By Aaron Berry, Crosswalk.com
For me, it was always the tack-on phrase at the end; the bow on a well-packaged prayer. In fact, if a prayer didn’t conclude with the words, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” it seemed foreign and odd to me...almost unbiblical and uninformed.
After all, Jesus told us to pray in his name, so wouldn’t it be wrong to finish a prayer without those words? Is it simply a ‘magic word’ that sanctifies and blesses our prayers?
Biblical Support for Praying in Jesus’ Name
The concept of praying in Jesus’ name is definitely biblical. The key text is John 14:13-14: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” This concept is repeated a few more times in the John 15:16 and John 16:23-24.
In these verses, Jesus seems to be saying that prayer given in the name of Jesus is guaranteed to be answered.
How Is ‘in Jesus’ Name’ Misused?
It’s misused a lot. And I don’t just mean when it’s used merely for empty repetition at mealtime prayers. Praying (or doing anything) in Jesus’ name is often used as a way to force God’s approval; attempting to invoke his authority on any and every action and desire we have.
Prosperity preachers will declare financial blessing toward their listeners “in Jesus’ name.”
Fraudulent faith healers will command sicknesses to flee “in Jesus’ name.”
But the book of James gives us a dire warning about our prayers: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). To think that we can invoke the name of Jesus simply to fulfill our own passions, is to cheapen and abuse the grace of God.
Praying in Jesus’ name is far deeper, and far more beautiful, than the “cheap” version we hear so often.
So What Does ‘in Jesus’ Name’ Mean?
Praying in Jesus’ name is less about including the phrase at the end of your prayer, and more about positioning your heart properly when you pray. Praying in Jesus’ name means that you are conscious of two primary truths as you bring your requests to God:
1. Acknowledgment of His Intercession
There is something different about prayer in the New Testament than in the Old Testament. In John 16:24, Jesus tells his disciples, “Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy will be full.”
So what’s different about our prayers now that Christ has lived, died, and rose again for us?
When Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, he became our intercessor and our advocate to the Father (Romand 8:34; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 7:25). Praying in his name is to acknowledge and remember that Christ is the only way—that our standing before the Father is based on the finished work of Christ alone. We come to him in prayer, not because of our own works or merit, but in the name of Jesus.
That preposition “in” is a significant one. It speaks to our relationship to Christ. We are “in” him. We have been united to him in his death, burial, and resurrection. And now, even our prayers are “in” his name.
When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are acknowledging that, without the work of Christ, we would be alienated from God forever.
2. Submission to His Will
The Apostle John, who inscribed Jesus’ words regarding prayer in his name, writes something in the book of 1 John that might provide some added clarification to what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.
1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
This provides the same assurance of answered prayer as John 14:13-14. And I believe that phrase, “according to his will,” is closely connected to the phrase, “in Jesus’ name.” We don’t twist Jesus’ arm into answering our request, we bring our requests to him in humble submission.
Simply saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” does not necessarily mean you are bringing your request in submission to, and in alignment with, the will of God. Neither does it force Jesus to align his will to your request. And simply adding, “If it’s your will” to every request doesn’t necessarily mean we’re submitting either.
Praying according to God’s will is to pray in alignment with his character. It’s seeking to pray for things Christ would desire. It is praying in a way that views life from God’s perspective.
Prayer certainly is a beautiful and undeserved privilege. What an honor it is to come to God at any time and in any place, bringing our petitions to him. But let us beware of asking “wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Let us pray in a way that acknowledges Christ’s intercession on our behalf and our union with him, and that humbly aligns our prayers to his will and character.
Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the PursuerBlog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and two children, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Motortion