Are You REALLY Praying in Jesus’ Name?
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.
“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.
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.
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]
“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.” (Samuel Chadwick)
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:
- It seeks the Glory of God
- Its foundation is the death, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus
- It is offered by Jesus’ obedient disciples (Hunter points out that praying in Jesus’ name is virtually synonymous with obedience to Jesus)
- It asks what Jesus Himself would pray for[iii]
Hunter goes on to summarize, “the shortest and perhaps the best answer is simply: Jesus prayed according to the will of God. And that, ultimately, is what it means for you and me to pray in Jesus’ name – to pray according to the will of God.” [iv] This explains why Jesus was so emphatic that whatever we ask in His name, we will receive.
“Jesus prayed according to the will of God. And that, ultimately, is what it means for you and me to pray in Jesus’ name – to pray according to the will of God.” (Bingham Hunter)
Dr. Randal Roberts, of Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, says, “It is to pray in a manner consistent with His values and purposes . . . It is to pray with the glorification of God as the supreme motive; It is to pray as Jesus would pray were He in our circumstances; It is to pray as His followers who have been appointed as instruments of fruit-bearing in the outworking of His mission . . . It is learning to ask for the good things that He delights to give from the devoted heart that He delights to bless.” [v]
What happens when we pray in Jesus’ name? What is the ultimate purpose and result? According to Jesus’ multiple commands in this Upper Room Discourse, the outcomes of praying in His name are:
- The Father will be glorified in the Son
- We bear fruit that remains
- Our joy is full.
How many times has prayer frustrated us rather than fulfilled us? Frustration comes from bombarding heaven with our self-styled ideas of what God should do to accomplish our will in heaven. Fulfillment comes from knowing that His will is being implemented on earth. Deep reward is found in knowing that the Father is glorified by our prayers, and that our relationships with Him is producing the lasting fruit of deep character and spiritual impact. Joy comes from this deep fulfillment.
Frustration comes from bombarding heaven with our self-styled ideas of what God should do to accomplish our will in heaven. Fulfillment comes from knowing that His will is being implemented on earth.
So next time you pray, follow the example of my friend. Begin all your praying with one primary passion – the person and purposes of Jesus. It will change the way you commune with God and will transform your life.
(This devotional is adapted from Daniel Henderson’s book, Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face. For more information, CLICK HERE.)
Copyright © 2018 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
[i] Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, 1922, Public Domain
[ii] Samuel Chadwick, The Path of Prayer (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1936), 52
[iii] W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 198
[iv] Ibid, 198
[v] Randal Roberts, Praying in the Name of Jesus from the book Giving Ourselves to Prayer – An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Terre Haute, IN, PrayerShop Publishing, 2008), 47