By Femi Aribisala
We cannot tell lies and then pray in the name of Jesus.
Several years ago, I was listening to a powerful sermon by a sister-in-the-Lord, Ethel Aderemi, when the Lord suddenly asked me yet another of his enigmatic questions. “Femi,” he said, “what is the name of Jesus?”
Let me start by saying what I have learnt about this process. When the Lord asks you a question, don’t be in a hurry to answer. When the Creator asks the created a question, there is always a catch. He knows our answer before we answer, so there must be something else behind the question than our answer.
When Jesus saw a great crowd coming towards him, he turned to Philip and asked him: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). Philip started estimating the number of people in the crowd. He brought out his calculator in order to multiply the number by the cost of a loaf of bread. He then reached the conclusion that: “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:7).
But the problem was not just about the cost. Where would they get the bakery that would supply enough bread to feed such a crowd that night? Jesus’ loaded question merely provided the preface for an outstanding miracle. He multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed a crowd of over 5,000.
Similarly, God asked Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered with far more wisdom than Philip. He told the Lord: “The bones can live if you want them to live. It all depends on you.”
Confronted with the same question, one of today’s highfalutin motivational preachers would have come up with ready answers. He would quickly present five strategies or seven keys for getting the bones to live: “The bones will live if you preach the gospel to them. They will live if you read the bible to them. They will live if you make sure they go to church on Sundays.”
But Ezekiel was not impetuous. He said: “Lord, only you know if they would live or not.” Therefore, if God asks you a question, do not be in a hurry to answer. Better still; consult the Holy Spirit for the answer.
So when the Lord asked me for the name of Jesus, I did not answer for the longest while. In the first place, I was dumbfounded. I asked myself: “Is Jesus not the name of Jesus?” What then could be the meaning of the Lord’s question? Therefore, rather than answer immediately, I recognised it was a test and decided to investigate before hazarding an answer.
I soon discovered that the name of a person is usually not his name. The real name of a person is the very essence of that person. It is his character, personality and profile. I know a lady called Peace; but she is neither peaceful nor peace-loving. Her real name must be “Trouble-maker.”
But in the bible, no one ever acted contrary to his or her name. If your name is “Thief,” then you are a thief. Abigail says of her husband: “As his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.” (1 Samuel 25:25). Jacob’s name means “one who supplants.” All his life, he acted according to that name until God changed it to Israel. He deceived Esau out of his birthright. He deceived his father and obtained his brother’s blessing.
So what is the name of the Lord? The name of the Lord is the very nature, character and personality of God. God revealed to Moses that his name is compassionate, gracious and slow to anger. (Exodus 34:5-7). Likewise, the name of Jesus is the very personality of Jesus. It represents all that Jesus is. The name of Jesus is Saviour of souls. His name is Joshua; it is Saviour from sins. His name is wonderful, counsellor; mighty God. (Isaiah 9:6). It is love; merciful; goodness and holy.
Jesus says to believers: “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (John 14:13). Why then do we pray and get no answers? It must surely be because we don’t really pray in Jesus’ name. We simply attach his name to the end of our prayers and presume thereby that we have prayed in his name. But to really pray in Jesus’ name, we must have the character of Jesus. We must have his faith and his compassion.
That means we cannot tell lies and then pray in the name of Jesus. Neither can we be quarrelsome and pray in the name of Jesus. We cannot walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners and pray in the name of Jesus. To pray in Jesus’ name, we must walk in his name. To pray in his name, we must stand in the righteousness of God. The psalmist says: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalms 66:18).
Jesus said to his disciples: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive.” (John 16:24). This indicates that hitherto the disciples prayed according to their own wishes and desires. Thenceforth, they were to pray only according to the desires of Jesus. Nevertheless, many of us still go to the bank of heaven with forged cheques. We attach the name of Jesus to requests he would never make. We fail to appreciate that praying in Jesus’ name is not “my will be done” but “God’s will be done.” (Matthew 6:10).
Moreover, praying in Jesus’ name is not a formula. We don’t need to say “in Jesus’ name” with every prayer. If it is in his name, then it is in his name. If it is not, it is not. The fact that you put my name on a cheque does not mean you can get anything out of my bank account. The cashier can tell the signature is not mine. And if he contacts me, I will not confirm the cheque.
There are many counterfeiters of the name of Jesus. You will know us by our fruits. We are people who swear and lay down curses “in the name of Jesus.” We practice witchcraft “in the name of Jesus” and use the name to hold men in bondage. We even go to prayer-meetings and kill our enemies “in the name of Jesus.” We say: “Every enemy of my marriage; every enemy of my destiny; every power planning to wage war against my divine vision; what are you waiting for, die in Jesus’ name!”
We need to recognise that Jesus only knows those who know his name. Nobody gets introduced to Jesus in heaven. We must make sure he knows us by name now, by walking in his name. When we deceive and tell lies “in Jesus’ name,” it shows we don’t know him.
Jesus says: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.'” (Matthew 7:22-23).