FrontLine Pastor’s Insert • January/February 2008
As a young child I was taught to close my prayers with the words “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Most Christians wouldn’t think of ending a prayer, public or private, without affixing some reference to Jesus’ name. Why do we do that? Why, when we hear someone pray in public, do we often listen to see whether he will close his prayer “in Jesus’ name”? Why has this become such an issue from high school baccalaureates to the prayers of military chaplains?
The primary source of instruction about praying in Jesus’ name comes from the Lord’s final discourse with His disciples as recorded in John’s Gospel. He repeatedly exhorts His disciples to pray in His name (John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26). In John 16:24 He tells the disciples that He is extending to the disciples a new privilege: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing [emphatic double negative] in my name.” The disciples have always been able to go to Jesus or the Father directly. Now the Lord is explaining to them that though He must leave them (John 13:33; 14:3), they have the privilege of using His name in their prayers.
A person’s name is the word or expression that represents that person. To hear and recognize a person’s name brings to mind his appearance, personality, character, actions, attitudes, and even your feelings toward that person. The name of Jesus Christ is the verbal expression of who He is. It is difficult to separate our feelings for the Person and our feelings for His name. This is why we react when we hear His name used in profanity.
To pray in Jesus’ name means to use the person of Jesus Christ as the basis of our request. For example, when a person tells you “use my name,” he is giving you the opportunity to use what he is— his reputation, character, connections, position—to your advantage. In the case of praying to God, using Jesus’ name is not only advantageous, it is your only chance of being heard. Jesus Christ is the only one positioned in the universe to get a hearing from the Father. To use His name is not just a privilege but an absolute necessity. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray with Him in mind. The thought of Jesus Christ should permeate our entire prayer, not be reserved just for the close.
Jesus gives to all believers not only the unlimited use of His name but amazing assurances of answer to prayer: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:13); “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14); “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23). It is as if the Lord has to repeat this promise because we have trouble accepting it. It seems too good to be true. Jesus is encouraging us to ask for anything in His name. We are using the “name which is above every other name” (Phil 2:9). His name has all authority in Heaven and in earth. There is no realm in the universe where the name of Jesus Christ doesn’t have jurisdiction. However, the same name that emancipates our requests also governs the content of our prayers.
When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are claiming union with Him. In other words, to ask for anything that contradicts that name means we disregard that name. We will not get anywhere making requests that contradict His name.
For example, as a pastor I have on occasion given people permission to bring up my name. If they were to use my name to try to attain something immoral or evil, they would not get anywhere. If someone in search of part-time employment says, “I need this job for extra money to buy beer,” he probably won’t get very far using my name. Anyone who knows me knows that request would contradict my name, because I totally oppose that. The interviewer would probably wonder whether the person knew me at all.
The requests we make that are out of sync with the Lord’s name will not be received. Asking “in Jesus’ name” for a pile of money isn’t what Jesus is about. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). To ask “amiss” is to ask for something that is incongruent with His name. Some specific prayer requests mentioned in these passages that harmonize with Jesus’ name are prayers “that the Father may be glorified” (John 14:13); that we “bring forth fruit” (John 15:16); and “that [our] joy may be full” (John 16:24). But remember, the Lord uses words such as “whatsoever” and “anything” to show the breadth of our requests. And the promise that it will be done is repeated as well (cf. John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24).
The thought of praying in Jesus’ name shouldn’t come just at the end of our prayers; it should permeate them from beginning to end. And when you finish praying, there is no better way that to tell God the only reason you can ask Him anything is because His Son said, “Use my Name.” It is in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen!
Randy Fox pastors Faith Baptist Church in Orange, California, and Heritage Bible Church in San Bernardino, California.
(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)