Read John 14:5-14
My mother used to tell me off for not always including the words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of my prayers. I don’t mean when I was small. When I was fully grown adult, she would chastise me. I was the pastor! But she was my mother… and I think mother trumps pastor, doesn’t it?
Jesus said a number of times that praying in His name is one of the keys to answered prayer. Therefore, we often finish a prayer by saying “in Jesus’ name, amen” or something similar. Is that what Jesus meant? Did He mean “Put certain words at the end of the prayer.”
There is a slight difficulty with that. Jesus gave us a model prayer (the Lord’s Prayer) but He didn’t tell us to end it with those words. He taught in other places about prayer. He taught about persistence in prayer and confidence in prayer, but He never taught that we should include those words. Furthermore, there are many prayers in the New Testament but none of them finishes with that little formula.
Sometimes Christians think that those words are like a magic formula that guarantees that the prayer will be heard and answered but, actually, Christianity isn’t about magic formulae or little rituals that we do and that obligate God to respond. So, what does praying in Jesus’ name mean?
The key to understanding it is, I think, to think of ourselves as agents, or ambassadors, of Jesus – people who are chosen, empowered and sent to operate in His name, as His representative.
Jesus talks about praying in His name is John 15:16.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
Notice how it talks about us being chosen, empowered (or, appointed) and sent. We represent Jesus. We act in His name. In that capacity, we can ask in His name and God will answer.
Imagine that a policeman came into our service one day, and talked quietly to someone near the door. Imagine he showed his identity then said that the police believed an emergency was developing and that they were required to evacuate the area.
The policeman comes “in the name of the law” – actually, in the name of the government. He is a representative of the government. He has been chosen, empowered and sent by the government.
What would the person inside the door do?
If any old Joe Bloggs came in and told us to stop the service and evacuate, we would question it. We might even call the police! But because the policeman comes not as an individual but comes in the name of the government, I suspect the person at the door would offer to bring him up the front where he would talk to whoever was leading and then we would indeed, close down the service and go home.
When we are an agent of someone else there are four consequences: 2 privileges and 2 responsibilities.
- The name gives him access. He would be allowed into the service because of the name.
- The name gives him authority. The policeman, as a representative of the government, carries the authority of the government.
- He must faithfully represent the values and policies of the government. When we look at him, we should see that he reflects the attitude and the values of the government.
- His task is to serve the interests of the government. He is not a free agent to wield whatever authority he likes. He couldn’t come in here saying he had invented a new tax and require us all to pay it. He has authority but only sufficient authority to exercise the will of the government.
Or suppose there was a diplomatic crisis between New Zealand and Australia. Our ambassador in Australia is there in the name of the government – chosen, empowered and sent by the government.
Again, that fact would give him access to Australian officials and politicians but it also gives him access to our government. He has access to both parties. He would have the authority to speak and act on behalf of our government. He would be required to faithfully represent the views and values of our government and his role would be to serve the interests of our government.
I am sure you can see where I am going with this but let us consider some other biblical passages that refer to acting in the name of Jesus, or of God.
When David went out to fight Goliath, Goliath mocked him – this mere youth who came armed only with pebbles. But David replied, “You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:45)
What did that mean? That David came as one of God’s people, bearing the name of God, a representative of God and, consequently, with the power of God. Chosen, empowered and sent.
Jesus talked about welcoming children in His name (Mt 18:5)? What is the difference between welcoming a child and welcoming that child in Jesus name? Must we say, “I welcome you in Jesus name”? I don’t think it is about saying certain words. Jesus is not here to welcome the child Himself but we have been chosen, empowered and sent to welcome that child just like Jesus would. We care on His behalf.
Also in Matthew 18, Jesus said that when two or three gather in His name, He is present. And this is linked with prayer because He has just said that if two on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by God.
What does gathering in Jesus’ name mean? I think it means that we have gathered explicitly as Christians. It is not just friends having a barbecue; it is Christians getting together as Christians, for Christian purposes; as representatives of Jesus, for the work and the glory of Jesus. When we do that, Jesus is present. When we meet bearing the name of Jesus and doing the work of Jesus, we have power in prayer.
In the passage we read (John 14) Jesus talked about how He operated in the name of the Father. He didn’t use that phrase. Instead, He talked about being the perfect representative of the Father (“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”) He talked about being in the Father and the Father in Him. He said, “I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me who is doing His work. My works are evidence of that.”
Jesus was sent by the Father, as His representative. Jesus had the authority of the Father. Jesus perfectly represented the Father. Those who had seen Him had seen the Father. Jesus did the work of the Father.
That is the context. Then Jesus indicates that the same would be true of us. Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, we would be sent in the name of Jesus. We would be able to do even greater works than Him – of course, not by ourselves but as representatives of Jesus. That is the context in which Jesus said…
John 14:13-14 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus also talked about praying in His name in John 16. We are not going to look at that except to say that Jesus said that we would have access to the Father in His name.
Bearing Jesus name gives us access – access into the throne room of God. No one can simply wonder into God’s presence. Only those who bear the name of Jesus.
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I cannot bow in prayer and say, “Hi God, I am Peter Cheyne. Can I please have an audience with You?” God knows me and He loves me but it is not my name that opens the door to God; it is the name of Jesus. When I come in prayer, I must remember that I have no right to enter God’s presence except for the fact that Jesus died in my place, taking my sins. When He died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two opening the way for anybody to enter into the holy of holies – into the very presence of God.
Agents of Jesus have access to God. It means I am a Christian – I am one of Christ’s ones. If we do not bear the name of Jesus, let us not assume that we can approach God or that our prayers will be answered. God graciously does sometimes hear the prayers of non-Christians, often as part of their becoming Christians. But non-Christians cannot assume they have access to God. That access is part of the privilege of being saved by Jesus Christ. It is His name that gives us access.
Secondly, if we pray as representatives of Jesus we have delegated authority. We can exercise the authority of Jesus.
Remember, when Peter and John healed the lame man in the temple, in Acts 3. Peter said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”
Peter did not have healing power. A little later he said to the crowd, “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk… It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (Acts 3:12, 16)
Jesus delegates power and authority to us just as a government delegates power and authority to a diplomat. We are representatives of Jesus and, consequently, we have certain authority. We can act in His name. But that is balanced by the next two points.
When we pray in the name of Jesus, the responsibility on us is to represent Jesus well. We are to reflect the character and the purposes of Jesus. We are not free to become little Christian megalomaniacs. As representatives of Jesus, we must always reflect Jesus. People must be able to see Christ in us just as they could see the Father in the Son. If we start praying in a way that is not Christ-like, we have stepped out from under His name. If we are doing it in His name it must always be what He would do.
Fourthly, praying in His name means that we pray as His servants always desiring His will, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: Father, not my will but your be done. We want Jesus to be glorified. If we pray for things that are not Jesus’ will then we are no longer praying in His name. Selfish prayers cannot be said to be in the name of Jesus. The words at the end don’t make any difference. Praying in the name of Jesus means praying as His servant, doing His work.
We can pray according to Jesus’ will only when we immerse ourselves in scripture and we walk with Jesus so that we know His will; we know how He thinks and what His priorities are. His will, His priorities become our prayers.
Praying in the name of Jesus has very little to do with the words we use, so I think my mother was wrong – but I still love her. Praying in the name of Jesus has a lot to do with our relationship with Him and our attitude. We pray in the name of Jesus (even when you don’t add those words at the end.) when we actually bear the name of Jesus because He has chosen, empowered and sent us; we have been saved through your faith in Him and sent as His agents. His name gives you access to God and to people’s lives.
If you pray in the name of Jesus then you have God-given authority as one of Jesus’ ambassadors.
If you pray in the name of Jesus when your prayers and your life must reflect the character and the purposes of Jesus.
Even if you don’t say the words, you are praying in the name of Jesus when you, as a servant of Jesus, pray for His will to be done and for Him to be glorified.
It is about who has chosen, empowered and sent us, whose authority we have, whom we reflect and who we serve. Pray as faithful ambassadors of Jesus and our prayers will be answered.