Ask Father Paul - 02/23/11
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few that I have gotten during my ministry and via e-mail for this column.
Dear Father Paul: I am a member of a different faith, but I have many Christian friends. I frequently hear them close a prayer (for instance when blessing the food at a meal) with the words, “I pray in Jesus’ name.” Is that closing of a prayer required in the Christian faith? And also, is it mentioned in the Bible? — Karen.
Dear Karen: Thanks for your excellent question. I sincerely hope that you have not been offended by a prayer that ends in this way. I am sure that there was no intent to offend. Real Christians are all about loving people, not offending them.
First of all, closing a prayer “in Jesus’ name” is not required as part of the Christian faith or in the closing of a Christian’s prayer. God will not zap a Christian with a lightening bolt if he somehow forgets or even intentionally doesn’t close a prayer “in Jesus’ name.” For many of us, those who have been Christians since a young age, closing our prayers “in Jesus’ name” has been taught to us over so many years by example from adult leaders, and repeated so often by us that it has become second nature ... almost like saying “amen” (let it be so) at the end of a prayer. It’s become automatic, if you will. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
To answer the second part of your question, Jesus himself spoke to this very issue. He says in the Gospel of John 14: 13-14 these words. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” The Apostle Paul also speaks to this issue. In Ephesians 5:20 Paul writes, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So Karen, while it is not “required” for Christians to pray in Jesus’ name, we believe that it is a very good thing to do, especially if we seek an answer to our prayers.
Dear Father Paul: What is the “gift of prophecy,” and is it for today? — D. M.
Dear D. M.: Prophecy (in the Judeo/Christian sense) is the supernatural ability for a person, under God’s anointing, to “foretell” and/or “forth tell” pronouncements from God ... that is, declare future events and/or speak truths from God.
Prophecy is evidenced throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. In Numbers Chapter 11:24-30 the story is told about how the Spirit of the Lord came upon 70 of the elders of Israel and they began to prophesy. Some of the people were offended and told Moses, “tell them to stop,” to which Moses replied, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” The prophet Elijah later prophesied that it would not rain in Israel and rain ceased for over three years. These are just two examples of many.
In the New Testament Book of I Corinthians, Chapter 12, the Apostle Paul lists nine “gifts of the Spirit.” He says that they are for the “common good.” The gift of prophecy is listed as number six of the nine in verse 10 of Chapter 12. Later on, in Chapter 14 verse 39 Paul says, “Therefore my brothers, be eager to prophesy ...”
Some would argue that the pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning is a type of prophecy, and I would not argue that point if, the pastor has earnestly sought the Lord for his word to the people and if, he is preaching under the anointing of the Spirit of God ... not from Time Magazine or Oprah.
True prophecy is almost always encouraging and edifying rather than condemning. It offers assurance of God’s love, his forgiveness, his mercy and his provision. That is not to say that prophetic utterances are not sometimes exhortations to follow the clear commands of God.
Lastly, even anointed prophets can sometimes miss the Lord and get it wrong. The Apostle Paul tells us as much in I Corinthians 13:12 when he says that “now (these days), we see as though looking into a dim mirror, but then (when Jesus returns) we shall see clearly ... by seeing him face-to-face.” That’s a good thing too. In Old Testament days, if a prophet missed God and got it wrong, he was taken outside of the city and stoned.
Do you have a question? I will try to answer you in the paper. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. CHC is a sacramental, evangelical and charismatic congregation. Sunday sermons, more info., service times and directions are available at
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