In the interests of true deference, how should we address our Lord when speaking to Him in prayer, or referring to Him in public?
Our Lord’s earthly name was JESUS. In Greek it is Iesous, and comes over from the Hebrew Yeshua, which the A.V. translates as Joshua. In the same way we should understand that Peter’s first name Simon was really the O.T. Simeon, son of Jonah. If the translators had continued to use the names they already employed in the O.T., we should today be used to calling our Saviour ‘Joshua’, but they felt the urge to TRANSLITERATE instead of TRANSLATE and that is why we have this change of name to JESUS. There is no point in being pedantic about this. We have grown used to this name, and we shall continue to call Him JESUS, even if there is a growing tendency amongst some today to use the expression Yeshua.
When Jesus spoke to Peter, He referred to him by his name, saying ‘Simon, son of Jonah ‘-etc. But when Peter spoke to Jesus, neither he nor anyone else ever called Him by His name. By the reading of the N.T. we very soon reach theconclusion, and a very important one too, that they SENSED there was something different about Him, and this something caused them to approach Him in deference. They called Him ‘Master’ or ‘Lord’ , ‘Teacher’ or ‘Rabbi’.
Let us see, by rapid recollection, just how people addressed our Lord.
The 10 lepers said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13)
Blind Bartimæus said, “Jesus, Son of David, take pity on me!”
Another leper said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Matt.8:2)
Two blind men said, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (Matt.9:27)
A certain man said, “Lord, have mercy on my son for he is lunatic.” (Matt.17:15)
The man who was born blind said, “Lord, I believe!”(Jn9:38)
Zacchæus said, “Behold Lord, half my possessions I give to the poor.” (Luke 19:8)
The rich young man said, “Good Master – -“ (Mark 10:17)
The Centurion said, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed.” (Matt.8:6)
The Canaanite woman said, “Have mercy on me Lord, Son of David.” Matt.15:22)
And the woman at the well said, “Sir, give me this water to drink.” (Jn.4:15)
All these were (to start with, at least) just casual contacts. What about those who were closer to the Lord, in the Gospel records?
Peter said to the Lord as He walked on the water, “Lord, if it is you – -” (Matt.14:28)
John said, “Master, we saw a man driving out demons in your name.” Mk.9:38)
Nathaniel said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, the King of Israel”(Jn.1:49)
And Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (Jn.11:21)
From all this list so far, not one person has addressed our Lord simply as “Jesus”. The ten lepers added Master, andBartimæus added Son of David, which was a term of great respect. What about the Devil when he spoke to the Lord in the wilderness? We read that twice he said, “If you be the Son of God – -.” (Matt.4:3) It is almost a term of derision, the way in which he couched his words. And what about the demons? Some of them said, “What do you want with us, Jesus ofNazareth?” (Luke 4:34) Another one said, “Jesus, Son of God Most High, what do you want with me?” (Luke 8:28) We here suspect that they had no desire to be respectful, but found that they could not do otherwise. Whichever way it is, our Lord was always quick to tell them to be quiet. He never wanted a character reference from the mouth of an infernal spirit of Satan’s creation.
Having come thus far, we should also notice that the Gospel writers frequently referred to our Lord as “Jesus” when writing ABOUT Him. Our conclusion then must be that our best policy is to remember when addressing our Lord directly in prayer, especially when others are present to hear, to say something like, “Dear Lord – -,’~ or “Master – -” or if we wish to utter His name as well, say “Dear Lord Jesus – -.”
May we say at this point that when we hear someone start praying with the words, “Dear Jesus – -,” it tends towards an unwarranted familiarity. But we live in days of the breakdown of many hitherto well-accepted rules of etiquette and young people have grown up in an atmosphere of familiarity, even to the extent sometimes of calling their parents by their Christian names. Our request to our readers is to gently insist that a more fitting mode of address should be used, which will at once encourage a more deferential approach towards God, and cause other people to learn of the holiness of God by our conduct.
But, as with the Gospel writers, we may always use the Master’s name when speaking ABOUT Him to others, though many of our friends even here prefer to speak of Him as “Lord Jesus.” No doubt our readers will respond to the spirit in which this is written, and realise that the last thing we wish to do is to lay down rules and regulations. But the Scriptures do give us examples, and they are there to follow.
It now behoves us to examine the texts that teach us more about the ‘protocols of prayer’. The disciples asked the Lord how they should pray. Do we do the same? What was His answer? “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father, – -‘”Lk.11:2. It is on this point that we should stop and examine our own mode of prayer. To whom do we pray? Our Lord and Master encouraged us to direct our prayers to His Father in heaven. Once again, there may be some who think we are being pedantic about this, and trying to make unnecessary rules and regulations which merely serve to hamper the free flow of the spirit of prayer. But we ask our readers to bear with us, because the Scriptures are our guide to everything in our Christian lives, and whether we like it or not, there ARE certain rules and regulations which should be adhered to, because God is the God of LAW AND ORDER.
Jesus said, “Whatsoever you ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14) A little later He said, “In that day you shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-24.
Nothing could be plainer than these words. Intercessory prayer, that is, the type of prayer where we ASK things of God, should be addressed to the Father. He is the Giver of all good gifts. And the request cannot be heard without the accompanying ‘formula’, in other words, we must always ask ‘in the name of Jesus’ because we have no power to ask otherwise. All prayer to God must go through our Lord, because we have no standing before God apart from Him.
Brethren, these are not empty words. We do well to attend to what our Lord said to His disciples because He showed us the way, the only way, to enter the courts of heaven and present our requests. Herein then lies the correct method, the divinely instituted protocol. God the Father receives our prayers, and He can only do so when we present them in the name of His own beloved Son. Paul explained that there is but ONE GOD, and ONE MEDIATOR between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. We may be hot to point this out to the sects who deny the deity of our Lord Jesus, but do we attend properly to this fact when we present our prayers to the gates of heaven?
All this has to do with INTERCESSORY PRAYER. But there are other forms of prayer. For example, there is PRAISE AND ADORATION. Under these conditions, we are at liberty to address the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, because here is the Tri-unity, the Godhead, and it is most right and proper that we should give God the praise most rightly His due. If the brethren were properly taught in these matters when first becoming believers, there would be no re-adjustment to be made along the way. Once we have become used to a certain format of prayer, we then find it difficult to re-adjust, especially if some time has passed by. However, we believe that if anyone reads the words of this paper, and is desirous of following God with a whole heart, the adjustment will be made. In these days of the Charismatic movement, one has seen a great profusion of praise, but at times it has been without the proper direction and teaching that should have come from elders instructed in the word of God.
And this leads on to another point, much connected with the Charismatics, that of the Holy Spirit. We have seen that prayer of an intercessory kind should be addressed to the Father, and not to the Lord Jesus. In the same way it is most improper for us to ASK the Holy Spirit directly for anything. We may worship all members of the Godhead, but in all matters of asking, God the Father alone should be the focus of our prayers. If one should read the apostles’ prayer in Acts 4:24-31, it will be found that this directive is wholly fulfilled. Their prayers were directed towards the God of all creation, and in their prayer they glorified God’s Son. What was the result? The power of the Holy Spirit was liberated. They had not asked specifically for the Spirit’s presence by name, but had asked for the manifestation of powers in the name of ‘Thy holy child Jesus’, and then the whole place was shaken.
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete.” John 14:16. And again, “- -The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.” (John 14:26) The apostles prayed (in Acts 4) and asked for powers to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, and God answered by sending power that shook the very house in which they were meeting. In these days believers are often in a pitch of excitement to see the manifestations of God’s power, the power of the Holy Spirit, but sadly there is not the same attention focussed on the correct procedure, the ‘divine protocol’ whereby God may be glorified. Even if we earnestly desire to see the works of the Lord in the land of the living, we must come before God in the right way first. Our prayers must be directed to the Father, asking that He will glorify His Son on the earth, and He will gladly answer such a prayer, because it is stated to be His will, given by divine approval through the words of our Lord Jesus whilst He was with His disciples.
Further to this we may look at our Lord’s words recorded by Matthew and Luke, as follows, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give holy spirit(ual) (gifts) to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13) Note the end of the sentence, thus, ” – to those WHO ASK HIM” Ask whom? “Your heavenly Father.” The message is the same wherever we look.
Now, we have taken the liberty of adding a word to the English of the translation in Luke because the Greek reads PNEUMA HAGION, without any articles, holy spirit, not THE Holy Spirit By this we understand that Jesus was speaking not of the Person but of the powers contained in the ‘gifts’ promised. Our authority for saying this may be found in the parallel passage in Matthew 7:11 which reads, “- -how much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?” By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we may often find the best available commentary to help us determine the meaning.
The lesson is the same as that already learned. All requests must be addressed to God the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and should be geared to the glorifying of God’s Son. In this way, the heavenly Father is well pleased, and (by the words of our Lord Himself) MORE THAN READY to grant our requests.
In Acts 5:32 we find another angle on this matter, in the words of the Apostle Peter. Speaking of the events of their recent days just after Pentecost, and reproving the Jewish leaders for their obstinacy, he said, “We are witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those who obey Him.” The Person of the Holy Spirit came down to the whole church at Pentecost, and has remained within God’s true church ever since. But the important clause in Peter’s statement is the last one, namely, ‘to those WHO OBEY HIM.’ It is by the measure of our obedience that God looks upon us kindly, because as Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Our love to God cannot be an emotional one, or a sentimental one, or a sloppy lovey-dovey one so characteristic of these days. Our love to God will be measured in the heavens by the amount of obedience we show to God according to the way of life expressed to us in the New Testament. Sometimes that love will cause us to be emotional, we do not doubt that, for we are flesh and blood, and our emotions are very much a part of our whole make-up. But we should always be aware of what the Bible tells us on any matter, and adjust our thinking to that, rather than attempting to make the Scriptures bend to our own way of thinking. That is why we are writing this paper. We gently but firmly advise ourselves and others that God has displayed His ‘divine protocol’ and there is really no other alternative open to us than comply.
For most believers, we know that there will be a ready willingness to obey and respond, because, as John said in his letter,‘His commandments are not grievous.’ (1 John 5:3) It remains now for us to examine a little of what may be called ‘etiquette’ rather than divine protocol. The dictionary tells us that ‘protocol’ is ‘a rigid prescription or observance of procedure, and deference to rank, as in diplomatic and military service, and in approaching royalty,’ whereas‘etiquette’ is defined as ‘conventional rules of personal behaviour in polite society. Proper decorum and taste in approach to others in society and in professions, according to their rank.’
Clearly there is an overlap in the usage of these terms. If the ‘world’ employs such niceties, and expects people to observe them, how much more should we, as believers, act with proper decorum and taste, not only towards our Lord, but also towards each other? It goes without saying. But, as we have already commented, we live in the days of utter breakdown of all such things, and some, especially the young people of today, may find at first that our remarks come as being ‘quaint’ or even a little foolish. To these we especially ask for a little patience and understanding, because if Paul said to the Corinthians ‘let everything be done decently and in order’ and later in the same letter he said ‘evil communications corrupt good manners’ (1 Cor.14:40 & 15:33) we should realise that these Scriptures are just important as others in determining our daily lives.
What have we to say then, on this issue? Perhaps we should start by returning to our Lord’s words concerning the ‘Lord’s prayer’. He said, ‘When you pray, say ‘Our Father’ – -We have already commented on the word ‘Father’ so now we must comment on the word ‘our’. In times of public prayer, it is most improper and inadvisable for us to say ‘My Father’ Think about it for a moment. If we say ‘My Father’, then of course, we are uttering TRUE words! Oh yes, let there be no doubt about that! But what is the effect on those who listen to our prayers? Are they not just a little offended by our display of personal familiarity with God, almost as though we were EXCLUDING THEM from our prayer by virtue of some SPECIAL relationship we have with the Father? Here then is the essence of proper etiquette, that we learn to use expressions before our brethren that will encourage the bond of unity that God has Himself made between ALL WHO ARE TRUE MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. Paul tells the Ephesians to ‘endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace’,(Eph.4:3) and we cannot do that whilst at the same time we use expressions that tend towards a DISTINCTION rather than a BOND. Let us always say “Our Father” when we address God, and be obedient to our Master.
Another matter which needs very much to be voiced these days is the actual use of words in our fellowship with each other. Because the world is flooded ten miles deep in continuous speech, because of the radio and television, we have all learned to use our mouths to an extent which is far beyond the divine allowance. Words are used to address both God and our fellow-man. Does the Scripture have anything to say about the use of words when addressing Almighty God? In fact it does, and it was Solomon with his endowment of wisdom, who gave the whole truth of the matter in Eccl.5:2-7 “Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any word before God: for God is in heaven, and you are upon earth: therefore let your words be few. – – A fool’s voice is known by his multitude of words. – -in many words there is also much vanity: fear God.” The theme is also echoed by the writer of Proverbs (10:19-21) “In the multitude of words there is much sin, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is worth but little. The lips of the righteous instruct many; but fools die through lack of understanding.”
The quotation from Proverbs refers as much to human conversation as it does to prayer. Our Lord said in the sermon on the mount, “When you pray, do not use empty repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their multitudes of words. But not like them, for your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.” (Matt. 6:7-8) And it is immediately after this that He said, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father -as if to emphasise the value of brief prayer, which contains much in few words.
How many times have we approached a prayer meeting with a dire sense of foreboding, knowing that there are certain ones present who, by virtue of their many words and constant repetition, wearied both man and God. Let us learn to be brief in our conversation with each other, and not waste time and energy. Let us particularly learn to be brief when addressing God in prayer. Sometimes, if we analyse just what we have said, we conclude to our disgrace that we have been guilty of sermonising the Almighty. One hears of ‘all night prayer meetings’ and hardly dares whisper a puff of protest, lest the very holiness of the occasion be shattered. But in reality, was it all necessary? We admit that sometimes it WAS necessary, because the unction of God was upon those folks assembled, and they were meeting in obedience to the divine whisper. But these are few and far between. Most of the others could be summed up as a vain attempt to copy that which had been real, as though to satisfy the heart that one had done something useful, thereby pleasing God. The only ones thus deceived are ourselves.
In his autobiography, C.S.Lewis relates the time when, as a youngster, he stayed with a retired headmaster by the name of Kirkpatrick. He described him as ‘ – over six feet tall, lean as a rake, – his wrinkled face seemed to consist entirely of muscles. – – If ever a man came near to being a purely logical entity, that man was Kirk. His outstanding conviction was that language was given to man solely for the purpose of communicating or discovering truth. The general banalities and ‘small talk’ of most people did not enter into his calculations. The most casual remark ~~as taken as a summons to disputation. To a ‘mere torrent of verbiage’ he would cry ‘Stop!’, not from impatience, but because it was leading nowhere. More sensible observations might be interrupted by ‘Excuse!’, ushering in some parenthetical comment. Full approval would be encouraged by ‘I hear you’ but usually followed by refutation: ‘Had I read this? Had I studied that? Had I any statistical evidence? And so to the almost inevitable conclusion: ‘Do you not see then that you had no right?’
Such men are few and far between. Lewis learned much from Kirk, and used great economy of words in his own writings, which did him credit. Likewise, his writings are amongst the most logically thought-out of any Christian books on the market. Watchman Nee’s writings are very similar. Much economy of words, but massive quantities of truth. It goes without saying that the Bible is itself of the same calibre.
James, in his third chapter, speaks about the human tongue and the evil it engenders by wrong use. The first ten verses make us blush every time we read them. “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” We forbear quoting any more of the chapter.
Paul spoke of the coming of a day of judgment, in the which “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom.3:19) We long for the coming of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and this is as it should be. But sometimes we forget those passages which speak about His coming in such a manner as this – “Who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a Refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap. He shall sit as the Refiner and Purifier of silver .” Just because the context in Malachi 3 relates to Levi andJerusalem, should not distract us into thinking that such things ‘are of course necessary for the Jews.’ God forbid! We are all human beings, and in need of the same correction and purification. Let us therefore prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord, for He already at the doors, and the signs of the times show us clearly that it is near the midnight hour, when the Bride must make herself ready for the Bridegroom, for He comes!
May our whole manner of life be that of ‘humility and meekness’, humility towards one another, and meekness towards God, as we encourage each other, and pray for His Kingdom to come upon earth.