh! that Thy mighty grace might bring them back and put them yet among the children. But give them not up, set them not as Admah, make them not as Zeboim, but let Thy repentings be kindled and Thy bowels of compassion be moved for them, and let them also be moved, and may they return with weeping and with supplication, and find Thee a God ready to pardon.


Furthermore, we ask of Thee, our Father, this day to perfect Thy work within our hearts. We are saved, but we would be saved from sin of every form and degree; from sins that lie within, and we are scarcely aware that they are there. If we have any pride of which we are not conscious, any unbelief of which we are not aware, if there is a clinging to the creature, a form of idolatry which we have not yet perceived, we pray Thee, Lord, to search us as with candles till Thou dost spy out the evil and then put it away. We are not satisfied with pardoned sin, “We pray, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Help us in our daily life, in our families, in our relations as husbands or wives, parents; or children, masters or servants, in our business transactions with our fellow men, in our dealings with the Church of God, may we be true, upright, pure; kept from the great transgression because we are kept from the minor.


Oh! that we may be such as glorify Christ. Save us, we pray Thee, from the common religion; give us the peculiar grace of a peculiar people. May we abide in Christ, may we live near to God. Let not the frivolities of the world have any power over us whatever. May we be too full grown in grace to be bewitched with the toys which are only becoming in children.


Oh! give us to serve Thee, and especially, and this prayer we have already prayed but we pray it again, make us useful in the salvation of our fellow man. O Lord, have we lived so long in the world and yet are our children unconverted? May we never rest until they are truly saved. Have we been going up and down in business, and are those round about us as yet unaware of our Christian character? Have we never spoken to them the Word of Life? Lord, arouse us to a deep concern for all with whom we come in contact from day to day. Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.


Lord, keep us right, true in doctrine, true in experience, true in life, true in word, true in deed. Let us have an intense agony of spirit concerning the many who are going down to the everlasting fire of which our Master spoke. Lord, save them! LORD, SAVE THEM! Stay, we pray Thee, the torrents of sin that run down the streets of London; purge the dead sea of sin, in which so many of the heathen are lying asoak. Oh! that the day were come when the name of Jesus shall be a household word, when everybody knew of His love, and of His death, and of His blood, and of its cleansing power. Lord, save men, gather out the company of the redeemed people; let those whom the Father gave to Christ be brought out from among the ruins of the fall to be His joy and crown. “Let the people praise Thee, O God, yea, let all the people praise Thee.” Let the ends of the earth fear Him who died to save them. Let the whole earth be filled with the glory of God.


This is our great prayer, and we crown it with this: Come, Lord Jesus, come Lord and tarry not. Come in the fullness of Thy power and the splendor of Thy glory! Come quickly, even so come quickly; Lord Jesus.


Amen.

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My friend Paul Hawkins has written a cracker on the altar of incense.  Enjoy!

Read Exodus 30:1-10, 34-38

I wonder how many of us are in something like a prayer triplet, getting together with say two other Christians to pray together?

CAUGHT UP IN THE TRINITY

Exodus 30 is a great chapter on prayer.  We’re in the middle of the tabernacle, this massive multimedia picture of heaven and earth.  And inside the tabernacle were three pieces of furniture described back in Exodus 25.  The ark, symbolising the throne of God the Father. The table of the Presence, symbolising God the Son, present with us.  And the lamp-stand, a picture of God the Holy Spirit, shining to the world.

But there was one other piece of furniture in the tabernacle, only one, which was the altar of incense.  In verses 1-3 we see it was quite small, it was made of wood covered with gold and if we look on to verse 6, Moses is told

“Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony—before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony—where I will meet with you.”

That means it would have stood right in the middle of those other three things, symbolically in the middle of Father, Son and Spirit.

So what’s this altar, and this incense, all about – what’s it a picture of?  Well we’re told in a number of places and one of them is Revelation chapter 8 verse 3, which says an angel

came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.”

The prayers of all the saints.  That’s us!  It’s as if the Father the Son and the Spirit are at three corners of a triangle and we and our prayers are right in the middle.  Here’s the original prayer triplet, God himself, and the glorious reality is that if we’re Christians we are surrounded by him.

OUR PRAYERS RISE TO GOD’S THRONE

I don’t know what sort of terms you’re on with Her Majesty the Queen.  If I gave her a call I think I might just struggle to get put through.  But with prayer, it’s not just that we can get through to God if we call him up – if we sort-of throw up a few prayers.  No, we’re in the centre of his life, we’re family, it’s like we’re with the Queen in her living room, and she’s saying, how’s it going – what’s on your mind?

And prayer is how we live out this family life caught up in God.  Look down at verses 7 and 8 – Aaron burned incense (so think: prayers of the saints) every morning and evening, regularly before the Lord.  Verse 9, he didn’t come with a sacrifice or another offering or anything, no just incense, prayer.  Prayer is our expression of the divine life.

THE LAMB’S BLOOD MAKES US WELCOME

So how is it that we can share in God’s life – how come we’re caught up in this divine prayer triplet? Well verse 10 talks about atonement being made with the blood of the atoning sin offering, it says it’s most holy to the Lord.  Isn’t that the heart of the message of the cross, where the Lord God himself, gave his own blood to make us holy.  His passion gives us his life.

And do we see how that means we are very welcome as he brings us into the throne-room of God?  Very welcome.

OUR PRAYERS SMELL SWEET TO GOD

So what does God think of our prayers?  Well what’s this incense like?  Looking on to verse 34 we see – it’s fragrant!

What’s your favourite smell?  I was thinking mine might be fresh raspberries – gorgeous.  Well these spices here have sweet and powerful aromas and as they rise to the Lord they’re verse 37 holy to him, verse 38 they’re enjoyable – no-one’s allowed to copy them for their own enjoyment, no they’re for the Lord’s enjoyment.  So when we pray, God thinks, “… what’s that lovely smell?  Ah, the incense, the prayers of my saints, how wonderful!”

Isn’t that amazing? … Not that there’s anything in us that makes our prayers smell nice – no, it’s because we’re caught up in this sweet fragrant life of God himself – God the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and prays, for us (Romans 8), he takes our feeble prayers and wraps them up in Jesus.

SO LET’S PRAY

So what do you find hard about prayer?  I mean, we all do, don’t we?  I think for me I too often spend my time worrying, thinking, “how am I gonna cope?” instead of bringing everything to the Lord.  Maybe someone is reading and thinking “my prayers are just so rubbish” or “I’m too bad, surely God can’t accept my prayers.”

No, if we’re in Christ, the wonderful news to grasp is that God the Father is delighted with our prayers.  Next time we smell a lovely fragrant aroma, let’s think to ourselves – “that’s how God thinks of my prayers”.

So let’s pray – how often is prayer the last thing we think of, not the first thing we do – maybe it’s time to join a prayer triplet, let’s take every opportunity to pray.  We’re locked into the life of God, and the immeasurable resources of the Godhead are ready and waiting.

What a friend we have in Jesus.  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

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