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The Most Used but Least Understood Phrase in the Church

Jesus said, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).

That cannot mean that if we attach “in Jesus’ name” to any prayer request we are guaranteed to get it—it’s not a magic spell.

Neither can it mean that if we neglect to say “in Jesus’ name” our prayers will not be answered—no prayer in the Bible contains these specific words.

So what does it mean? We use it often enough at the close of most of our prayers, and yet do we know what we’re saying?

1. It is to pray as a believer in Christ’s name

The words immediately preceding the promises in verses 13-14 are addressed to believers:

“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (v. 11)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also( v. 12).

Jesus gives the promises of verses 13-14 to those who believe in His name, who see His name as the only one under heaven that can save them.

2. It is to pray as someone who honors Christ’s name

The sons of Sceva used Christ’s name without loving Christ’s name. They used it in a careless and irreverent way, and suffered painful and embarrassing consequences (Acts 19:11-20). To me it’s a miracle we don’t see today’s “Prosperity Gospel” preachers stripped bare before their churches as they abuse Christ’ name for their own gain.

Those who truly pray in Christ’s name count it more valuable and worthy than any other name in the world.

3. It is to pray for what would increase Christ’s fame

“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

To pray in Christ’s name is to pray for whatever would increase the fame of Christ.

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Dr. David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary. He is also Pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. David is the author of Christians get depressed too, How Sermons Work, and Jesus on Every Page. You can read his blog at HeadHeartHand.org/blog or follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray. David is married to Shona and they have five children ranging from 4 months to 17 years old, and they love camping, fishing, boating, and skiing in the Lake Michigan area.