Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


4. God the Son

"Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ"
Faith in the only Sacrifice
That can for sin atone;
To cast our hopes, to fix our eyes,
On Christ, on Christ alone.
(James Montgomery)

From the standpoint of the Bible our knowledge of Jesus Christ as Son of God affects our praying in three ways.

First, the good news of God in the New Testament asserts as of central importance that it is uniquely through Jesus Christ that we can approach God. It is through God's Son coming to us and dying for us that we have pardon and acceptance, and so we have access to the Father. This means that we can approach God in prayer because of what Christ has done for us. 1 Peter 3:18 puts it, "Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God." Through Christ, says Paul in Romans 5:2, "we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand" (compare Eph.2:18). There are passages in the Old Testament, like Job 9:33, which express the longing for a mediator between humanity and God, the longing that found fulfilment in Christ. One of the greatest themes of the Epistle to the Hebrews is that it is through Christ as our great High Priest that we come to God. Another way that Hebrews (7:25 and 9:24) puts it is to speak of Jesus interceding for us. We have One who, because of his own humanity knows us perfectly, and on the basis of his divinity now intercedes with the Father on our behalf. Hebrews 2:17-18 expresses this reality that when we come to God through Jesus we are coming through One who shared our life with its weaknesses and temptations to the full, and so understands and is able to help. In the same vein Hebrews 4:16 emphasises that through Jesus we know that the throne of God is a throne of grace where we can "receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need".

Second, though intimately linked with the first reality of prayer through Jesus Christ, it is in Christ that we have uniquely the knowledge of what God is like. "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father' says Jesus in John 14:9. He is the very Son of the Father. In him we see the love and grace of God, his willingness to help those who turn to him in all their different situations in life. Matthew 8:1-4 describes the coming of a leper to Jesus. He had no doubt about the power of Jesus and so said, "If you are willing, you can make me clean", and the immediate answer of Jesus was, "I am willing, be clean." When we see the compassion of Jesus for the crowds, "harassed and helpless, as sheep without a shepherd", we see the compassion of God (Matt.9:36).

Third, in Jesus, in the incarnate life of the Son of God on earth we have the model for prayer. E.M. Bounds puts it,

`No feeble or secondary place was given to prayer in the ministry of Jesus. It comes first - emphatic, conspicuous, controlling. Of prayerful habits, a prayerful spirit, given to long solitary communion with God, Jesus was above all else, a man of prayer. The crux of His earthly history, in New Testament terminology, is condensed to a single statement, to be found in Hebrews 5:7: "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared".' (8).

The example of Jesus in prayer we see in a number of ways: prayer in the early morning before the pressures of the day began (Mk.1:35), prayer before making the great decisions of life (Lk. 6:12), prayer in temptation and in the crises of ministry (Jn. 6:15, Mk.14:32-42), prayer for his disciples in their special needs and temptations (Lk.22:32). From the great prayer of John 17 we can learn the things that he asked for his disciples, likewise a model for our own praying. It comes as no surprise to us that once when the disciples found him at prayer, they said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk.11:1).

J.V.Taylor puts it, that

`No figure in the Bible before the appearance of Christ seems to have depended upon the habit of communion with God as Jesus did. We tend to read back into the Old Testament and into the devotional patterns of other faiths those meanings which Jesus gave to the word "prayer", and so conceal the fact that what was so characteristic of Jesus is almost unique amid the formal recitations which are the commonplace of religion everywhere else, including most of the churches. Other faiths have their mystics, but only in Jesus, I believe, can we find such spontaneous and personal communion with God combined with such passionate ethical concern for humanity. Both awareness of God and awareness of the world attain their zenith in him.'(9)

We can link with this reality of Jesus as model for our praying the way that the New Testament speaks of prayer "in his name". Prayer "in his name" means according to his character and according to his purpose. John 14:13 says, "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Similarly John 16:23-24, "if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete." (See also Jn.15:16 and 16:26.) He teaches us how to pray by what he says and by his very character. Samuel Chadwick expresses it,

`Prayer in Christ's Name is prayer according to the quality of His Person, according to the character of His mind, and according to the purpose of His will. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray as one who is at one with Christ, whose mind is the mind of Christ, whose desires are the desires of Christ, and whose purpose is one with that of Christ. Such correspondence and identification with Christ secure the balance and interpretation of the promises given to prayer.'(10)

Prayer in the name of Jesus also directs us away from praying for our personal gratification. William Barclay puts it that `no one could pray a prayer of personal revenge, of personal ambition, of desire to surpass someone else' in the name of Jesus (11). James 4:3 says bluntly, "you ask and do not receive , because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures." The opposite of this selfish praying is what 1 John 5:14 speaks of: "if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." The equivalent of this back in the Psalms is, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps.37:4). Prayer in the name of Jesus means prayer according to the character of Jesus, prayer as he would pray. That kind of prayer has also the power of his name, of which the New Testament indicates in such passages as Acts 3:6 and 16 and 4:9-12.