For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard. He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
~ Job 27:8-9, Proverbs 15:8, Proverbs 21:13, Proverbs 28:9, Isaiah 1:15
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
~ James 4:3, Proverbs 15:8, John 9:31
Audience of all Prayers, by Thomas Shepard. This is Section 5 of his work called, “The Sound Believer”.
This is the first benefit, which, though it be a fruit of other benefits, yet I name it in special, because I desire first that it might be specially observed; and I place it after our sanctification, because of David’s speech, ” If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer, ” (Ps. Ixvi. 18;) and that of the apostle, (1 John iii. 22,) “We believe whatever we ask we receive, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.” As the Lord hath respect to the prayers of his people, not only in regard of their justification, but in some sense in regard of their sanctification also, a justified person, polluted with some personal or common sins of the times, may want that audience and acceptance of his prayers I am now speaking of. That God will hear all the petitions of his people, can there be a greater privilege than this? Yet this our Saviour affirms twice together, because it is so great a promise that we can hardly believe it. (John xiv. 13, 1 1,) ” Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, that will I do.” Mark the scope of the words. Our Saviour had promised that ” he that believes in me shall do greater works than I have done.” Now, because this might seem strange and impossible, the Lord in those verses tells them how; for saith he, ” Whatsoever you ask in my name I will do for you.” I will do indeed all that is to be done, but yet it shall be by means of your prayers. Christ did great works when he was upon the earth; but for him to do whatever a poor sinful creature shall desire him to do, what greater work of wonder can there be than this? ” This is our confidence,” saith the apostle, ‘• that whatever we ask according to his will, he heareth us.” (1 John v. 15.) The greatest question here will be. What are those prayers the Lord Jesus will hear? I confess many things are excellently spoken this way; yet I conceive the meaning of this great charter is fully expressed in those words, ” in my name.” If they be prayers in Christ’s name, they shall be heard, and it contains these three things:
1. To pray in Christ’s name is to pray with reliance upon the grace, favour, and worthiness of the merits of Christ; thus this phrase is used, ” to walk in the name of their God,” is in confidence of the authority, and excellency, and favour of their God, that they will bear them out in it. So to pray in Christ’s name is to pray for Christ’s sake; thus (Eph. ii. 18) through him (i. e., through his death and sanctification rested upon) we have access with confidence to the Father, (Eph. iii. 12,) in whom we have boldness, and access with confidence, by the faith of him. There are three evils that commonly attend our prayers when we see God indeed: 1. Shame and flight from God. The apostle saith, therefore, that by faith in Christ we have access.” 2. If we do accede and draw near to him, there is a secret fear and straitness of spirit to open all our minds; therefore saith he, we have boldness; the word signifies liberty of speech to open all our minds without fear or discouragement, o. After we have thus drawn near and opened all our desires and means before God, we have many doubts; viz., Will the Lord hear such a sinner, and such weak, and imperfect, and sinful prayers? And therefore he also affirms, that we have confidence and assurance of being heard; but all this is by faith in him; for look, as Christ hath purchased all blessing for us by his death, and hence makes his intercession for those things daily, according to our need, so we are much more to rest upon and make that satisfaction the ground of our intercession, because Christ’s blood purchased this; therefore, O Lord, grant this.
2. To pray in his name is to pray from his command, and according to his will; as when we send another in our name, we wish him to say thus: Tell him that I desire such a thing of him, and that I sent you; so it is here, and thus the phrase signifies, (John V. 43,) ” I am come in my Father’s name,” i. e., by his authority and command.
To pray in Christ’s name, therefore, is to pray according to the will of Christ, and from the will of Christ, when we ” take those words ” the Lord puts into our mouths, (Hos. xiv. 1-3,) and desire those things only that the Lord commands to seek, whether absolutely or conditionally, ” according to his will revealed, and “with submission to his will” concealed. (1 John v. 14.) ” Whatever we ask according to his will, he hears us.”
(Ps. xxvii. 8. Rom. viii. 26.) If you ask any thing not according to God’s will, you come in your own name; he sent you not with any such message to the Father.
3, To pray in his name is to pray for his ends; for the sake and use of Christ, and glory of Christ. Thus the phrase is used, (Matt. x. 41, 42,) ” to receive a prophet in the name of a prophet,” i. e., for this end and reason, because he is a prophet. A servant comes in his master’s name to ask something of another, when he comes as from his command, so also for his master’s use. So, when we pray for Christ’s sake, i. e., for his ends, not our own, these ever prevail. (Lam. iv. 3.) ” You ask and have not, because you ask amiss, to spend it on your lusts.” (John xii. 27, 28. Ps. cxlv. 18.) This is to “ask in truth,” to act for a spiritual end; to make it our utmost end, ariseth from a special, peculiar, supernatural presence of the Spirit of life, and consequently a spirit of prayer which is ever heard. And hence you shall observe, the least groan for Christ’s ends is ever heard, because it is the groaning of the Spirit, because it is an act of spiritual life, the formality of which consists in this, that it is ”for God.” (Gal. ii. 19.) The Lord can not deny what we pray for Christ’s ends, because then he should crush Christ’s glory. And therefore let a Christian observe, when he would have any thing of God that concerns himself, not to be solicitous so much for the thing, as to gain favour and nearness to God, and a heart subject unto God in a humble contentedness, to be denied as well as to be heard, and he shall undoubtedly find the thing itself. A lust is properly such a desire (though for lawful things) wherein a man must have the thing because it pleaseth him; as when Rachel asked for children, she must have them, else she must needs die. ” Give us water that we may drink,” was their brutish cry, (Ex. xvii. 1, 2;) not that we may live to Him that gives it. Holy prayers or desires (opposed unto lusts) are such desires of the soul, left with God, with submission to his will, as may best please him. Now, the Lord will hear the desires indeed of all that fear him, but not fulfil their lusts. These three are the essential properties of such prayer as is heard, or, if you will, of that which is properly or spiritually prayer: fervency and assurance, etc., are excellent ingredients; but yet the Lord may hear prayer without them. It is true, the Lord may sometimes not hear us presently, for our praying time is our sowing time; we must not look presently for the harvest. ” The Lord hears the prayer of the destitute,” (Ps. cii. 17:) the original word is, of the ” shrub,” or “naked place of the desert,” which the prophet saith (Jer. xvii. 6) ” sees no good when good comes ” yet such as feel themselves such, the Lord doth regard them, and will have a time to answer them; and though the Lord may not give us the thing we pray for, nor so good a thing of the same kind, yet he ever gives us the end of our prayers: he that is at sea, and wants stiff winds to carry him to his port, yet hath no cause to complain if the Lord secretly carries him in by a strong current of the sea itself; and it is certain, at the end of all God’s dealing with you, you shall then see how the Lord hath not failed to answer you in any one particular. (Josh, xxiii. 14.) O, therefore, see and be persuaded of this your privilege. That God will now hear every prayer, many make a question, How may we know when the Lord grants us any blessing as an answer to prayer? Many things are said to this purpose; but the simplicity and plain- ness of the answer lie in this, viz., if it be a prayer, God hears it; if it be put up in Christ’s name, it is then a prayer: and that you may believe this, and glory in this, consider these reasons, to confirm this truth.
From the promise of Christ as in this place, (John xiv. 13, 14.) Which was a promise in special, to be accomplished when he came to his kingdom; and therefore, though it is true God’s grace is free, and therefore you think the Lord may as well refuse to hear you as hear, yet consider that by his promise he hath bound himself to hear.
From the fatherly disposition that is in God, (John xvi. 26, 27;) and hence ” he loves us,” and hence can not but hear us.
Because all prayers put up in Christ’s name, Christ ” makes intercession ” that they may be heard. (Heb. vii. 25.) He hath laid down his blood that all our prayers might be heard, (as we have proved prayer, because it is built upon that which is infinitely and eternally worthy.
Because all prayers of the faithful arise from the Spirit of prayer, (Rom.viii.26;) because, as that which is for the flesh, is of the flesh, so that which is for the Spirit, or for the sake of Christ, for spiritual ends, is ever of the Spirit. (John vii. 18.)
Because of the glory of Christ, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Can not Christ be glorified unless he hear all prayers? Yes, he could; but yet his will is to reveal his glory by this means; so that though thou and thy prayers be vile, and therefore deservest no acceptance or answer, yet remember that his glory is dear. It is the glory of kings to hear some requests and petitions, but they can not hear nor answer all; it is the glory of Christ to hear all, because he is able, without the least dishonour to himself, thus to do. O, be persuaded of this; how should your joy then be full ! how should you then delight to be oft with him ! how would you then encourage all to come unto him ! how would you then be constrained to do any thing for him, who is ready to do all for you ! But O, woe unto our unbelief, for that which the apostle saith (1 John v. 14) was ground of his confidence, viz., that ” whatever we ask according to his and indeed, hence ariseth the infinite efficacy of will, he hears us,” is no ground to us; and we may say, and mourn to think, (this is our diffidence,) that, Whatever I ask according to Christ’s will, he hears me not. But O, recover from such a distrustful frame, and from all dead-heartedness in this duty withal, lest the Lord send taskmasters and double our bricks, and then we groan, and sigh, and cry, and learn to pray that way, that will not pray nor believe now. If the Lord will but give us hearts, assuredly you might not only rule yourselves and families, but, by the power of prayer, pull down and raise up kingdoms, dispose of the greatest affairs of the church, nay, of the world you might here by work wonders, by means of Him, who, ruling all things, yet is overcome by prayer. (Hos. xii. 4, 5.)