As Christians, we are told to pray in Jesus’ name. We teach our children (at least I know I have) to say their prayers and then finish up with “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” but a few years ago, I began to wonder what it really means to pray – to come to God – in Jesus’ name. What did Jesus intend when He told His disciples to “ask in [His] name” (John 14:14 and others). What does that really look like? Is it enough to say a prayer and simply tack on Jesus’ name at the end like a postage stamp needed for mail delivery? I hadn’t planned to, but let’s use the idea of a postage stamp for a minute … if anyone still relates to a postal service analogy.
For everyday use, people don’t typically care what picture is on a stamp, but if it’s a birth announcement, wedding invitation, Christmas card, etc., senders often request special stamps in order to compliment the contents of the package. For those of you who cringed a little at my suggestion that we sometimes tack on Jesus’ name as casually as a postage stamp, don’t be too mad; my own toes hurt the first time God called me out on this. Actually this analogy can be ice for our aching toes (yours and mine) by helping our prayers become more authentic if we intentionally reverse the order of the comparison. Instead of choosing a stamp to compliment our package, we need to examine our petitions to see if they compliment our Forever stamp – Jesus Christ the Lord!
So how do we examine our prayers? We’re going to look at that next. Feel free to take a break if you need to, but don’t forget to come back. Today’s post is just a little longer than usual. This reminds me of when David and I went to see Gods & Generals. The screen went black, and we thought, “It’s over?!” Nope … “Intermission.” Think of it as a 2-for-1. On we go …
We’ve been exploring the Jacob and Esau saga. Jacob came to Isaac using the “stamp” of Esau. Jacob and Rebekah were very intentional in ensuring the contents of Jacob’s petition complimented the Esau stamp. They accomplished this by considering all of Isaac’s senses. In the last few weeks of our class meetings, we have looked at how to use the idea of intentionally appealing to God’s senses in reflecting on our prayers and petitions to Him.
Isaac was blind, so Jacob did not have to appeal to Isaac‘s sense of sight. God is NOT blind, and yet we do not have to appeal to God’s sight either. Why not? God sees us (believers, that is) as Christ’s own body (Eph 1:22-23). When He looks at us, He sees the body of His dearly loved Son! When was the last time you looked in the mirror and saw yourself as an actual part of Christ’s body? If you’re a believer, that is exactly what you are.
Isaac felt Jacob’s hands and neck to see if His skin felt like Esau’s. Again I remind you that, as believers, we are Christ’s body, so yes, we feel like Him to God! One interesting thing to note is that when Isaac felt Jacob, he felt the hair of a goat, which Jacob had put on so that he felt hairy to the touch. As believers we are covered by – and so we feel like – the Lamb (1 Pet 1:19).
Of the five senses, sound was Isaac’s one sense that Jacob could not fool. His voice may not have sounded like Esau’s, but his requests were ones that Esau would have made. As for us, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:19 to “…Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” (NIV, emphasis mine). Reading into verse 20, our main idea pops up again: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine). The substance of our individual prayers are to be unified in the name of Christ – meaning that we ask for things Christ would ask for, but we are to sing our own songs. Think about music, the instruments of an orchestra have different parts and sounds, but when playing under the direction of the conductor, all harmonize beautifully creating music that is pleasing to the ear.
Taste was connected with the meal that Jacob brought to Isaac. It had to be prepared according to Isaac’s preferences (repeated in Gen 27:4, 9, and 14). Scripture tells us that God appreciates saltiness. Leviticus 2:13 says that cereal offerings were always to be given with salt. In the New Testament, Jesus says that we are to be salty; Paul says that our speech is to be seasoned with salt (Mk 9:50, Col 4:6). The distinctive, enhancing flavor of salt is to permeate our beings, so that as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1) – in thought, word, and deed – the flavor of our sacrifice will be pleasing to Him.
Isaac’s sense of smell was satisfied by Esau’s clothes. As for our clothing, Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12 that we are to clothe ourselves with specific attitudes and behaviors that are pleasing to God: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience.” Verses 13 and 14 add forgiveness and love to that list. Thinking about Isaac, I can picture God closing His eyes as we draw near to Him, and breathing deeply the aroma of our clothing.
I referenced John 14:14 at the beginning of the post. The Amplified Bible provides the following expansion of the verse: “[Yes] I will grant [I Myself will do for you] whatever you shall ask in My Name [as presenting all that I AM].” (emphasis mine). When we begin to examine our prayer lives through the idea of a postage stamp … or our senses … or another illustration God has shown us … and when we desire to pray in a way that presents “all that [He is],” we will begin to see our prayers answered affirmatively and in abundance.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4).