"And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Farther in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24).
"At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you" (John 16:26-27).
"Praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 20-21).
The words of John (I John 2:12-14) to little children, young men, and fathers suggest the thought that often in the Christian life there are three great stages of experience. The first, that of the new-born child, is filled with the assurance and the joy of forgiveness. The second, the transition stage of struggle and growth in knowledge and strength, is comparable to young men growing strong. God's Word is doing its work in them and giving them victory over the evil one. The final stage of maturity and ripeness is that of the fathers, who have entered deeply into the knowledge and fellowship of the Eternal One.
In Christ's teaching on prayer, three similar stages in prayerlife are apparent. The Sermon on the Mount describes the initial stage. All of His teaching is comprised in one word: Father. Pray to your Father; your Father sees, hears, knows, and will reward. How much more than any earthly father He is! Simply be childlike and trustful.
Then comes something like a transition stage of conflict and conquest. Words like these refer to it: "This sort goeth not out but by prayer and fasting""Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry day and night unto Him?"
Finally, we have in the parting words a higher stage: The children have become men. They are now the Master's friends, from whom He has no secrets, and to whom He says, "All things that I heard from my Father I made known unto you." In the frequently repeated "whatsoever ye will," He hands them the keys of the Kingdom. Now the time has come for the power of prayer in His Name to be proved.
The contrast between this final stage and the previous preparatory ones is marked most distinctly in the words: "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name"; "At that day ye shall ask in my Name." "At that day" means the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The great work Christ was to do on the cross-the mighty power and the complete victory to be manifested in His resurrection and ascension would allow the glory of God to come down from heaven as never before, to dwell in men. The Spirit of the glorified Jesus was to come and be the life of His disciples. And one of the signs of that wonderful, new flow of the Spirit was to be a power in prayer that was up to that time unknown. Prayer in the Name of Jesus-asking for and obtaining everything-is to be the evidence of the reality of the Spirit's indwelling.
The coming of the Holy Spirit indeed began a new epoch in the prayer world. To understand this, we must remember Who He is, what His work is, and why His not being given until Jesus was glorified is significant. It is in the Spirit that God exists, for He is Spirit. It is in the Spirit that the Son was begotten of the Father, because in the fellowship of the Spirit, the Father and the Son are one. The Father's prerogative is eternal, continuous giving to the Son. The Son's right and blessedness is to ask and receive eternally. Through the Spirit, this communion of life and love is maintained. This has been true from all eternity.
It is especially true now, when the Son as Mediator lives to pray. The great work which Jesus began on earth of reconciling God and man in His own body, He carries on in heaven. To accomplish this, He took the conflict between God's righteousness and our sin into His own person. On the cross, He ended the struggle once and for all in His own body. Then He ascended to heaven, where He carries out the deliverance He obtained and manifests His victory in each member of His Body. This is why He lives to pray. In His unceasing intercession, He places Himself in living fellowship with the unceasing prayer of His redeemed ones. Or rather, it is His unceasing intercession which shows itself in their prayers, giving them a power they never had before.
He does this through the Holy Spirit. This Spirit of the glorified Jesus was not manifested and could not be until Jesus had been glorified (John 7:39). This gift of the Father was something distinctively new, entirely different from what the Old Testament saints had known. The work that the blood effected in heaven when Christ entered within the veil was totally true and new. The redemption of human nature into fellowship with His resurrection power and His glory was intensely real. The taking up of our humanity through Christ into the life of the triune God was an event of such inconceivable significance, that the Holy Spirit was indeed no longer only what He had been in the Old Testament.
That "the Holy Spirit was not yet, for Christ was not yet glorified" was literally true. The Holy Spirit had come from Christ's exalted humanity to testify in our hearts of what Christ had accomplished. Just as Jesus, after having come to earth as a man, returned to heaven with power He didn't have before, so the Holy Spirit came to us with a new life which He hadn't had before. He came to us with that new life-as the Spirit of the glorified Jesus. Under the Old Testament He was invoked as the Spirit of God.At Pentecost He descended as the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, bringing down and communicating to us the full fruit and power of the accomplished redemption.
Christ's continuing intercession maintains the effectiveness and application of His redemption. The Holy Spirit descending from Christ to us draws us up into the great stream of His ascending prayers. The Spirit prays for us without words in the depths of a heart where even thoughts are at times formless. He takes us up into the wonderful flow of the life of the triune God. Through the Spirit, Christ's prayers become ours, and ours are made His. We ask for what we desire, and it is given to us. We then understand from experience, "Hitherto ye have not asked in my Name. At that day ye shall ask in my Name."
Brother! What we need in order to pray in the Name of Christ to ask that we may receive that our joy may be full-is the baptism of this Holy Spirit. This is more than the Spirit of God under the Old Testament. This is more than the Spirit of conversion and regeneration the disciples had before Pentecost. This is more than the Spirit with a portion of Christ's influence and power. This is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the glorified Jesus in His exaltation and power, coming to us as the Spirit of the indwelling Jesus, revealing the Son and the Father within us (John 14:16-23). This Spirit cannot simply be the Spirit of our hours of prayer. It must be the Spirit of our whole life and walk, glorifying Jesus in us by revealing the completeness of His work and making us wholly one with Him and like Him. Then we can pray in His Name, because we are in very deed one with Him. Then we have that immediate access to the Father of which Jesus says, "I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you" (John 16:26).
Oh! We need to understand and believe that to be filled with the Spirit of the Glorified One is the one need of God's believing people. Then we will be able "with all prayer and supplication to be praying at all seasons in the Spirit," and "praying in the Holy Ghost, to keep ourselves in the love of God." "At that day ye shall ask in my Name."
Once again, we learn this lesson: What our prayer achieves depends on what we are and what our lives are. Living in the Name of Christ is the secret of praying in the Name of Christ; living in the Spirit is necessary for praying in the Spirit. Abiding in Christ gives the right and power to ask for what we desire. The extent of our abiding is equivalent to our power in prayer. The Spirit dwelling within us prays, not always in words and thoughts, but in a breathing and a being that is deeper than utterance. There is as much real prayer in us as there is of Christ's Spirit. Let our lives be full of Christ and full of His Spirit, so that the wonderfully unlimited promises to our prayers will no longer appear strange. "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. At that day ye shall ask in my Name. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, He will give it you."
Lord, teach us to pray.
O my God! In holy awe I bow before You, the Three in One. Again I see how the mystery of prayer is the mystery of the Holy Trinity. I adore the Father Who always hears. I adore the Son Who lives eternally to pray. And I love the Holy Spirit Who comes from the Father and the Son, lifting us up into the fellowship of that blessed, never-ceasing asking and receiving. I bow, my God, in adoring worship before the infinite power which, through the Holy Spirit, takes us and our prayers into Your Divine life and its fellowship of love.
O my blessed Lord Jesus! Teach me to understand this lesson: The indwelling Spirit streaming from You and uniting us to You is the Spirit of prayer. Teach me how, as an empty, wholly consecrated vessel, to yield myself to His being my life. Teach me to honor Him and to trust Him, as a living Person, to lead my life and my prayer. Teach me especially in prayer to wait in holy silence, giving Him time to breathe His unutterable intercession within me. And teach me that through Him it is possible to pray without ceasing and to pray without failing, because He makes me a partaker of the never-ceasing and never-failing intercession in which You appear before the Father.
O Lord! Fulfill in me Your promise, "At that day ye shall ask in my Name. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, that will He give." Amen.
Prayer has often been compared to breathing. We have to carry out the comparison fully to see how wonderful the place is which the Holy Spirit occupies. With every breath, we expel impure air which would soon cause our death, and inhale fresh air to which we owe our life. In confession we release our sins, and in prayer we release the needs and desires of our hearts. And we inhale the fresh air of the promises, the love, and the life of God in Christ. We do this through the Holy Spirit, Who is the breath of our life.
He is also the breath of God. The Father breathes Him into us to unite Himself with our life. Just as every expiration is followed by the inhaling of the next breath, so God inhales His breath, and the Spirit returns to Him laden with the desires and needs of our hearts.
Thus the Holy Spirit is the breath of the life of God and the breath of the new life in us. As God breathes Him out, we receive Him in answer to prayer: as we breathe Him back again, He rises to God carrying our petitions. It is though the Holy Spirit that the Father and the Son are one, and that the intercession of the Son reaches the Father. He is our Spirit of prayer. True prayer is the living experience of the truth of the Holy Trinity. The Spirit's breathing, the Son's intercession, and the Father's will become one in us.
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