And in that day you shall ask me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name…
We must be taught how to pray just as we must be taught how to walk. Sometimes when a Child comes home from school, after a long and expensive education, the parent finds that he has learnt nothing aright. He has been taught arithmetic, yet he cannot work a single rule properly. He has been taught music, yet he plays without feeling, and incorrectly. He has been taught to draw, yet an artist detects at once that he does not know the very A B C of art. In religion the same thing often occurs. There are people who have "said their prayers" all through life, and, perhaps, never really prayed once. They have got into a habit of using certain words, without thinking of their meaning, and so have become mere machines, like those musical boxes which reel off their fixed number of tunes, and then are silent. There are thousands of letters posted every year which end in the dead letter office, either because they are wrongly directed, or not directed at all, and there are thousands of dead prayers which never reach God for the same reason. Then there are prayers which ask for wrong things, or they ask in a wrong way, and so they are wasted. You know that every man in a high office receives a vast number of letters, many of them very foolish, and even wicked. But he is far too wise to answer them. Think how many improper, foolish, and even downright wicked prayers are addressed to the All-wise God! Can we wonder that He does not answer them?
I. HOW TO PRAY. What is meant by asking in Christ's name? Well, it means this. If a warrant, or other legal document is to take effect, it must be endorsed by the name of some one in authority, otherwise it is so much waste paper. So our prayers must be endorsed, so to speak, with the name of Jesus. He must consider them fit to be offered in His name., or they are useless. Have not some of you prayed, looking upon God's mercy and grace as a sort of lottery, where you may draw a prize, but where you rather expect a blank? Such faithless prayers cannot have the name of Jesus attached to them, they cannot be accepted. Our Lord never worked a miracle unless the person asking for help showed faith. Then there are prayers, so full of self that there is no room for Jesus in them. He has given us a pattern prayer — "Not as I will but as Thou wilt." With us too often it is just the other way: "My will bedone." We must lighten our prayers by casting out self if they are to rise to the throne of God. Again, there are prayers which seem unanswered because we have asked amiss. If we ask our Heavenly Father for bread, He will not give us a stone. But often, like foolish children, we ask him for a stone, or a scorpion. Instead of allowing our conscience to lead us, we follow conscience as a man follows a wheelbarrow, driving it on before him. Above all, prayer must have love in it. There was a little boy once whose mother lay ill in the hospital. The child fancied his mother would not have left him if she had loved him, and determined to send her a letter, and find out. He was quite unable to write, but he scrawled all over the paper, as little children will, and begged his friends to carry it to his mother, "then," said he. "I shall see if she loves me." The messenger laughed at the strange letter, and declared that no one could make it out, "Mother will understand," said the child. And when Eddie's scrawl was given to her, she recognized at once the work of her child's fingers, and understood his meaning. My brothers, our prayers are often as badly put together as Eddie's scrawl, but the good God knows His children's meaning.
II. WHEN TO PRAY —
1. Always. Do not wait to go to church, or till bed. time, or rising-time; these are special occasions, the general time for prayer is all day long. A Christian man who believes in prayer, ought to be able to speak to God anywhere. We should not hear so much about bad servants, and dishonest traders, if men would only pray over their work. The man who could really pray in his place of business would not be able to tell a lie over the counter. A man with a prayer in his mouth would have no room for an oath, or a bad story. Let the people who lose their temper so easily, and say words which they bitterly repent, pray more frequently, and the bitter words would be turned into blessing.
2. Then there are special occasions when we need to pray for a special object —
(1) In all cases of danger and difficulty. When Jehoshaphat was besieged by his enemies, he prayed solemnly to God for guidance. The Romans of old never undertook a war, or any serious matter, without consulting an oracle. Our oracle is the living God, and whenever we are in doubt, or difficulty, or danger, let us ask God about it.
(2) On every occasion when we have to make an important choice, let us pray about it, even as Jesus prayed before He chose His disciples, and the apostles before the election of Matthias. There would not be so many unhappy marriages, discontented workers, and wrong men in wrong places, if we would pray before making a solemn choice.
(3) Whenever we take a journey, let us pray about it, as St. Paul did at Miletus, before he set out on his perilous voyage to Rome. For my own part, I never enter a railway carriage without a prayer, and I advise you to do the like, then, come what will, we have put the matter in God's hands.
(H. J. W. Buxton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.