My Credentials for Writing Chapter One:
The Third Commandment
In the summer of 1975, after I had completed my first year of Seminary, I happened to meet my father in a little hallway that ran between his living and dining rooms. He was 73 years old, a holiness preacher from the old school who, early in the 20th century, had been anointed with power to heal the sick. I don't remember how the subject of praying in Jesus' name came up, but he made a comment that left me puzzled. He said, "You'll see these modern Pentecostal preachers lay hands on people to be healed and say at the end of their prayer, 'In Jesus' name we pray', but nothing happens." Then he added,"Jesus said if we asked anything in his name, he would do it. That means somebody's got it wrong. Either Jesus told something wrong when he said he'd do whatever we ask in his name, or saying 'in Jesus' name' to the end of a prayer is not what Jesus was talking about."
As Paul once said, "My mind was unfruitful." I stood there with nothing to say.
My father didn't give me the answer. He calmly walked away as if the conversation was over and left me staring at the wall, wondering what it really means to pray "in Jesus' name".
My mind was so occupied with the issue my father brought up, I didn't even consider how very odd it was for him to bring up such an important issue and then walk away without helping me to resolve it. Only years later, replaying that sacred scene in my mind, did I realize how strange it might have appeared to a third party looking on. But by then, I understood what had really happened. The Spirit had my father to put that issue before me and then walk away because Jesus had determined, on that day, to take over my education in the things of God. I feel certain that my father himself did not realize what the Spirit was using him for; but then, whenever someone is "walking in the Spirit", he is constantly doing good things far beyond his own comprehension.
After my father left me standing there in the hallway without an answer, I determined to read every verse in the Bible that had the word "name" in it. Maybe by doing that, I could learn what asking "in Jesus' name" meant. Having gathered the necessary materials, a notebook, a Strong's Concordance, and my Bible, I entered into my task, beginning in Genesis.
Whenever I came to a verse with "name" in it, I would copy it, by hand and in full, into the notebook (computers were not yet available), sometimes including the verses before and after, so that I wouldn't lose the overall sense. Many hours passed, as I carefully went through the fifty chapters of Genesis. I did not know that Jesus was waiting for me to arrive at the twentieth chapter of Exodus.
So I continued working my way through the long list of verses that had the word "name" in them, until my concordance led me to the instance of "name" found in Exodus 20:7. Suspecting nothing of what I was about to experience, but hopeful at every verse, I turned the pages of my Bible and read,
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
When I read that Scripture, suddenly, and for the first time in my life, the word of God came to me, and it brought a flood of inner light that I cannot describe. It was the Lord Jesus, and he gently spoke to me and said, "John, what in that verse has anything to do with speech?"
In response, I started to raise my hand to point to the word in Exodus 20:7 that had to do with speech, but, astounded, I realized for the first time ever that there wasn't one. Throughout my life, I had understood that commandment of God in Exodus 20:7 to be a prohibition against using foul language. Now, because Jesus had spoken, that vain tradition no longer made void the word of God. God's true meaning, understood now for the first time in my life, filled me with wonder. It was very much as if I had lived in the dark my whole life and someone had suddenly turned on all the lights in my house. I felt as if I needed to read the entire Bible again, this time from the right perspective, for what I saw was truly breathtaking.
And now, what the Lord Jesus graciously showed to me that day, long ago, I humbly pass on to you, with my love in Christ.