Spend enough time with someone – your friend, your spouse, your enemy – and you will learn who they are. You will discover their likes and dislikes, their habits, their favorite phrases. Spend a whole lot of time with someone and you will likely find out more than you ever wanted to know.
I have a friend – one of my dearest – with whom I’ve spent a substantial amount of time over the years, much of that time over dinners. She is of the classification of people who will only order one thing at a given restaurant. That is, if we decide to go out to restaurant A, she will invariably order the pear salad; if restaurant B, then dinner will certainly be calamari. There is seldom variation. Often, then, her decisions about where to eat actually are discussions of what she wants to eat.
I’ve noticed in the midst of this relationship a peculiar phenomenon that relates directly to scripture and our journey with the Lord. I’ve found that when my friend and I go out for dinner, I could, on most occasions, order for her. For example, we choose to go to a particular restaurant downtown. Shortly after we arrive, she gets up to visit the ladies’ room. While away, the waiter comes by and, without consulting my friend, I order for myself and for her (probably a warm zucchini salad, sparkling water with lime to drink). Because of our years of friendship, I know that she will thoroughly enjoy her meal. In fact, she’ll love it.
This is what the Bible means by speaking or doing something in the name of another. For example, Jesus three times gives instructions about what can be done “in his name” in Mark 9 (welcoming children, acting miracles, providing water for the thirsty). These are three things that Jesus’ disciples could be sure Jesus would do if he were standing with them. Elsewhere, this is what the Bible means when it forbids us from using the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11). It is not cursing that the Lord prohibits in the Ten Commandments, but saying that God is responsible for something in which He played no part, or suggesting that God is going to do something that God actually abhors.
The idea of doing some thing in the name of another is to do what that one would do if he were there. I could order my friend’s dinner without pause because I know that she would order the same thing if she were at the table. We can welcome children lovingly because we know that Christ would do the same if he were physically standing alongside us.
Getting to this point, where we could consistently act or speak on the Lord’s behalf, requires, primarily, just one thing: time. I know my dear friend’s ordering habits only because I’ve shared numerous dinners with her. I’ve watched her order, wondered at why she orders what she does, asked about it, and, finally, embraced it as part of her character. I would be able to speak or act for God only if I genuinely knew Him, had spent time observing His actions and words, and asked Him about those things that confused or surprised me.
Of course, there are any number of ways to spend time with the Lord. Among these is the simple process of reading and studying scripture. There are many reasons to learn our Bibles. Perhaps the most important is to learn God’s history. What has He done? How has He responded to certain situations, to certain people? What does He enjoy? What does He despise? To study that history and to carry on an open dialog with the Lord simultaneously is one of the ultimate keys to leading in the Lord’s name and acting as He would act if He were in your place.