In Jesus' name (part 1)
Praying “in Jesus’ name” is probably the most common, and yet least understood, phrase in modern Christian prayers. We close nearly every prayer – both public and private – with the phrase. We’ve heard others emphatically add “in Jesus’ name” to their individual prayer requests, almost as if they expected to channel an extra portion of God’s power just by saying those three words.
Jesus instructed His disciples several times to “ask the Father in my name”. But what, exactly, did Jesus mean by that? And are we asking in the manner that Jesus prescribes, or are we just adding a tag-line of Christian-ese at the end of our prayers?
To come in the “name” of someone is to represent them, their decisions, desires, and nature. We do this in many areas of our lives. Sending an employee to represent you at a meeting, voting for a Congressional representative, or authorizing another person to have power-of-attorney are all examples of sending someone else to do a task “in your name”. The significance of choosing the right person cannot be understated, since, as your representative, you have pledged to fulfill whatever obligation they agree to “in your name”.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus stated that He acted as instructed by the Father, as His Father’s representative, and in place of the Father. In all these ways, Jesus was claiming to represent God “in His name” to anyone and everyone.
During His last night before going to the cross, Jesus gave His disciples many instructions, including:
John 14:6,11-12 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me…Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works.
Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Jesus tells the disciples that as they have witnessed Him imitate the Father…they will also have the opportunity to imitate Him. It would be mind-blowing to think that they were going to the works of Father, AND do them with a greater impact than what they witnessed Jesus doing. Their future ministries would reach far more people with the gospel than Jesus encountered during His three year ministry. Although incredible, Jesus follows up this promise with an additional greater promise – but with a clarifying condition.
John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
“Anything” means anything, right?
Although we would like to have an automatic “yes” to all our requests, we know from experience that prayers aren’t answered like that. Jesus states that whatever we ask – as if we were representing Him in our requests – will be done so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Glorifying the Father – enriching His reputation and advancing His agenda – was Jesus’ purpose in His life and ministry. Therefore, anything we pray “in Jesus’ name” should line up with the goal of increasing the Father’s glory…and not our own.