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Praying “in Jesus’ Name” (what it really means)

Jesus promises five times in John 14-16 that  he will answer prayers that are “in His name.” Of course this is not a blank check for our random wishes. This is conditional on praying according to His will and words – and for the Glory of God. Jesus prayer in John 17 is the longest prayer we hear from Jesus that gives us the essence of what prayer in His name means. It is magnificent and worthy of much meditation.

This sermon gets us  started on the road to having our prayers framed by the priorities and mission of Jesus!

Here is some additional perspective from Richard Foster:

To pray in the name of Jesus means that we are praying in accord with the way and nature of Christ. It means that we are making the kinds of intercessions he would make if he were among us in the flesh. We are his ambassadors, commissioned by him. We have been given his name to use with his full authority. Therefore, the content and the character of our praying must be, of necessity, in unity with his nature. When Simon Magnus asked to have the power to lay hands on people so they could receive the Spirit, he was wanting to use the power of God for his own ends (Acts 8:14–24). He was not praying in Jesus’ name, and Peter, recognizing this, rebuked Simon for it.

So how do we pray in Jesus’ name, that is, in conformity to his nature? Jesus himself says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). This “abide in me” is the all-inclusive condition for effective intercession. It is the key for prayer in the name of Jesus. We learn to become like the branch, which receives its life from the vine: “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Nothing is more important to a life of prayer than learning how to become a branch.  From Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home

How to Pray with the Psalms

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 10.28.15 PMOur series on prayer comes to the essential place of the PSALMS in prayer. The sermon from August 3rd gives reasons and practical ways to “pray with the Psalms,” especially when we are in pain or when God seems far away!  The diagram here is from that teaching.

You can also download a short anthology of some wonderful quotes about the Psalms at the Psalm Page of this blog.

On vacation this week, I came across a used book store. (“I brake for bookstores.”) I stumbled upon these two additional reasons for praying the Psalms from Thomas Merton.

That is why I am more and more thankful… for the Psalms. Their praise of God is perfect, and God gives it to me to utter as more my own than any language I could think up for myself.    (from ‘A Year with Thomas Merton’)

This is the secret of the psalms. Our identity is hidden in them. In them we find ourselves and God. In these fragments he has revealed not only Himself to us but ourselves to Him.  (from ‘The Journals of Thomas Merton 2’)

So if this practice  is new to you, let me encourage you to listen to the teaching and then begin – just begin reading the Psalms – each day – and let them become your own prayers – Jesus’ prayers with you – teaching you how to pray!

‘It’s a New Day’ – Easter Sermon Notes

Resurrection Icon, 'the Harrowing of Hades'
Resurrection Icon, ‘the Harrowing of Hades’

Our Easter sermon is available on audio. But I thought I would add some links, additional resources, and quotes to accompany it.

The Resurrection Icon, called “The Harrowing of Hades” has many variations but with common elements. Here is a 1 minute video explanation from an icon website. The ancient hymn that goes with it:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death; and on those in the tombs bestowing life!

My favorite C.S. Lewis quote on the Resurrection:

By his resurrection Jesus has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the king of death. Everything is different because he has done so. This is the beginning of the new creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.  ( from Miracles)

New Creation began with Jesus’ Resurrection and is entered into by us when we enter into His life through faith.

Thus, if anyone is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look— everything has become new!  (2 Corinthians 5:17, KNT)
We are called to be at work now, Loving God and Neighbor, like never before – in light of the New Creation that has been launched!
 Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, CEB)
Another way to put this comes from a Wendell Berry poem which he ends with the line:

Practice Resurrection!
(from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front – here is the whole poem.)

The closing prayer – based on 1 Cor. 15 and Romans 8

If Christ is not risen, nothing matters.
Our preaching has been useless  and so is our faith.
We are false witnesses about God,
And we are still in our sins!
Those who have died are forever dead.
And we who have pinned our hopes on Jesus
are to be pitied.

But Christ IS risen, then nothing ELSE matters.
Though in Adam all may die,

in Christ all are made alive.
ALL AUTHORITY and power is his;
The last enemy is death and it will be destroyed!
Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Christ— trouble, hardship, persecution, famine,
war, the present, the future, nor any powers.
Nothing whatsoever, in fact,
nothing in all creation,
nothing either in life or in death
will keep us from your love in Jesus Christ.
Glory to You O Lord – Glory to You!   AMEN!




Two responses to ‘Noah’

imagesFor those who have seen the movie and wonder if it’s worth it, here are 2 articles that go into some analysis I find helpful.

Church and Culture author James Emory White follows his first positive review (noted within the post) with one called: The Three Biggest Questions People Have After Seeing “Noah.”

Wesley Hill, blogger with First Things, writes on: A Pauline Exegete Watches Aronofsky’s “Noah.”

I haven’t seen the movie yet but my sense from those who have is that it is certainly designed as a Hollywood spectacle to appeal to the box office, but that it makes a serious attempt to show the depravity of sinful humanity and however inaccurately – the judgment and mercy of God.

Day 22, The Ephrem Prayer (part 6)

prodigal-detail1We come to a turning point in  the Lenten prayer of Ephrem the  Syrian. We ask God to take from us four ‘diseases of the soul.’ Ephrem now turns to prayers for four Christ-like virtues that transform us.

O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, despondency, ambition, and empty talk.
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!

Here is the commentary by Alexander Schmemann on PURITY (Chastity; Wholeness):

Chastity! If one does not reduce this term, as is so often and erroneously done, only to its sexual connotations, it is understood as the positive counterpart of apathy or idleness. The exact and full translation of the original words ought to be whole-mindedness. Apathy is, first of all, dissipation, the brokenness of our vision and energy, the inability to see the whole. Its opposite then is precisely wholeness or purity. If we usually mean by purity, the virtue opposed to sexual depravity, it is because the broken character of our existence is nowhere better manifested than in sexual lust—the alienation of the body from the life and control of the spirit. Christ restores wholeness in us…

A version of the whole commentary can be read here.

Making Sense of Suffering?

On vacation, I was getting ready to add some resources to the sermon on the Tough Questions of ‘Suffering’ when the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy hit the news. The question sadly rages again as we groan and weep and pray.

Here are some important resources from the viewpoint of our Christian worldview:

Some books I often recommend:

Philip Yancey has written extensively on this issue. Where is God When It Hurts is still among the best.

Tim Keller’s book covers several tough questions: The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, by Jerry Sittser is a more personal testimony of God’s help and grace.

C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain is a classic and helpful as ever.

Christopher Wright has written The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, that has a helpful study guide.

Finally, David Bentley Hart, editorial writer for First Things, wrote this article in 2008 at the time of the Asian Tsunami. It is not easy vocabulary but worth the work. One of his statements is rich with insight: “…(our faith) has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead.”

Tsunami and Theodicy

No one, no matter how great the scope of his imagination, should be able easily to absorb the immensity of the catastrophe that struck the Asian rim of the Indian Ocean and the coast of Somalia on the second day of Christmas this past year; nor would it be quite human to fail, in its wake, to feel some measure of spontaneous resentment towards God, fate, natura naturans, or whatever other force one imagines governs the intricate web of cosmic causality. But, once one’s indignation at the callousness of the universe begins to subside, it is worth recalling that nothing that occurred that day or in the days that followed told us anything about the nature of finite existence of which we were not already entirely aware. Continue reading Making Sense of Suffering?

A Prayer to pray for 40 days (and beyond)

Lent Image-40daysThe “Lenten Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian” has become part of my regular prayer life. As I have done several times in the past – I “commend” it to you for your prayer (and repentance). The wording of the prayer is my latest version from much reading on the history of the prayer.  The commentary that follows is adapted from a commentary in Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent. (See my previous post on Lent)

Two practices that I am doing – and invite you to do – this Lenten season:
* to pray this prayer each morning or evening.

* to read and meditate through the letter of 1 Peter (which we will be preaching through at Christ Church starting next week).  Each day, I’ll post the short passage for the day on Twitter.  Feel free to “Follow” me here – or click the Twitter button on the right.

Here is the prayer – followed by the very insightful commentary:

O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, despondency, ambition, and empty talk.
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!

Continue reading A Prayer to pray for 40 days (and beyond)

Jesus: Man of Sorrows; Man of Joy

painting byTracy Taylor Davis
painting byTracy Taylor Davis

It was the third Sunday in Advent
and the theme was ‘Joy’
and the worship songs were chosen
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
and Joy to the World;
a testimony of joy was ready
and this painting of joy returning.

Two days ago 26 innocent children and teachers died.
Can we sing and talk and preach of joy?
We alter our prayers and pray more
and sing with a solemn kind of joy.
But in light of the Man of Sorrows
who was also the Man of Joy.
how can we not read the scriptures
and be called again to “fix our eyes on Him,
who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…”
(Hebrews 12)

Listen to the Sunday’s personal story and sermon here.

‘Love with skin on’ – Athanasius ‘On the Incarnation’

On the Incarnation of the Word was highly recommended by Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, who in his great introduction suggested that contemporary Christian audiences could benefit from reading more ancient classics. Though Athanasius of Alexandria wrote this text in the 4th century, his writing is easy to follow and powerfully persuasive. It has been called one of the most foundational of all Christian texts ever written!

I read from this work in a sermon called Love with Skin On.  The text can be found on line, but here are two recommended editions:

The edition pictured here includes Lewis’ introduction and also a letter on the importance and use of the Psalms by Athanasius.

This Kindle edition (you don’t need a kindle device, just a Kindle APP on any device) may be the best $0.99 purchase you’ve made in long time!

Are you ‘Plugged in?’

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We were created and redeemed to be connected to God, to God’s people, and to be fruitful in God’s mission in the world.

Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit who would through his new community the Church, do “greater things!”

The beginning church in Jerusalem was not a set structure to be imitated, but it is a model of values and vision that continues to inspire the church of all times and places! It inspires us here and now.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers….And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.     (Acts 2:42,47, ESV)

In a recent teaching, linked at our website, I summarized the inspiring vision of the Church in this way.

We want to be a LEARNING Community
We want to be a SHARING (‘Koinonia’) Community
We want to be a WORSHIPING Community
We want to be an OUTREACHING Community

It means being taught the authoritative Word of God and being life-long learners;
It means knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served;
It means coming together for prayers and worship publicly and in our homes;
It means being a contagious people who live and speak the hope of Good News into our world.

It means being committed and connected – PLUGGED IN to Christ and his community.

Are you plugged in?
If not, what’s the one next step the Lord wants you to take?