And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.…
I. THE FACT WHICH IS THE ROOT OF THIS PROMISE is described in what our Lord says about the vine. The vine and the branches are one, the same name covers them. Whatever the branch asks for — that its blossoms may be abundant, and that its clusters may ripen — the vine asks for. And it was in immediate connection with this that our Lord said, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will," etc. We are to pray in Christ's name because we are so undeniably one with Him that what we ask He asks. The use of His name, then, is not an incantation, nor is it one of a number of conditions of successful prayer. It is the one condition of both prayer and work. This promise is connected with that which precedes it. "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do," etc. Why? "Because I go unto My Father; and those who are one with Me share My glorified powers." It is the consciousness of this union that enables us to pray too and work for God with a large and happy faith that He will hear us and help us.
II. THE COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE PROMISE.
1. It may be objected that when we pray in the name of Christ the range of our prayers must be narrowed. We must pray about Christ's affairs, and not about our own. We may pray, for example, that the gospel may reach the hearts of men; but can we ask in Christ's name that we may be successful in business, or that our children may be healthy and happy? When we pray for the strong help of the Spirit of God to enable us to practise all Christian virtues we may pray in Christ's name; but if we want to get an appointment which will bring us a larger income, to win a contested election, to escape a bad debt, protection, or better health — these are our own affairs. It is as if a minister of the Crown were to use his official authority for his own personal interests; or as if the representative of a commercial firm, who was authorised to sign cheques for the firm, signed cheques for the payment of his private and personal accounts. But have we any interests that are not Christ's? Should we really choose the better appointment and the larger income at the risk of becoming of less use to Christ? Should we care to win the contested election if success did not give us new opportunities for serving Him? Are we not carrying on our business as Christ's servants? And when we pray for our children, do we not remember with a leap of the heart that they are much more dear to Him than they are to us? Can we really desire anything for ourselves that Christ does not desire us to have? Can we desire anything for others that Christ does not desire them to have?
2. But these answers, though good as far as they go, are incomplete. The real root of that vague discontent is in that dualism which divides human life into the religious and the secular; in one of which we know that Christ is interested, while the other seems to be of interest only to ourselves. That we should care for righteousness more than for everything besides we acknowledge frankly. To serve Christ well — that is what we desire above everything. If the chance were offered to us between a saintly character and the most splendid earthly position, not for a moment should we hesitate. But our nature is complex. Righteousness is the great good to which every inferior good gives place; but there are many good things besides. The worst of all evils is to sin against God; but it is a bad thing to be cold, hungry, friendless; to see the wealth which has been accumulated by skill, industry, and thrift, wasting away through the dishonesty of those we have trusted. It is the worst of all evils to be lashed day after day by a guilty conscience; but it is also a bad thing to suffer the physical tortures which are the result of some terrible forms of disease. From the worst evils we can ask in Christ's name to be delivered, that others should be delivered from them; but how is it with the rest? Have we forgotten that Christ created us body and soul? When a limb is broken, Christ's own creation is injured, just as the creation of an artist is injured when the marble which is the triumph of his genius is shattered, or when the canvas on which he has recorded some dream of beauty is rent. Christ's miracles were the signs of the depth of His compassion for the miseries of our race; and has He not made it apart of the service which we owe to Himself to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, etc. In His name we are to relieve all forms of human want — in His name, when the want is our own, we may ask that the want may be relieved. If we serve Christ in common things, we shall be able to pray ill His name about common things; and perhaps it is because we alienate a large part of our life from His service that we are conscious of a certain incongruity when we try to pray about it.
3. But we may sometimes doubt whether relief from want, pain, trouble, is really good. It is right to ask, and to ask in Christ's name, for relief from it; but Christ may cancel the prayer, and put in its place a petition for a higher blessing. We pray that it may be removed: He loves us too well for the prayer to be answered. But when we pray for the great gifts, whether for ourselves or for others, then we know that our prayers are but the experience of the central thoughts and desires of the very heart of Christ; we know that we should not offer them were it not for our union with Christ; and therefore with perfect confidence we offer them in His name, they are less ours than His.
(R. W. Dale, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.