Wednesday, November 18, 2009

...in the Name

Ministry is acting in the Name of Jesus. When all our actions are in the Name, they will bear fruit for eternal life. To act in the Name of Jesus, however, doesn't mean to act as a representative of Jesus or his spokesperson. It means to act in an intimate communion with him. The Name is like a house, a tent, a dwelling. To act in the Name of Jesus, therefore, means to act from the place where we are united with Jesus in love. To the question "Where are you?" we should be able to answer, "I am in the Name." Then, whatever we do cannot be other than ministry because it will always be Jesus himself who acts in and through us. The final question for all who minister is "Are you in the Name of Jesus?" When we can say yes to that, all of our lives will be ministry.

from Henri J.M. Nouwen's Bread for the Journey

On  Monday night Rhona, our Vicar, and David Baldwin, Vicar of our neighbouring Parishes of the Lulworths, Winfrith Newburgh and Chaldon, led an excellent workshop, attended by people from across our Deanery, on leading intercessions in church, entitled "Teach us to pray".

One of the things we looked at was the structure of a collect, how it addresses God (as Father, Son or Holy Spirit) by name and attributes, contains a petition or request, with a result or reason ("so that...") for it, and a conclusion, often in the form "through Jesus Christ our Lord", or a longer doxology.

It struck me then, as it has struck me before in fact, that prayer in the Name of Jesus, even public prayer, is very different from simply asking for a list of stuff, and then tacking "...in Jesus' Name" on the end. Nouwen says this far better than I could - to paraphrase him, "To pray in the Name of Jesus, therefore, means to pray from the place where we are united with Jesus in love." How else can we pray in faith, except from that "place where we are united with Jesus in love"?

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