This message was delivered on a Wednesday evening as part of the series, Taking Hold of God.
Taking Hold of God
By Calling Upon His Name
Isaiah 64:6-7, John 16:23-24
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away, and there is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee: for Thou hast hid Thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:6-7)
Throughout this series, we have given careful consideration to the parallel expressions:
“and there is none that calleth upon Thy name,
that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee”
Considered together, these expressions help us to know how to make our appeals to God in these troubling times.
We identify with Isaiah’s confession in Isaiah 6:5, “I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” When we truly see the King, we see our terrible condition clearly. Then, it’s time to take action. Isaiah 64:6-7 shows you what to do: call upon the name of the Lord. Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13). If you know the Lord, you exercise the great privilege of calling on the name of the Lord in the name of Jesus Christ.
“Calling upon the name of the Lord is not merely saying His Name;
it is seizing hold of Him by faith”
It Is Not Merely Saying the Name of Christ
Calling upon the name of the Lord is not merely saying His Name; it is seizing hold of Him by faith. Christians know that saying “in the name of Jesus Christ” is the right way to pray. After all, Jesus instructed us, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. 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.” (John 16:23-24) But “in the name of Christ” is more than an expression that we should be saying; Christ is guiding us to embrace Him and seize upon His authority with the Father. The Apostle Paul expressed this with the words, “that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ” (Philippians 3:12); prayer was part of his purpose for living. Merely speaking the name of Christ without seizing upon His Person and work is like trying to fight with a scabbard instead of a sword; it doesn’t win any battles. Thomas Boston commented that this is the “scabbard produced, while the sword of the Spirit is not in it. The words are said, but the faith is not exercised.” [i] Let’s learn what it means to call upon the name of the Lord by praying in the name of Jesus Christ.
It Is Seizing upon the Authority of Christ
In a sense, every God-honoring prayer is “like a walk down memory lane.” The Scriptures continually remind us to remember how and why we have the privilege of prayer. To pray effectively, it is important to consciously remember these Scriptural reminders. Here are five “C’s” to remember as you seize hold of God in prayer.
Through Christ (our only Access)
Praying in the name of Christ is to remember that your appeal can only be heard because of Christ; He is your Mediator, your only access to God. You cannot go before God on your own merits, for “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). No other access to God exists. If you are to pray, it can only be through “the way, the truth and the life” – Jesus Christ. In Esther 5:2, we read that Esther took her life in her hands to go before the king, who graciously extended his golden scepter to her. In Hebrews 1:8, we read that God’s Son has a scepter of righteousness. When we pray, we pray through Christ, our only access, who graciously extends His righteous scepter to us.
Even the Old Testament saints who called upon the name of the Lord did so through the “Lamb without blemish and without spot who verily was ordained before the foundation of the world . . .” (1 Peter 1:19-20) To walk down the memory lane of prayer is to remember how prayer is even possible. Our pleas can only be heard because of the Gospel of Christ:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2)
“You were created into that circle, that calling.”
By our Calling in Christ
It is important to remember that we have access through the Mediator, Jesus Christ. But there is more to consider. How is it that a sinner – even a cleansed sinner – can stand before God, the Holy Father? It is because we are “accepted in the Beloved” Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:6). We are no longer adversaries, but adopted sons, accepted in the Beloved One. There is no enmity, no hostility (Ephesians 2:15-16); we are free to embrace Him, to take hold of God! For a moment, picture what it means to be placed in Christ as being called into the circle of all that He is. You were created into that circle, that calling. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Believers are “new creations” in Christ and designed for good works. One of the greatest of these good works is the work of prevailing prayer.
“Your feeble feelings don’t change the fact that you pray because Christ commanded you to do so.”
At the Command of Christ
When you call upon the name of the Lord (in Christ’s name) you do so in obedience to Christ’s command. Jesus commanded you “ask, and ye shall receive”(John 16:24); He did not merely make a request. We go before the Father clinging to the fact that we are praying at Christ’s command; that is the very reason we go before the throne of grace. You make your requests to the Father because the Son has commanded you to do so. When your heart condemns you, remember that God is greater than your heart (1 John 3:20); He knows all things. He knows that He commanded you to appear before the throne. Obedience to His command will lead to answered prayer and fullness of joy. Your feeble feelings don’t change the fact that you pray because Christ commanded you to do so.
With the Concerns of Christ
To pray in the name of Christ is to rightly represent His concerns before the Father. Jesus reminded us that we have the privilege of abiding in Him – dwelling within the circle of all that He is (John 15:7-8): “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” In this context, “the fruit” is answered prayer. Adopted sons who are “accepted in the Beloved” get answers! But the expression, “and my words abide in you” means that we keep Christ’s expressed concerns in mind as we pray. We meditate upon His precepts and maintain respect for His ways (Psalm 119:15). Our prayers are tools with a purpose, not toys to play with. This is why James taught, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” You must take our Lord’s compassionate concern (Matthew 9:36) as your own concern. So, pray with the psalmist, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense;” (Psalm 141:2).
“If prayers are tools and not toys, we must put them to the right purpose:”
Acting on the Commission from Christ
To pray in Christ’s name is to follow through on His commission to you. If prayers are tools and not toys, we must put them to the right purpose: Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Therefore, we should pray the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38). So let us call on the name of the Lord by praying in the name of Christ. Through Christ, who has called and commanded us, we can express His concerns and act on His commission. Let us “apprehend that for which we have been apprehended” and take hold of God.
Pastor Gordon Dickson, Calvary Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio