Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

InChristsNameWhen we first moved back to the States from Germany, I was scrambling around doing any work that I could find to bridge the months until my new salary at Oklahoma Christian would start.  One of the most interesting jobs I took was to translate for a graduate student who needed it for his thesis a 19th century German theological book, considered one of the definitive works of its time, on the Name of God.

I don’t know how helpful it was to him, but I came away with a totally different view of His Name–a greater sense of its reality and presence–and power, one that it probably more spiritual and a great deal less rational than I had believed to that point in my life.

Not everyone in the world understands names or uses names like Americans do!  We pay some slight attention to the fact that royalty in other countries–especially England–carefully choose the names of their children. Some who inherit the throne unexpectedly actually rule under a different name than the one they used from birth.  King George VI of England, the one of The King’s Speech was known as Prince Albert, Duke of York, his entire life prior to his unexpected ascension and more informally in the family as “Bertie.”  He chose to reign as George, however, to emphasize continuity and stability within the monarchy.

In Germany, even the language–especially the form of address–distinguishes between people who have a relationship with you and those who don’t.  You never call a stranger by their first name; you always address them as Frau Schmidt or Herr Lange–nor would they tell you their first name anyway.  People may work together for years and not know the person’s first name who sits next to them.  You must be specifically invited to a new level of familiarity in order to address a person by their first name.

Other countries also have very different customs regarding whether children take the father’s or the mother’s last name.  Some cultures always include the day of birth as part of the name (Monday, Tuesday, etc.).  Many Catholic countries see most children named with the patron saint’s name of their birth day.  Other countries have an official list of names and spellings from which parents may choose to name their children–none of this making up your own name and spelling it creatively like Americans do.

It may be this casual attitude toward names that has caused American Christians to lack appreciation for the powerful holiness inherent in “the Name” of God, whether it is part of the Old Testament revelation of God or central to the message of the Son of God in the New Testament.

For too many of us, “in Jesus’ Name, Amen” are just the words we were taught to use to close prayers.  In reaction to the empty ritual it has become, others consciously avoid these words. We are a little better with the Trinitarian formula “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” especially at baptism, but even there we do not think of the words carrying either holiness or power. They are… just words.

Dr. Greg Pruett, President of Pioneer Bible Translators, has written a powerful book entitled Extreme Prayer: The Impossible Prayers God Promises to Answer.  One of the most instructive chapters in his book is “Chapter Two–Name Power: God Answers Prayers in Jesus’ Name.”

Here is the paragraph where Dr. Pruett reveals what for many may be a transformative bit of information about prayer “in the Name of Jesus” :

               What is the significance of praying in Jesus’ name?  In the Bible, a person’s name represents his or her nature.  Praying in Jesus’ name doesn’t mean asking for a Ferrari and tacking on the magic words “in Jesus’ name.”  It means presenting requests that resonate with Jesus’ character, praying “for his name’s sake” prayers that advance his plans for the earth–in other words, proclaiming Kingdom of God-oriented prayers.

He goes on to explain:

Jesus’ name comes from the Hebrew root word meaning ‘to save.’  Praying in Jesus’ name literally means praying about obeying Jesus’ command to bring his salvation to each person and to the ends of the earth. Prayers in Jesus’ name center on the desire to see people far from God coming to know, love, follow, and obey Jesus.” (p.20)

And his thesis is that it is these prayers in Jesus’ name that God has promised to “do whatever you ask”–not just any prayer.

In a workshop with the Let’s Start Talking staff, Dr. Pruett made a distinction between prayers that are based on “our story” and prayers that are based “in God’s story.”  And it is not that God doesn’t hear the prayers in our story–quite the contrary; He is certainly the God who knows when every sparrow falls from the sky. However, the promises of “whatever you ask” are not specifically linked to the prayers for our story, but rather to God’s story, to those prayers that are about His kingdom coming, His Will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

At LST, our prayers have changed because of this teaching.  As a ministry, we continue to pray for our families and pray for the sick–but we are now consciously praying in Jesus’ Name, asking for the people we could send and the funds with which to send them in order to share the Name of Jesus in places and to hearts where the Name does not live.

And we are learning–still learning–to believe that God will do whatever we ask in Jesus’ Name.

This is not the last time we will talk about this.

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extreme prayer If we were playing Family Feud, and the word to play was PRAYER,  I would guess that one of the top responses from the audience would be POWER.  Have you read the Christian end times books that have the heavenly hosts completely handcuffed in their last battle against Satan, bound in helplessness until they are released by the prayers of the faithful on Earth?

I read one of those books once and found myself wondering if we are not turning prayer into a power tool that we wield rather than kneeling humbly and letting our requests be made known to Almighty God.

 Asking, knocking, crying out, seeking, supplicating, longing, beseeching, calling out, these don’t sound like power words to me; rather, they sound like words of neediness.

But we don’t want to be needy; we want to make things happen, so we Christians want to turn acts of worship, of submission and surrender into acts that compel or instigate or change.

Greg Pruett has written a wonderful book Extreme Prayer: The Impossible Prayers God Promises to Answer, published by Tyndale House, and available through Amazon.com.

Greg is the president of Pioneer Bible Translators in Dallas, Texas, but before that he and his wife Rebecca, along with their three children, served as Bible translators in West Africa for over twelve years.  I met Greg a few years ago, but we had never really had much time to talk until the North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis earlier this month.

At the end of our time together, Greg gave me a copy of his new book, which I began to read on the plane home, and it captured me with the opening pages.

He begins with a dark time in his ministry, his faith, and his marriage. One of the characteristics of liturgical churches that I wish our churches would imitate is that their liturgy often begins with, but in every case includes, a confession of our own sinfulness and our need for the grace of God before one more song is sung or one more prayer is spoken.  And so it seemed to me a wonderful thing that a book on prayer begins with a confession of unworthiness even to be in the presence of God—which in turn makes His gracious gift of prayer even more precious.

Drawing from many of his experiences in West Africa, Greg teaches us to pray. “This book is centered on . . . extreme prayer—the discipline of maximizing Jesus’ promises about prayer. Each of the following chapters unveils a different kind o prayer that Jesus backs with a blank-check promise (“whatever you ask”—mw). “

I might have been a little nervous about the book still to this point, but then Greg really reveals his message:  “But watch out! Don’t read this book to get your own wishes out of prayer.  God wants something so much bigger than that.

Greg makes prayer about God and not about me!  And that’s the way it should be, but often isn’t.

He teaches us what it means to pray “in the Name of Jesus.”  He teaches us to pray in “faith and faithfulness,“  not making the answer to our prayer the condition of our faith.  Even his shorter chapter on what he calls “shameless” prayer teaches us that persistence is not from entitlement but from the humble acknowledgment of our total dependency on God.

As the small book draws to its close, the writing becomes more specific, more concrete.  We need that kind of instruction, not just the inspirational.

Extreme Prayer taught me about prayer in a way that has grown my understanding of and my faith in Almighty God.  If you read this book—which I highly recommend–you may not hear exactly the same message because it is full of words of Truth, but you will hear the Word, and you will be changed because of it.

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