Why Pray in Jesus’ Name?

July 3, 2019 by Jeremiah Johnson

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 23, 2015. -ed.

What do your prayers sound like to other people? Are you expressing submission to the Lord and His will for your life? Or do you approach His throne with an exhaustive wish list?

If we are honest, we’re all occasionally guilty of treating God like a mystical genie or Santa Claus—as though He exists only to fulfill our requests. Often, such impertinence is the result of immature faith, spiritual short-sightedness, and unbiblical priorities. It must not be the norm.

However there are some who claim to know and love the Lord who routinely approach Him with that kind of presumptuousness, and brazenly defend it with Scripture—specifically, John 14:14, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (other verses are similarly abused, including Matthew 21:22Mark 11:24, and 1 John 5:15).

That verse is a particular favorite within the Word Faith movement—a subset of the charismatic church that’s home to most of the flamboyant prosperity preachers you’ve seen on TBN, along with all other proponents of charismatic “health and wealth” theology. In his book Charismatic Chaos, John MacArthur defines the movement this way:

As the name “Word Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. A favorite term in the Word Faith movement is “positive confession.” It refers to the Word Faith teaching that words have creative power. What you say, Word Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your “confessions,” that is, the things you say—especially the favors you demand of God—must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer. [1]

While there are only microscopic differences between that theology and man-centered psycho-babble like the power of positive thinking, the Word Faith movement legitimizes its lies with a lot of biblical-sounding doublespeak, and the occasional proof text wrenched from its context and twisted beyond recognition. Here’s an example noted in Charismatic Chaos:

Positive confession teaches people that their words are determinative. God is no longer the object of faith; Word Faith devotees learn to put their faith in their own words—or as [Kenneth] Hagin bluntly puts it, “faith in [their] own faith.” Try to follow his logic as he attempts to substantiate that concept:

Did you ever stop to think about having faith in your own faith? Evidently God had faith in His faith, because He spoke the words of faith and they came to pass. Evidently Jesus had faith in His faith, because He spoke to the fig tree, and what He said came to pass.

In other words, having faith in your wordsis having faith in your faith.

That’s what you’ve got to learn to do to get things from God: Have faith in your faith. . . .

Word Faith believers view their positive confessions as an incantation by which they can conjure up anything they desire. “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say,” Kenneth Hagin claims. Quoting John 14:14 (“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it”), ignoring the plain implications of the phrase “in My name,” they take that verse to be an unqualified promise they can use in extorting from God whatever kind of cargo they fancy. [2]

Worse still, Word Faith teachers reject the biblical mandate to submit their requests to the will of God, claiming that such submission is unbiblical. In his book, John MacArthur cites two examples of prosperity preachers (Fred Price and Robert Tilton) who guided their followers to pray for blessings and sow monetary seeds that exceeded their financial means. He then explains:

Note that both Price and Tilton recoil from praying, “If it be Thy will.” That is a common characteristic of Word Faith teachers. As we noted, they love to quote John 14:14, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” But 1 John 5:14 is noticeably missing from their database: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (emphasis added). Hagin goes so far as to claim that no such truth is taught in the New Testament:

Because we didn’t understand what Jesus said, and because we’ve been religiously brainwashed instead of New Testament-taught, we watered down the promises of God and tacked on something that Jesus didn’t say, and added on something else to it: “Well, He will all right if it’s His will, but it might not be His will,” people have said. And yet, you don’t find that kind of talk in the New Testament.

Hagin has also written, “It is unscriptural to pray, ‘If it is the will of God.’ When you put an ‘if’ in your prayer, you are praying in doubt.” [3]

Such blatant disregard for God’s will ought to trigger spiritual alarms and offend the consciences of everyone who truly knows and loves the Lord.

Certainly that wasn’t the attitude Christ commended to His disciples when He first spoke the words in John 14:14. In fact, as John MacArthur explains, the presumption of positive confession is a direct contradiction of Christ’s instruction in the upper room.

Jesus’ disciples had left everything and were completely without resources. Without their Master, they would be all alone in a hostile world. Yet, He assured them, they did not need to worry about any of their needs. The gap between Him and them would be closed instantly whenever they prayed. Even though He would be absent, they would have access to all His supplies.

That is not carte blanche for every whim of the flesh. There’s a qualifying statement repeated twice. He doesn’t say, “I’ll give you absolutely anything you ask for,” but rather, “I’ll do what you ask in My name.” That does not mean we can simply tack the words, “in-Jesus’-name-amen” on the end of our prayers and expect the answers we want every time. Neither is it a special formula or abracadabra that will magically guarantee the granting of our every wish.

The name of Jesus stands for all that He is. Throughout Scripture, God’s names are the same as His attributes. When Isaiah prophesied that Messiah would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), he was not listing actual names, but rather giving an overview of Messiah’s character. “I am who I am,” the name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, is as much an affirmation of God’s eternal nature as it is a name by which He is to be called.

Therefore, praying in the name of Jesus is more than merely mentioning His name at the end of our prayers. If we are truly praying in Jesus’ name, we will pray only for that which is consistent with His perfect character, and for that which will bring glory to Him. It implies an acknowledgement of all that He has done and a submission to His will. [4]

God does not intend for His people to use His Son’s name as an incantation for material blessings—that’s nothing more than blasphemy. The whole point of praying in the name of Jesus is that we are submitting ourselves—and our requests—to Him and His will.

If anything, following Christ’s instructions in John 14:14 should break us of the kind of materialism that leads to such blasphemous abuse of His promise. As John MacArthur explains:

What praying in Jesus’ name really means is that we should pray as if our Lord Himself were doing the asking. We approach the throne of the Father in full identification with the Son, seeking only what He would seek. When we pray with that perspective, we begin to pray for the things that really matter, and we eliminate selfish requests. [5]

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150923

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Asia Bibi’s Cell Now Holds Another Christian Woman on Death Row for Blasphemy

Victorious lawyer’s next case, the plight of Shagufta Mausar, shows how Bibi’s long-delayed reunion with family in Canada doesn’t end the widespread problem facing Pakistan’s Christians.

ASIF AQEEL IN LAHORE MAY 10, 2019

Asia Bibi’s Cell Now Holds Another Christian Woman on Death Row for Blasphemy

After securing acquittal for Asia Bibi (top left), Pakistani lawyer Saif-ul-Malook (right) will take up the case of Shagufta Kausar (bottom left).

Now that Asia Bibi has finally left Pakistan and been reunited with her family in Canada, her prison cell has a new resident: yet another Christian woman condemned to death over blasphemy charges.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, told CT he will now take up the case of Shagufta Kausar, a 45-year-old mother of four, and her husband.

Christians are Pakistan’s largest religious minority after Hindus, comprising about 1.6 percent of the Muslim nation’s population of 210 million. However, the highest number of blasphemy charges are filed against Christians because of their poor status, their origins in the downtrodden “untouchable” caste, and their association with the West. [CT’s Quick to Listen podcast explains more.]

Bibi was accused in June 2009 of speaking blasphemous words against Muhammad, a crime punishable with death in Pakistan, and was convicted in November 2010. The Supreme Court of Pakistan finally acquitted Bibi in October 2018 over “contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses.”

Now Kausar is locked in the same prison cell in Multan Women Jail where Bibi has been incarcerated for many years. Kausar and her husband Shafqat Masih, 48, were condemned to death by a trial court in February 2014. The Christian couple hails from the infamous town of Gojra, where in 2009 more than 100 houses were set on fire and 7 Christians killed by a violent mob over blasphemy allegations. Since then, tensions between Christians and Muslims have regularly flared.

Masih is bedridden because of a spinal injury from 2004. Their four children, ages 5 to 13, were dependent on Kausar, who worked as a domestic helper in the house of Gojra bishop John Samuel until Muhammad Hussein, a prayer leader at a local mosque, accused Masih of texting blasphemous text messages from Kausar’s cell phone with her “connivance.”

Hussein alleged that around 10 p.m. on July 18, 2013, he was praying in the mosque when blasphemous text messages started pouring in. He said that he showed the text to others, including lawyer Sajjad Asghar Khokhar who called the number and said there was no answer, but blasphemous text messages were then also sent to Khokhar’s cell phone.

The people of the area surrounded the Gojra Police Station after Kausar and Masih were arrested. The mob demanded that the couple be handed to them so that they could be killed. The police resorted to including the harshest charges in order to disperse the protestors.

Malook told CT that the Gojra police also extracted a confession which was illegal and carries no validity under the law. “As was in Asia Bibi’s case, the trial court lawyers in this Christian couple’s case could not properly plead the case.”

Malook said the couple has been waiting five years for the Lahore High Court to hear their appeal against the trial court’s verdict. He plans to file another petition for a hearing.

“The couple is innocent,” Malook told CT, “and there is no legal substantial evidence available that proves they actually texted those messages.”

While the lawyer recently received a wave of global media attention for securing Bibi’s freedom from the Supreme Court, Malook told CT that he won’t necessarily pursue Kausar’s case the same way he did Bibi’s.

“Every legal case requires a different strategy and I have decided a different strategy for this case as per the facts and relevant laws,” Malook told CT.

However, he did offer some criticism on how inaccurate some of the Western advocacy over his cause célèbre client became.

“Sending false persecution news [in the West] does not help the Pakistani Christians back at home, as was in Asia Bibi’s case,” he told CT. “These days, social media is playing a central role in spreading false news. Several NGOs created hype to draw attention to themselves, which backfires for the local Christians.”

For example, Malook told Morning Star News that advocacy reports about Bibi’s failing mental and physical health were “totally baseless.” “Bibi never complained of mistreatment during her incarceration, but even then rumors claiming that she had been subjected to torture, both mentally and physically, were spread on the social media by people who were only interested in making the most out of her ordeal,” he told the persecution watchdog.

Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws go back to the Indian Penal Code, enacted by the British in the mid-19th century. These laws were applicable to people of all faiths.

According to a report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, from 1927 to 1987 only seven cases under the British blasphemy laws were registered. Then in the 1980s, the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq introduced stringent blasphemy laws through an executive order that were only Islam specific.

After these laws were introduced, from 1987 to 2014 at least 1,335 cases were registered and 57 people were extrajudicially killed. Through 2014, only 21 cases had been registered against Hindus, the largest religious minority in Pakistan, while 187 had been registered against Christians. (No blasphemy cases have been registered against Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Baha’is or Buddhists.)

Most Pakistani Christians are abhorred by majority Muslims because of their origins in the so-called “untouchable” Dalit background. Often blasphemy charges initially arise from conflicts over this perceived social status. For example, Bibi was accused over touching the drinking water of Muslim women.

Malook has faced negative attention from many fellow Muslims since he started defending Christians, and the Netherlands even offered him nationality if he wanted to leave his homeland for his safety. But he told CT, “I am back to defend these defenseless people.”

 

Original here