One of our staff members always begins his prayers, “Father God, in Jesus’ name…” Three words that people traditionally use to conclude their prayers are embedded on the front end by this brother. Wisely so. “In Jesus’ name” was never designed to be a tack-on at the end of our superficial requests. Rather, “in Jesus’ name” is a reality that changes why, how and what we pray, from the very opening moment of our communion with God.
Truth or Tradition?
Over the years, I have prayed for a lot of pretty crazy things “in Jesus’ name.” In college, I asked for a date with a particular girl, an improved grade on a final exam, and to win the election for Student Body President. Many believers invoke “Jesus’ name” in order to get a prime parking place at the mall, a pay raise at work, or even the winning lottery ticket. Like me, maybe you have used the “in Jesus’ name” mantra like some kind of magical charm to coerce God into giving you something you really wanted—or thought you needed.
Most of us know that the idea of praying “in Jesus’ name” is far beyond the routine of adding these three words on the end of a prayer. Yet, it is the traditional thing to do. In group or public prayers, it is a given that whoever prays better wrap it up “in Jesus’ name.” When they fail to do so, they may get a few raised eyebrows and expressions of doubt about the spiritual legitimacy of their prayers. After all, will God really hear their prayers if they fail to include this three-word add-on?
Jesus’ Name in Worship-Based Prayer
One of the amazing benefits of a worship-based approach to prayer is the fact that it fundamentally takes our eyes off ourselves and fixes them on Christ. We establish our prayer experience on Him, not ourselves. We seek to pray His thoughts, not our own. As the Spirit takes the conductor’s wand of the Scriptures and orchestrates our praying, we cannot help but turn our eyes upon Jesus and “look full in His wonderful face.” Then, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”[i] At that moment of wonder and intimacy we are really in the place to truly pray in Jesus’ name, regardless of the final three words of the prayer.
An older worship song says, “It’s all about You, Jesus,” and leads us to acknowledge that our lives are really not about our own agendas. We recognize that He is God and our response is to surrender to His ways. In my years of learning and leading others in worship-based prayer, I have found this is the reality of what the Lord accomplishes as we pray. This is the path to praying in Jesus’ name.
Asking in Jesus’ Name
Jesus makes an authoritative guarantee. We all like guarantees. Advertisers tout “satisfaction guaranteed” and money-back guarantees on the products they want us to buy. Jesus, in the authority that only the Son of God can offer, makes a bold guarantee about prayer in this day and age. In John 14:13 Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” He keeps speaking of the power of His name in prayer in this upper room interaction.
In John 15:16-17, Christ expands our understanding of the necessity and proper use of His name: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
In John 16:23-24 He states, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now, you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Again, we are confronted with a condition and result for all of our requests. The condition is that we ask in Jesus’ name. Samuel Chadwick explained, “To pray in the Name of Christ is to pray as one who is at one with Christ, whose mind is the mind of Christ, whose desires are the desires of Christ and whose purpose is one with that of Christ.” He further clarified, “Prayers offered in the Name of Christ are scrutinized and sanctified by His nature, His purpose, and His will. Prayer is endorsed by the Name when it is in harmony with the character, mind, desire, and purpose of the Name.” [ii]
In his excellent book, The God Who Hears, W. Bingham Hunter summarizes the New Testament teaching about praying “in Jesus’ name” with these four truths: