I was in a fellowship recently, where over a period of weeks, we had been discussing and unpacking the reasons behind why we do the things we do in church.
One particular week, I remember that we were talking about prayer, and we were asking ourselves what prayer is and isn’t, why we pray at all and looking for the Biblical basis for the way we pray. On this note, if you have not before, I would recommend asking yourself these questions. So during the discussion, individuals began to give examples and anecdotes of prayers and styles of prayer that they had seen, heard or prayed themselves.
And there was so much variety; some were long and some short, some memorised and recited whereas others were simply made up on the spot, some were loud and expressive, others quiet and reflective.
However, common to most of our experiences was a particular phrase. Sometimes it occurred at the start, it almost always featured at the end, and some of us even used it at crucial points in the middle:
It is the phrase “In Jesus’ Name.”
Although most of us would be uncomfortable thinking of them like magic words to make our prayers come true, they often are used that way: “in Jesus’ Name” is stuck on the end of a prayer like a stamp to make sure it reaches the right destination.
But surely there must be a reason to pray this way, otherwise, isn’t it just using the Lord’s name vainly? When Jesus gave His disciples the example of the Lord’s Prayer, He didn’t use this phrase. Neither did Paul in the prayers we read in his epistles. So why do we say it?
We decided to look into Bible for the scriptural rationale behind using this phrase in our prayers, and it is found in John 16:23-4 (ESV).
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
There it is, plain to see in verse 23, “…whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.” Jesus told us to make requests to the Father in His Name and said that the Father will grant our requests when we do so.
So to answer the question, we pray in Jesus’ Name because He told us to.
Or did He?
When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was preparing them for His death, resurrection and subsequent departure as well as the lives that they would lead with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was telling His disciples that when He leaves they should address the Father directly for their requests, and they should do it in His [Jesus’] Name. When they did this the Father would give them what they asked.
Therefore ‘asking the Father’ in Jesus’ Name must be a very powerful thing. Is this the same as saying the words, “in Jesus’ Name” in our prayers?
When a building or monument is erected in someone’s name, it is done to honour that person, who they were and what they represented. When we pray in Jesus’ Name, are we asking of the Father things that would honour His Son?
If an act is carried out in the name of a particular group or organisation, it means that the action was inspired by that group or is in alignment with what that group stands for and represents. When we pray in Jesus’ Name, are our requests inspired by Jesus? Do our prayers line up with the will of Christ?
Praying in Jesus’ Name should be more than three words we put in our prayers to make them sound Christian. As we say those words, we should ask ourselves if our requests truly honour Christ, if our desires are inspired by Jesus and if they align with His will. Is this prayer one that Jesus would pray? Because if so, then we can say with conviction that we are praying in Jesus’ Name and with faith then our Heavenly Father will hear and answer.