But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 181, which asks, “Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?” It gives the answer, “The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone, we are to pray in no other name but his only.”
I grew up believing in God; that the Christian God was God; that Jesus was His Son. I believed in the Holy Spirit; that we should go to church and pray; that the Bible was the Word of God; that when we died we would go to Heaven or to Hell. I guess you could say I believed in Apostles’ Creed Christianity. When I said the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday in church I really believed that it was true and factually correct in all that it said. I believed it, but I was not a converted person. To put it in theological terms: I had knowledge and assent, but I did not have trust. I did not have real, saving faith in Jesus Christ.
The fact of the matter is it was not possible for me to have real, saving faith in Jesus Christ because I did not have the necessary prerequisite of saving faith: I did not really understand that I was a sinner. Yes, I knew that I had sinned. I knew in fact that I sinned on a regular basis and that even evil thoughts were sinful and needed to be forgiven in order to be accepted by God. But I still thought that I did many good things and that my good works really were good and acceptable to God. In fact I believed that God would hear and answer my prayers if I prayed for good things and if I was being good when I was praying. Every night I would pray for my immediate family by name, that God would “bless” them, that God would bless “all the good and kind people on earth and in heaven, and all the animals.” I believed this prayer was heard by God when I was being good and because I was praying for things that were good.
I believed this until the night of the automobile accident that God used to convert me. That night as I prayed over and over again for God to let my friend live, something new came home to me in a powerful, unrelenting conviction leading me to know one thing for certain that I had not known before: God could not hear my prayers. I knew for certain – the whole time I was praying that night – that God could not hear my prayers. God could not hear my prayers because God would not hear my prayers. I experienced the reality and truth of the verse at the head of this article long before I ever read it in the Bible. You see I was living a life apart from God. I was pursuing sinful pleasures, desiring and living for things that Jesus commands people not to do. I was refusing the Lordship of Christ in my life and so when I prayed to Him, He could not hear me. My sins had made a separation between me and my God so that He would by no means compromise His holiness to hear me – in my sins and sinfulness – crying out to Him continually in desperate, tearful prayers.
Whether you realize it or not, this is the condition that every human being is in unless or until he acknowledges the inexcusableness and evil of his sins, and the unacceptability and offensiveness to God of even his best good works. Then and only then are you able to trust solely in Christ for the mercy and grace of forgiveness and salvation. Then and only then can you truly be said to pray to God in a way that He can and will hear. Because when we pray to God, truly acknowledging our total sinfulness, looking only to Christ for our acceptability, God makes another separation. Then, by the blood of Christ – as we are truly trusting in Him alone for salvation – God separates us from our sins. Then and only then can He and will He hear and answer our prayers, for God will not hear sinful prayers. Christ’s blood is the only thing that can separate you from your sins. Trusting in Christ is the only way to have the benefit of His blood. To pray to God with this kind of faith is what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. Our sinfulness is why we must pray in His name. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).