Praying in Jesus’s Name

Can we really trust God to hear and answer our prayers?

In several places in the Bible we’re told to ask God for what we want (in Jesus’s name) and He will give us our requests. 

But is it really that simple? Can we think of God as some sort of cosmic vending machine just waiting for us to make a selection so He can dispense what we want?

No, of course that’s not accurate. If it were, then that is exactly how we would see God, as a supernatural genie waiting to fulfill our wishes.

Rather, God promises to give us what we long for, so long as He is our main focus:

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

We’re focusing on three chapters of the gospel of John—14, 15, and 16. In these passages we are told several times that God will give us what we ask for in Jesus’s name. 

However, as we’ll see, these promises are not without caveats that we must adhere to. And dare I say that most of us fail to fulfill our end of the bargain. I know that I often do.

Let’s first look at John 14:12-14. Here, Jesus is speaking to His disciples:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

In verse 13, Jesus promises to give us what we ask for in His name. However we have to look at the surrounding text on either side of that promise. Immediately after the promise are the words, “‘…that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’” 

And after this sentence, Jesus reiterates His promise: “‘If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.’”

It is obvious that Jesus wants to get His point across about doing what we ask, but it is also apparent that His promise is conditional in that the reason behind our prayers is to bring glory to the Father.

Verse 12 gives us an even stronger description of the reason behind Jesus’s promise:

The works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do. 

Once again, it is to bring glory to God through our actions. 

I believe that is the whole crux of this passage—to do good works and pray for things that are in line with God’s will so as to bring glory to Him. As long as we are doing that, He will give us the desires of our hearts.

Now let’s look at the next chapter, John 15, specifically the verses before and after verses 7. In this verse we’re told:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

That’s a pretty big promise. But we have to look beyond the promise to the surrounding verses before we can understand the reason behind the promise.

Verses 5 and 6 talk about the importance of abiding in Jesus so that we can produce much fruit, because apart from Him we can do nothing. It is this abiding that is so important to fulfilling the destiny that God has planned for us. 

Verse 8 then tells us:

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Once again, if we read the passage correctly, we understand that Jesus’s promise is not intended to be spent on our own selfish desires, but rather it is intended to produce fruit, bring glory to God, and draw others to Him.

We must keep these ideas in mind when we go to God in prayer, not merely asking for solutions to our problems, but imploring God to show us how we can be used daily to advance His kingdom.

Next, we look at Chapter 16 of John. In verses 23 and 24, Jesus tells His disciples:

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

The “day” that Jesus refers to is His resurrection after spending three days in the grave. His disciples will be excited at His return from the dead. Furthermore, He tells them that they will be able to ask the Father in Jesus’s name and they will receive their petitions. 

Even though not explicitly spelled out in this section, based on similar promises in the preceding two chapters, we must assume that the prayers mentioned are not just any old prayers, but rather petitions of God that will advance the work of His kingdom and bring Him glory. 

Jesus wants us to be fruitful during our time on earth. Hence, the reason He mentions praying in His name on so many occasions.

Plus, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will guide His followers into all truth and help them produce fruit for the Kingdom.

These passages in the gospel of John are but a few examples of Jesus telling his followers to pray in His name and expect results.

The important idea we must keep in mind, however, is that our prayers are not meant to be spent on only petitioning for our desires. 

We must align ourselves with God’s will and pray God’s word in accordance with the Scriptures. Then we can expect to see Him working in our lives in a supernatural way for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.

How Is Your Faith?

I believe that one of the most difficult spiritual practices to follow is walking in faith at all times. 

It’s relatively easy for us to say that we have faith, but it’s something else altogether to maintain this faith day in and day out as we deal with the stresses of living in a fallen world.

However, we know that as believers we are commanded to have faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Also, in 2 Corinthians 5:7, we are told:

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Therefore, we must have faith if we want to please God and live our lives as He would have us do.

If we know we’re to live in faith, why is it so hard to do? 

I have found that just reading about the concept of faith seems to strengthen my own faith. This strengthening will last for a little while even if I don’t do anything different.

However, the cares and worries of life usually creep back in and I begin to look at my circumstances instead of God’s promises.

Pretty soon, I’m again living like somebody who has never known the Lord and His word. It’s far too easy to keep my focus on what’s going on around me, rather than what God has said.

I believe that we must make a conscious effort to focus on scripture, rather than the narrative that’s being played over and over in our minds.

Even though we know that God will reward our faith, that doesn’t make it any easier, as the enemy is constantly whispering lies in our ears. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a good place to start:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

These verses have been among my favorites in the entire Bible for many years. I have read them over countless times as a way to bolster my faith in the face of life’s struggles. 

While it is comforting to read God’s truths, the truth doesn’t do us any good if we don’t take action on it. 

James 1:22 says:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 

We’re only fooling ourselves if we don’t take action on the word of God. We can never expect to receive God’s blessings on our lives if we don’t walk in faith.

One good way to build your faith is by starting small. Pray to God about something minor going on in your life that you need His help with. However, make sure that it lines up with His will. 

Then, as God answers your prayer and you see His hand operating in your life, build on that faith. Go to God with a slightly bigger need and watch Him work.

Keep cultivating your faith as you slowly but surely work toward trusting Him for help and provision in every area of your life.

He may not give you everything you ask for, but rest assured that His work in your life will always be for the best:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Rom. 8:28

Treat your growing faith as if it were as valuable as gold, because it truly is. As your faith deepens and you see God working in your life in an ever increasing way, you’ll find it easier to maintain your faith.

Of course, I’m talking to myself as much as I am to anyone else. I need to walk this path so I can increase my faith and live the way God intends.

Let’s do it together, what do you say?

Does God Inhabit Our Praise?

Does God make His home in our praises? It’s a very intriguing thought—that God is actually present when we are praising His name. 

Psalm 22:3 is the key verse that brings up this question. Various Bible translations have rendered this verse in different ways.

For example, the New International Version (NIV) translates it:

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.

The English Standard Version is one of several translations that makes the question a little more valid with its rendering:

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

You can almost picture God living in our praise. In fact, the ESV includes a footnote that says an alternative rendering is “dwelling in the praises.”

Then, there are translations that make it relatively easy to envision God living in our praise. The King James version, among others, renders this verse:

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

And that is where the question really comes into play for me.

Does this verse mean that God is actually present with us when we’re offering up praise?

Of course, God is always with us. He gives us that promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 and reiterates it in Hebrews 13:5.

But it is a whole other thing to imagine that God is physically present—real and alive—in our praises. That should give us comfort like nothing else can.

It’s like the famous line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” If we praise God, He will show up. That should give us something to think about.

No matter which translation you read from, and whether or not you believe that God actually lives in our praises, we should all practice praising Him more. 

He is certainly worthy of our praise, as He is our Creator and Heavenly Father who loves us immensely despite all our flaws and sins.

That, in itself, is reason enough for our reverent worship of Him.

God Wants to Bless Us

When I read the verse, the truth of it immediately hit home with me. It was an awesome truth, one that gives hope and strength to a weary soul. 

“Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (ESV)

Psalm 35:27

How had I missed this verse all this time? It was exactly what I needed, at a time when my faith in God had been at a low point.

God delights in my welfare! He wants me to be well—in every way. This was definitely an encouraging verse.

I let the truth sink in. God wants me to do well, to succeed and prosper, to be at peace, to flourish in my relationships.

I also realized that I can’t just skip over the final word of the verse. Servant. I have to serve God faithfully. Then I will have His full blessing.

The verse is similar to another well known verse, Romans 8:28, which is one of my favorites:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It promises us that in the end, everything will be OK, everything will work out for the best. 

But like Psalm 35, it is conditional. We have to be among those who are chosen for His purpose. 

However, you don’t have to wonder if you’re part of the called. If you have a heart for God and want to be closer to Him, it means the Holy Spirit is working in your life.

God tells us over and over in the Bible that He wants the best for us, that He wants us to prosper and succeed. 

That doesn’t mean we’ll all be rich and have no problems in this life. Far from it. But He wants His servant to live a blessed life and He is always looking to enrich our lives if we’re following Him and doing as He commands.

Of that we can be certain. And that should give us hope in this life. 

To Will and To Work — What It Really Means

God recently gave me a revelation about a particular verse that I have read countless times over the years.

It is significant because understanding this verse in a different way sheds light on the way God works in our lives.

The key to this whole revelation was reading the verse in a translation that I don’t normally use. The real meaning of the verse hit home with laser accuracy.

Here’s the verse, Philippians 2:13, as it appears in the English Standard Version (ESV), the translation I normally read:

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

For me, the meaning had always been clear enough—God is fulfilling His will through His work. And that made sense to me, as God is, of course, going to do the things that line up with His will and what He wants.

But here is the same verse in the New Living Translation (NLT), the translation used in an email I recently read from a ministry I routinely receive messages from:

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Many people may read these two translations and immediately see that they’re saying the same thing. 

However, when I read this verse in the NLT, it had a completely different meaning to me than I had previously interpreted it from the ESV and other similar translations.

All these years, I had read the verse as meaning that God is the one doing the willing and the working for His good pleasure. 

After reading this passage in the NLT, however, I now realized that God is actively moving in my life to create the desire to serve Him and the power to do so. 

I’m the one with the “will” and who will do the “work.” It’s not God. I had always interpreted the second part of the verse (after the comma) as just an extension of the first. I had read the second part as basically repeating the first part.

But that was wrong. God is actually helping me by giving me the desire to do His will and serve Him.

He hasn’t left me alone to live in a quagmire of weak faith and uncertainty. 

He is working daily in my life, increasing my faith and developing in me a deeper desire to live my life for him and perform the works that He has planned for me to do (Eph. 2:10).

To confirm what I was seeing, I checked a few other modern translations and found that they were translated similarly to the NLT. 

Of course, I could see how the verse could be interpreted incorrectly—as I had done for years— but, more importantly, I also now saw how it could be interpreted in this other way.

I couldn’t believe that I had held the wrong interpretation of this verse for decades. I found it strange that I had never read it like this before. 

Perhaps most other people have always interpreted the verse correctly. Or maybe there are others like me who have held the wrong view of this verse.

This revelation changes how I think about my relationship with God. He longs for me to serve Him with my actions and attitudes. That’s why He’s working in me to create the desire to live my life for Him. 

It’s not up to me and my feeble efforts to become the person God wants me to be. I’m getting a big helping hand from God Himself. He’s working on my behalf to help me become what I should be and to serve Him better.

To me, that makes all the difference. Hopefully, it makes a difference to you as well.

What If It Were Today?

What if today were the day that Jesus calls his believers home? How would this change how you lived out this day?

I, for one, know that I would feel “unready” to say the least. There are so many things in life that I had always intended to do for God, that I have never gotten around to doing. 

There are so many people that I’ve never talked about the gospel with—people of other faiths that I care about and would want to be included in the family of believers before it’s too late. 

You might then ask why I don’t simply get it together and talk to these people now, while there’s still time. 

That’s a very good question. Perhaps it’s fear that’s stopping me—the anxiety of possible rejection on their part. 

What about you? What would you do differently today to prepare for Jesus’ return? Whatever it is, make plans to go ahead and do it while you still can.

The truth is, no one knows when Jesus will come back, and we all have a list of things we could work on before that time comes.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 

Matthew 24:36

Not even Jesus knows when He is coming back!

Much of your to-do list probably revolves around relationships—righting neglected relationships or forming new ones in the furthering of the gospel and creating goodwill within our community.

So, maybe we should just act like Jesus is coming back today. We would certainly accomplish more for the gospel than we currently are. 

Living our lives like it could be anytime would revolutionize our faith and turn many people around us onto the gospel.

Today is a great day to start living like that.

Abortion: The End of a Life

I can’t say anything new on the subject of abortion that hasn’t already been said many times before. 

However, by writing the truth, maybe there is at least one woman or couple out there who will by chance read this and decide that abortion is not the right decision for their situation.

Quite simply, abortion ends a life that God has created. In God’s world, there are no mistakes, no babies that were conceived that are intended to be terminated later. Even before a baby is conceived, God has a plan for it—it’s that simple. 

God tells Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.

Jer. 1:5

To end a pregnancy is to undermine God’s plan for that child.

That’s not to say that you can hinder God’s ultimate plan and His will, but it does mean that that child will never have the opportunity to grow up and know God, learning to worship Him as the Holy Creator of all things.

You may have heard it said that abortion stops a beating heart. That’s very true.

It’s possible to detect an embryo’s heartbeat from about the fifth week of pregnancy on. By the tenth week, the baby’s heart is fully formed.

The tiny heart is beating anywhere from 110 to 150 beats per minute to help supply blood to the fetus (the developing child is generally referred to as a fetus after the eight week).

Even at this early stage of life, critical functions are taking place to allow the child to live and continue developing.

Other milestones in the baby’s growth include the development of the neural tube in weeks five through eight. This includes the brain, the spinal cord, and other neural tissue of the central nervous system.

By the end of the second month, the fetus is about one inch long and weighs about 1/30th of an ounce.

During weeks nine through 12, the hands, fingers, feet, and toes are formed. Fingernails and toes are beginning to develop, and the reproductive organs are taking shape.

By the end of the third month, or the first trimester, the fetus is fully formed. All the limbs are in place and will continue to develop over the next few months.

Mother and baby are about one-third of the way through their pregnancy.

My point is not to detail the development of a baby at each stage of a pregnancy.

Rather, by emphasizing the early weeks of the child’s life in utero, you can see that there is much development and growth already taking place. The miracle of life is in full bloom inside the mother’s womb long before she begins to show her pregnancy.

To end a child’s life at any stage of pregnancy is to instantly undo all the effort and energy that has gone into sustaining that life.

It is to literally rip the child out of its protective cocoon—its mother’s womb—through a suction tube into a machine. 

The most controversial aspects of abortion seem to revolve around cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life.

I’ll admit I don’t have all the answers. However, I do know that no child conceived is a mistake on God’s part. He formed the tiny creature in its mother’s womb so that it could grow and develop and eventually enter the world nine months later. 

Who are we to interfere with what God has put into motion? We should respect the life that God has made provision for.

Many will disagree with these thoughts, citing a “woman’s choice” to do with her body what she wants. The problem is that a woman’s choice ends when it leads to the termination of another life. 

Personally, I believe that women who are pro-choice don’t see the developing child inside the womb as a living creature with a beating heart. To them it is merely a clump of cells that is not viable in the outside world. 

While that may be true, it’s also true that a baby born from a full-term pregnancy is also not viable on its own. It still must be fed, changed, and tended to in order to live.

The only difference is that it’s now outside the womb. The child in utero is no less a living being than a baby who was just born.

Once conception takes place, there is a life created by God. And we must respect that life, whether or not it was “planned.” Abortion on demand is not the answer.

God Adores You

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about you? 

At first, it may seem like a complicated question and one that’s not easily answered. However, all we have to do is turn to the Bible to find the truth. It is full of uplifting verses that tell us exactly how God feels about us.

We are of supreme importance in our Heavenly Father’s eyes. Just read these words found in the book of Matthew:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matt. 10:29-31

Does it surprise you that God keeps track of each and every bird on the earth? But even more importantly, He regards us much more highly than any bird. So we should never worry about our worth in God’s eyes.

As we find out in Jeremiah, God planned for us even before our conception:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…

Jer. 1:5

There’s really not much more that can be said about this verse. It perfectly explains that God had a plan for each of us before we were ever conceived. 

Plus, He mapped out our lives ahead of time, as we read here:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:16

God knows the exact length of each of our lives and knows what He wants our lives to consist of long before we were ever born.

Perhaps one of the best known verses, and one of the most quoted, is John 3:16. Take a moment to really reflect on what this verse says about God and His feelings for us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God loves us so much that there is nothing He wouldn’t do for us. Just take a look at this verse:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matt 7:11

We are His most prized creation. He even formed us in His image:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

Gen. 1:26

No other part of God’s creation is fashioned in His image—only mankind is. We are the preeminent creation of God. He values us above everything else in the universe.

These are just a few of the many verses that explain how much God loves us. 

If you’re ever in doubt about your worth in the eyes of God, just pick up your Bible and begin reading. You’ll soon discover the truth that God loves you immensely! 

Relax, God’s Got It

Recently I drove past a church that had the following message out front on their sign:

If you worry, then you are not sure God will get it right.

That truth really hit home with me, as I have struggled with worry for most of my life, even as a child.

I believe that many of us could stand to meditate on this church’s message. After all, if we trust God, we really have no need to worry or feel anxious.

There are many verses in the Bible that assure us God is taking care of everything in our lives. One of the best known and often quoted verses is found in Romans:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Rom. 8:28

Here we find that God is working ALL things out—not some, or even most things, but everything—for our good. Every trial, every circumstance falls under His control. There is nothing that He does not use for our eventual good when we seek to serve Him.

Another verse we can rely on when we’re tempted to worry is found in Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 4:6-7

God actually commands us not to worry. Do you think He would tell us to do something that is impossible to do?

If you’re one of the people who says, “Well, I’m just a born worrier. I can’t not worry,” then you need to focus on these verses in Philippians and make them an integral part of your everyday life.

Remember that God has everything under control and there’s nothing that catches Him by surprise. 

Besides, even if you do worry, most of the things you worry about you can’t change anyway. Just leave it up to God to take care of. 

Pray and listen to His instruction. He’ll speak to you through the Holy Spirit in a still, small voice, giving you direction in your life as you focus on Him.

In Luke, once again we’re told not to worry, as God will surely take care of us, just as He does the birds:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on… Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

Luke 12:22,24

Mankind is God’s most prized creation; He even sacrificed His son for our salvation! He will surely take care of all our needs if we will only trust Him.

So, don’t worry. God is more than able to handle anything that’s going on in your life. Just give Him all your cares and focus on serving Him each day.

What If You Were Heir to a Kingdom?

We’ve all probably tried to imagine it at one time or another—it’s part of being a child and playing make believe.

The fantasy is…what if you inherited your own kingdom? What would you do?

As a child, it’s fun to imagine such scenarios. And it’s easy to dream of all the things you would do if you did inherit a kingdom.

Perhaps your dream as a child was to sit on a throne and issue decrees to the citizens of your kingdom. Maybe you’d love to have others wait on you all day long, taking care of your every need.

The list could go on and on of the fun things you could do if you had your own kingdom to rule over.

Unfortunately, few of us will ever come into a kingdom—at least here on earth.

The good news is that if we’re believers in Christ, we’re guaranteed a kingdom someday. 

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:32

Think about these words for a minute and let them sink in.

Your heavenly father is actually going to give you a kingdom! It’s like all your childhood dreams have come true.

But what does this mean exactly? Without a doubt, there is controversy over the meaning and timing of the word “kingdom” in this verse in Luke and similar verses.

However, one meaning it could have is Jesus’ millennial kingdom on earth that He establishes after His second coming.

Many believers overlook this 1000-year reign of Christ on earth; however, it is an important part of eschatology (the study of the end times or last things).

Besides our being a part of the eternal kingdom of God in Heaven, I believe that Jesus may be referring to his millennial kingdom.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:2a:

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?

Believers in Christ are the saints Paul refers to in this verse.

What world is he talking about? It could very well be the world during Christ’s 1000-year reign. 

If so, then we’ll reign alongside Him:

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Rev. 20:6

Could it be that we’ll sit beside Jesus and co-reign with Him? I believe that’s what the Bible tells us.

We’ll get to have a kingdom, after all!

Ed Hindson’s wonderful book, Future Glory, details the millennial kingdom and all the other wonderful things God has in store for believers. I highly recommend it.

However, to receive this kingdom, you have to accept Jesus as your Savior while you’re still on earth. 

If you haven’t done that yet, it’s the most important decision of your life. It will determine where you spend all of eternity—not just the 1000 years of Christ’s reign on earth.

The choice is yours. However, once you’ve passed on from this life, it’s too late. Make the decision today to begin your new life.

And look forward to reigning with Christ during the millennium.