Saturday, January 10, 2009

Praying Through the Son

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea;
A Great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
- Charitie Lees de Chenez

What does it mean when Christians end their prayer with, “in Jesus’ name”? Too often those words are treated as little more than a postscript or a magic charm invoked to make the prayer more effective. But what is the real significance of praying in Jesus’ name? In the book of Hebrews God reveals to us the role of Jesus in our praying:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).
One of the roles of a priest is that he intercedes for God’s people. That is, he prays for them. He takes their sins, their needs, and their frailties before the throne of God. Every priest under the Old Covenant served merely as a shadow of the substance to come in Christ who would be our great and final High Priest. What an intercessor we have in Christ!

The One who knows us even better than we know ourselves intercedes for us in the courts of heaven. The Lord is on our side. We pray in Jesus’ name because as a member of the Godhead, the dearly loved Son of God, Jesus occupies a place of unique authority and power. We pray in Jesus’ name because, while we are weak, He is strong.

J.I. Packer sums up the doctrine of Christ as our heavenly intercessor with characteristic insight:

The reigning Lord intercedes for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Though requesting from the Father is part of the interceding activity (John 14:16), the essence of Christ’s intercession is intervention in our interest (from his throne) rather than supplication on our behalf (as if his position were one of sympathy without status or authority). In sovereignty he now lavishes upon us the benefits that his suffering won for us. “He pleads [for us]—by his presence on his Father’s throne” (B. F. Westcott). “Our Lord’s life in heaven is his prayer” (H. B. Swete). From his throne he sends the Holy Spirit constantly to enrich his people (Acts 2:33; John 16:7-14) and equip them for service (Eph. 4:8-12).
Prayer, for the people of God, is an act of trust in God’s complete satisfaction in the cross work of Christ. Christians do not pray in order to appease God. Rather we are able to pray precisely because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so that we could approach with confidence His throne of grace. Our praying is made possible by the atoning work of Christ.

Graham Goldsworthy writes:

“Problems emerge when the task of praying is urged without the motive and pattern of the unique saving role of Jesus. It then becomes a legalistic burden that cannot promote godliness…Prayer that is not the grateful response of the justified sinner is likely to degenerate into an attempt to gain acceptance.”

John Calvin wrote:
“Since no man is worthy to present himself to God and come into his sight, the Heavenly Father himself, to free us at once from shame and fear, which might well have thrown our hearts into despair, has given us his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be our advocate and mediator with him, by whose guidance we may confidently come to him, and with such an intercessor, trusting nothing we ask in his name will be denied us, as nothing can be denied to him by the Father.”

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