On September 12, 2001, John MacArthur sat down with Phil Johnson at Grace to You to discuss the tragic and startling events that had occurred the previous day. Here are a few excerpts from that interview from 14 years ago:
PHIL: There are probably people listening to us right now who are trying to go about their normal routine and maybe finding themselves in the grip of fear—fear for their lives, fear for their safety, fear for their families and their loved ones. What can people do with the fear?
JOHN: If you don’t know the Lord, if you do not have the hope of eternal life, if you don’t believe in a sovereign God who controls everything, if you don’t believe your life from its beginning to its end is in His care—if you don’t believe that, you should fear because there are no guarantees.
PHIL: So what would your appeal be to those who are without Christ who might be listening to us?
JOHN: All I can say to you dear, dear friend is if you want to eliminate fear, then you have to know your future is secure. You have to know that God is caring for you and that you’re not going to die until it’s His time. And when you do, you are going immediately into His eternal presence where there is blessing forever more.
All I can say is you better run to Christ who will forgive your sin and who will embrace you if you will embrace Him by faith as Lord and Savior and He will grant to you eternal life. And then death for you is not an ending, it’s a beginning. It is not a disaster, it’s the greatest benediction that life can offer because it takes you into the glories of eternal life.
PHIL: John, without a doubt there were people directly impacted by this that are members of the Grace to You family, people listening to us today, would you have any special words of counsel or comfort for them?
JOHN: What we need to do is come together in prayer. If you’re able, let me ask you to set aside what you’re doing for a moment, and join me as we bring these many needs before the throne of God. Let’s pray.
Father, as we watch what has been going on, as we contemplate these horrible events, the death of perhaps thousands and thousands of people, we’re all experiencing all kinds of emotions—anger and fear and anxiety and shock and disbelief and pain. There are many who are afraid they’re losing the future and wondering if this is some kind of portent of a horrible world to come.
Father, we pray that we might know the comfort with which only You can comfort our hearts, the comfort that comes from the affirmation that You are our great God, You are our sovereign God and You are still sitting on the throne, You’re still ruling and Your purpose is yet being fulfilled.
We also need to pray for people who have been affected by this, those who have been killed certainly have loved ones—family and friends that are going to be devastated by the loss of life. Some of those people, no doubt, who have died were listeners of this radio program, some of them have entered into Your presence, some have gone out of Your presence forever. We pray for the families of those people.
We pray, too, for those who were injured, some perhaps still languishing somewhere in the dark recesses of the rubble of these places, not even yet found. We pray for those who are in that condition that they might have the time and the opportunity to draw to mind the gospel and to embrace Christ.
We pray for those who risk their lives to help, those rescue workers, authorities, police, military, fire people, all of those who work at medical services who are so engaged now in caring for people, finding them and rescuing them and trying to meet their devastating physical needs.
And particularly, Lord, we come back to those who have lost their friends and their family members and their co-workers and their lives have been shattered by this. We pray a special benediction of grace upon them.
And then, Lord, we want to pray for our leaders. We pray especially for our President. We know his efforts have been directed at the typical political banter that goes on between the Republicans and the Democrats and all of a sudden that seems so unimportant and the bar has been raised so high. We pray that You’ll give him and those around him the strength and the wisdom and the insight and the fortitude to take the leadership and do what needs to be done for the security of our nation and the well-being of people around the world.
We pray also that the church will mobilize as a body of believers and engage itself in prayer and any other way that can help meet needs. And may the church do what it really does best, to love people and to show them Jesus Christ in practical ways as well as bringing the perspective of God’s Word to bear on what ultimately is a spiritual crisis.
Father, we thank You that You are the God of this world and You are in control of everything. Nothing happens outside Your purpose, everything is within the framework of Your plan. And we pray, Lord, that You will grant us the wisdom to see all of that as it unfolds before us. May we be used in ways that can bring You glory even in this terrible crisis.
May it turn the hearts of the people of this country to eternity and in taking a look at eternity may they be drawn to You and to Christ, the One who has conquered death for us through His own resurrection. We pray in His name. Amen.
To listen to the interview, or to read it in its entirety, click here.
Jesus says that whatever you ask for in his name will be given to you (John 14:13-14)
In an attempt to follow Jesus’ instructions, many parents and churches teach (usually be example) that every prayer should conclude with the words “…in Jesus’ name, Amen.” But is this what Jesus meant?
Sometimes you hear people take this idea to an extreme, and they say, “…in Jesus’ name” over and over throughout their prayer such as this:
Father, we come before you in the name of Jesus, to ask you, Father, that you bless our time together, in Jesus’ name. And we bring forward our needs to you, Father, thinking of Ruth and her ingrown toenail, that you would heal it, Father, in Jesus’ name. And we lift up to you the sick cat of Carol. You know, Father, how the cat has been throwing up all night, and how Carol loves the cat which you gave her, and so we ask that you reach down out of heaven and touch her cat in Jesus’ name, Father, and deliver her cat from this malady that is causing the cat and Carol so much problem, in Jesus’ name…
And so on. (And while you might think I am trying to be funny with requests about toenails and sick cats, if you have been in many prayer meetings, you know that these sorts of requests are not uncommon.)
Even when Christians are able to root out of their prayers all the repetitious mentioning of “Father” and “in Jesus’ name,” it is still quite common for most Christians to end their prayers with the word, “… in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I admit I do this. It is a habit I just cannot break.
But why would I want to break it?
Doesn’t Jesus tell us to pray in His name?
Well, yes, He does. But His instruction does not mean that we liberally sprinkle our prayers with the magic words “in Jesus’ name” or that we even close out our prayers with these words.
When we do this, are treating the words “in Jesus’ name” like they are some sort of magical incantation by which we will get whatever we ask for in prayer. But that is not at all what Jesus meant, and in fact, mindlessly repeating the words “in Jesus’ name” to get what we ask for in prayer is actually the exact opposite of what Jesus meant when He invited us to pray in His name.
What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name”?
To pray “in Jesus’ name” means to pray as if Jesus Himself was praying our prayers.
When an ambassador visits another country “in the name of the king” (or president) it is as if his king (or president) is speaking the words that the ambassador speaks. The leaders of these other countries are to assume that whatever the ambassador says, it is as if the king (or president) himself said them.
Obviously then, the ambassador had better be certain that what he says is exactly what the king himself would say. If an ambassador says something foolish or insulting, he could easily start a war or ruin a trade agreement or destroy a treaty. To be a good ambassador, the ambassador needs to know the mind and heart and will of his king so intimately, that the two minds are nearly one.
This is what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name.” They are not magic words to get what you want, but are a mind frame we must adopt when praying to God. We must so intimately know the mind and heart and will of Jesus in whatever situation we are praying about, that the words we speak are the same exact words Jesus would speak if He Himself were the one making the petition to God.
How to Pray in Jesus’ Name
So to expand a bit on what Jesus said in John 14:13-14, I think His words could be paraphrased this way:
But when you pray, spend time thinking about what I value, what I have instructed you, how I lived my life, the kind of example I provided, the people I hung out with, the goals I sought to achieve, the relationship I had with God. Take careful notice of what I taught and what I prayed for. Then, offer your requests to God in light of these things. And when you do, make these requests boldly, knowing that the words you speak are the same words I am speaking. And when you pray this way, know that your prayers will be answered.
If you are not completely confident that what you are praying is what Jesus Himself would pray, this is when it is best to add the little caveat to your prayers of “if it is your will.” This way, in your conversations with God, you can tell Him what is heavy on your heart and weighs on your mind, but you are telling Him that you trust Him to make the best decision since you ourselves do not know what is best.
In my opinion, most of the prayers we pray will be of this second sort, where we recognize that our hearts can be deceived and our minds darkened, and so we leave judgment and decision up to God.
To “pray with faith” is not to summon up so much “confidence” that God is somehow “forced” to do what we ask. No, to pray with faith is to offer our requests to God, knowing that He loves us and will do what is best for us, even if this involves not giving us what we have asked for.
So let us stop praying with magical words by which we try to coerce God and manipulate Him to do what we want. Stop using magic words in your prayers.
Instead, let us spend time learning the heart and mind of Jesus so that our prayers can match His prayers, and then, when we pray, pray with the humility of faith, knowing that God will do what is best for us.
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About three and a half years ago, I posted the following sample prayer plan to serve as a guide for those who were looking to add some structure to their times of personal worship. Over the past few weeks, a number of people have happened to mention that this was helpful to them. I’ve also had occasion recently to refer to it in some pastoral counseling contexts. With it on my mind, I figured I’d re-post it for those who missed it the first time. As always, I pray it’s a benefit to you.
In his classic, Desiring God, John Piper diagnoses that a main hindrance to prayer is our lack of planning. He tells us,
Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.
But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure.
And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it.
I think his point is outstanding, and it definitely has rung true in my own life. To that end, I drafted a sample prayer plan some time ago to add structure to my own personal worship times. I’d like to share it with you, dear Cripplegate readers, not as something to be rigidly followed, but as a suggestion to help get you into—or back into—a thriving, regular, consistent time of worship and communion with God in prayer.
Most pastors develop a rhythm with their sermon preparation. You find a way that “works” for you and you pretty much stick with it. But until you have the pattern established, it can be messy. And one of the areas with which I struggled at the beginning was how prayer fit into my sermon preparation.
I knew that I should pray, that in fact I must pray, as part of getting ready to teach God’s Word. But I don’t remember getting much advice about how to pray when preparing a message. And while there’s obviously not just one helpful way to do it, here are eight brief prayers that can be used while writing a sermon: