In Jesus’ Name, Amen
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13 NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 180, which asks, “What is it to pray in the name of Christ?” It gives the answer, “To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.”
The Scripture at the head of this article is probably one of the most misapplied texts in the Bible. The word “Jesus,” as it audibly leaves our lips and is carried at the speed of sound through the air, does not inherently have any more power than any other word or sound. Neither can we command or wield God’s power, much less control God Himself, by speaking the name “Jesus.” Saying “Jesus” over and over again, or repeating the phrase “in Jesus’ name” with greater and greater fervency is not a correct application of this text.
Moreover, we cannot isolate this verse from the rest of the Bible’s teaching on prayer. 1 John 5:14 instructs us “that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” On the other hand Christ’s own example shows us that we are to pray, “not My will, but Yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42). James reminds us that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” (James 5:16). And Peter warns husbands to dwell with their wives “with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered,” (1 Peter 3:7).
So taking all of these other verses into account, how should we understand the instruction of our Lord of the necessity and efficacy of praying in His name? Well first, to pray in the name of Christ is to pray in obedience to His command, that is, to His revealed will. To do something in someone else’s name is to act for them, to fill in for them. How can I ask for something “in Jesus’ name” if it does not comport with what He Himself would want? Likewise, since we are creatures and God is Creator, it would not be right for us to initiate a conversation with God. God is so far above us that in order for us to properly honor Him and humble ourselves, we must wait for Him to speak to us and then respond in an appropriate way. The good news for us is that God has spoken to us in Scripture and He has commanded and invited us to pray to Him. Therefore, our prayers must be motivated by faith in His promise to hear us when we pray. And in this verse Jesus particularly promises to hear us when we pray “in His name.” So how do we rightly do this?
To pray in Jesus’ name is to consciously depend upon the mercy of God that is freely offered to all who trust in Jesus Christ for their acceptance with God. We know that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to be a sin offering and take away the wrath of God that we deserve for all of our sins. God promises that we have the atoning benefit of this offering the moment we trust in Christ. Likewise, we know that all of the righteousness that we are supposed to render to God in a lifetime of good works was accomplished by Christ in His perfect life. This too is promised as a free gift to anyone who believes in Jesus. Therefore, in order to rightly pray to God, we must know that because we trust in Christ our sins are forgiven and we are counted as righteous in God’s sight. In Christ, God has adopted us, loves us, and will keep us to the end. This is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name; to place all of my hope for God to hear and accept me and my prayer in the person and work of Jesus. Do we have to say the words, “in Jesus’ name?” No. But does it help to remind us and others the basis for our hope in being heard is Jesus Christ and the salvation He has given to us through faith, that we actually utter the words “in Jesus’ name?” Yes, it most certainly does help to bear witness to that fact! So pray “in Jesus’ name” with your lips, but even more importantly, make sure you are praying in Jesus’ name in your heart and God will certainly hear you and speedily answer.