Praying in the Will of God, in the Spirit and in His Name

When the assignment came bearing this title, there was initially a sense of despair. It is difficult enough to opine on praying according to the will of God, but then to add Jude’s comment about praying in the Spirit (v20), and the several references to praying “in His Name” (Joh 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23,24,26), it loomed as an overwhelming assignment. We have become so accustomed to appending to the close of our petitions, “we ask in His Name,” or some similar formula, that we have (at least the writer) lost the sense of its meaning. We assume we are praying in the Spirit when we engage in prayer, as it is a spiritual activity. But we all would confess that our prayer life can become almost routine. We could make a recording on Monday and play it back the other six days.

While floundering in a sense of my own lifeless, anemic prayer life, it dawned on my understanding (no, not an epiphany) that the only way in which I know the will of God is through the Word of God. Second, the only way that I know I am “in the Spirit” in my activity is if it is according to the Word of God. Finally, to pray “in His Name” means that I have the authority of the Word of God for what I am requesting from the Father. The common thread in all of this is, rightly so, the Word of God. As I become more and more acquainted with the will of God from His Word, I will pray according to that will, have all the authority of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ behind me, and have the confidence that I am praying in the Spirit. The importance of the Word of God as the basis for our intercessions and supplications cannot be exaggerated.

Since, however, this article needs to be 1,000 words, I cannot end here. Let us look together, then, at some of the “in My Name” verses and promises that can confuse sincere believers. On inspection, none of this is a “blank check” to ask what “we will,” in the sense of asking for whatever we desire. Consider first …

John 14:13-14

“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”[1] Notice first the link between verse 12, where we are furthering His work on earth, and our requests in the next verse. What we are asking “in His Name” is concerning His work, not our own wills and desires. To further emphasize this truth, note that in these verses Jesus Christ, not the Father, is the doer. We are carrying on His work and thus can ask, concerning that work, in His Name.

John 15:7

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” The context here is fruit-bearing. As we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, we become aware (painfully so) of our lack of fruit, our lack of likeness to Christ. As we come to the Father with the request to be more like His Son, He will do it so that we might become “disciples” (v8), or Christ-like ones, of which the next verse speaks.

John 15:16

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” This is probably the most difficult of the verses for which to come to a settled conclusion as to its meaning. Is the “fruit” which they are bearing in this verse souls saved through evangelism, or is it fruit in their lives, developed in their service for Him? Certainly, seeing souls saved and “Christ being born in them” is fruit. If this is the fruit spoken of, then the prayer of verse 16 may well be the development of growth in the new believers. Whatever interpretation is made, it still must be in harmony with what Christ desires if I am attaching His Name in an intelligent manner to my request. Earlier in verse 15, as His “friends,” He has disclosed to us His counsels. We then pray in keeping with those counsels.

John 16:23,24,26

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father 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 …. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you.” A day was coming (after His ascension) when they would no longer be able to ask Him directly. In that day, because of an ascended, risen Christ, they would be able to ask in His Name, with all His approval and authority, and the Father would accomplish it. I must know His will from the Word of God to be able to attach His Name to my request. Linking His name with my prayer means that this is what He would desire for us were He here.

Thus, none of these Scriptures suggest the popular idea current in some circles of “name it and claim” prayer. We must know the Scriptures to know His will. Two other Scriptures which must be interpreted in light of this principle are Matthew 21:22 and 1 John 5:15.

As His Word controls our thinking, refines our motives and shapes our vision, we “know” what to ask for in keeping with the Father’s heart. With this knowledge we approach in prayer, “in the Spirit,” and make our requests. When we have the assurance of the Scriptures as the basis for a specific request (take James 1:5 as an example), we can come with the confidence that He will give it. When we have a general principle rather than a specific promise (take 1Ti 2:1-6 as an example), we can pray in harmony with the Father’s heart, recognizing that while we are praying according to His desire, He never overrides the free will He has given to man. In such cases, rather than reminding God of a specific promise, we have to add to our prayers, “Thy will be done.”

Matthew 21:22

“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Finally, what is the role of faith in prayer? Faith always has the Word of God for its basis. It is not wishful thinking or a strong (even spiritual) desire. When I have the Word as a basis for my prayer, I am praying in faith and can have the assurance of receiving (was the Lord praying in keeping with Jer 8:13?). It is praying God’s Word back to Him, not praying my desires to Him.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.