People interpret Jesus differently. Some believe that He has promised to give us whatever we want and cite:
· “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8; ESV)
However, didn’t Jesus also specify certain conditions for receiving? From these verses, it appears that there are no conditions or limitations. However, if we read a little further, we do find a limitation. God gives “good things”:
· 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! (Matthew 7:11)
This means that if you pray for a gun to kill your wife or a bag of street drugs, it is likely that God does not deem these “good things.” James adds a similar limitation to God’s giving:
· You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)
James adds that our motives must be right along the things we request. However, Prosperity Ministers cite other promises of Jesus:
· Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)
However, this passage also includes a condition – “that the Father may be glorified.” Praying for a bag of street drugs will not glorify the Father. Then there is the common phrase, “anything in my name.” This is an important phrase. Jesus often referred to the “name”:
· You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)
Again, we ask, “What does it mean to “ask…in my name?” Jesus repeated the this promise again:
· 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. (John 16:23-24)
While it might seem that this promise gives us a blank-check, it does not! “In my name” implies conditions. It is not merely a matter of saying “Jesus.” In fact, few of us take it literally. If we did, we would have to pronounce Jesus’ Hebrew name and then pronounce correctly, and who knows the way Jesus had pronounced it.
Instead, in Hebraic thinking the name represented what the person was. Jacob, meaning “usurper,” was so named because it seemed like he was trying to take the place of his twin brother Esau, who had emerged from the womb first. However, Jacob’s hand had been on his ankle, and he appeared to be pulling Esau back so that he could be born first and claim the rights of the “firstborn.” (It is interesting to note that Jacob had a pattern of trying to take what didn’t belong to him.)
Therefore, the name of Jesus or God represented His nature and will. At His Great Commission, He commissioned His Apostles with these instructions:
· Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)
“Name” is in the singular signifying that the Father, Son, and Spirit all share the same name. They clearly don’t share the name “Jesus.” What then is the name that they do share? They share the same character and will.
After Jesus’ several “in my name” promises, He prayed to the Father referring to His “name”:
· “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)
Which “name” did Jesus manifest? It couldn’t have been “Yahweh,” since this name does not appear in the Greek New Testament. Nor was it “Elohim” or “Adonai” for the same reason. Instead, Jesus manifested the Father Himself, as the NIV suggests in its translation: “I have revealed you.”
Besides, contextually, it seems that the manifestation of God’s name was related to the Apostles keeping His Word. This suggests that by revealing the name of the Father, Jesus had revealed His Word.
Later, Jesus prayed:
· “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26)
Could Jesus have been referring to the name of “Yahweh.” Certainly not! Jesus actually taught against the vain and meaningless repetition of words:
· “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)
Instead, Jesus was referring to the revelation of the character and commands of the Father.
There are many examples of the fact that God’s name represents God Himself, but I will cite only one other instance:
· For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 citing Joel 2:32)
As Jesus taught, the mere recitation of a name will not save anyone:
· “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Instead, it is only a true faith in the Person Jesus, as evidenced by obedience, which saves. Therefore, when we call upon the “name of Jesus” in a Biblical sense, we are calling upon the Person of Jesus and all that He represents.
The same principle applies to prayer “in my name.” While it is a good idea to mention the actual name of Jesus, this phrase requires that we ask according to the character, plan, and will of the Father and the Son. No blank-check available!
In this same final talk to His disciples, before the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus also instructed His Apostles:
· If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8)
Jesus taught that receiving depended upon obeying. Whatever a person sows, he will also reap. If we honor God, He will also honor us. Therefore, spending our prayers on our lusts is not a Biblical option. Our prayers are to seek fruitfulness for the sake of the glory of the Father.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us:
· But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Receiving “all these things” depended upon honoring God above everything else in our lives. It means putting His will above our own. While it is true that God’s ultimate purpose is to give us the world, meanwhile, He is preparing us for His world. How? By teaching us servanthood:
· Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
These are strong words. Clearly, before all else, we have to be about the Lord’s business. This leaves little room for the teachings of the Prosperity Ministry and those who preach that we have been given a blank-check, and all we need to do is to claim it.