In Jesus' name (part 2)
After Jesus and the disciples finished the Last Supper, they walked from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. They would have passed by vineyards, along with the temple and its golden carving of a vine on it; either of which could have inspired Jesus’ next illustration:
John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.
Producing fruit is the Father’s goal as He interacts with a believer’s life. Jesus went on to tell the disciples just how this fruit was going to grow:
John 15:4-5 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
To remain means to “stay connected with” – other translations render the Greek word as abide. The idea Jesus is trying to impress on the disciples is that the fruitfulness, the success of their future ministries, is dependent upon their individual connected-ness with Him.
Next, Jesus restates His great promise for their prayer requests.
John 15:7-8 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
Remaining connected to Jesus will shape how we see the world and the people in it. As such, seeing the needs of those around us will reshape our prayer requests to the Father. Jesus also mentions that our goal is to bring glory to the Father, which means we point ourselves and others toward Him with praise, by honoring Him, or by celebrating Him. We see this in Jesus’ own actions, because He continually pointed to God in His rightful place in the Universe.
Truthfully, however, the term remaining in Jesus feels a little vague. Personally, I need something a little more hands-on…so I wonder, exactly what does that look like? How does remaining connected to Jesus lead to much fruit and demonstrate that we’re followers of Jesus?
As always, Jesus shows us the way:
John 15:12,16-17 This is My command: love one another as I have loved you…I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: love one another.
We are right to make requests “in Jesus’ name” when we represent Him in the way He prescribed. We represent Him best when we love one another as Jesus has loved us. When we choose to do so, we remain in Christ, we produce fruit…which brings glory to the Father. And the Father happily says yes to the requests of those who imitate His Son and His Son’s love for others.
So we see now that praying “in Jesus name” isn’t a special phrase that convinces the Father to grant our requests. Instead, it is a reflection of our relationships:
With the Father – because we are claiming to represent Christ
With others – because we are to love them like Christ has loved us
There are several self-checks that come out of understanding what Jesus meant for us when we pray in His name. But that is exactly what Jesus was trying to communicate to His disciples as they walked to the garden.