Pray In Jesus’ Name

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).

Most, if not all of us, as soon as we learn to pray, have been taught to "pray in Jesus’ name". This in itself is not wrong, since our Lord clearly teaches us to pray in His name not only in our text, but elsewhere such as in John 15:16 and 16:23.

But the question, we should ask ourselves is: What does it mean to pray in the name of the Lord?

1. What It Does Not Mean?

For many Christians, praying in the name of the Lord means that we must end our prayers with the phrase "In Jesus’ name. Amen." In fact, most of us have been taught to pray in this way, and most of us do pray in this way. Indeed, some of us may even think that any prayer that does not end with "In Jesus’ Name. Amen" is simply not a complete prayer.

So when anyone who prays ends without the phrase "In Jesus’ name. Amen" we wonder at the orthodoxy of the person.

But is this really what our Lord means when He teaches us to pray in His name? If it is, then we should indeed end all our prayers with the phrase "In Jesus’ name," or as some prefer it, "In the Precious Name of Jesus." If we want our prayers to be effectual, we must follow the pattern.

But is this what our Lord is teaching us? I am afraid not. Our Lord is not teaching us to end our prayers with "In Jesus’ Name. Amen."

Why do I say so?

Well, a very simple answer is that you will not be able to find a single prayer in the Bible that ends with the phrase "In Jesus’ name." Even the Lord’s Prayer does not end with that phrase!

Is our Lord violating His own teaching? Were the disciples so ignorant of our Lord’s teaching that none of their recorded prayers and benedictions ended with "In Jesus’ name"? Surely not!

The fact is: When our Lord teaches us to pray in His name, He is not saying that we should pray "In Jesus’ name" as if the name itself has some magical properties. No, no, it is superstition to think that by tagging the words "In Jesus’ name" our prayers will be more powerful.

Remember the occasion when some Jews tried to cast out a demon in the name of Jesus? This is recorded in Acts 19:13-15—

13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.14And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.…

15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

This event illustrates very well that the mere mention of the name of ‘Jesus’ means nothing. The whole idea that we should pray in Jesus’ name,—as in we must end our prayer by intoning the name ‘Jesus’,—is based on a wrong understanding of what our Lord means by the word ‘name’.

Sadly, many of us, have, for years, misunderstood the Lord. In fact, we have so misunderstood the Lord that we have often used the name of the Lord in vain by reciting it in a mechanical way.

And not only so, but our prayer life have been hindered. I remember how as a young Christian I struggled with this issue. Paul says to pray without ceasing. So I desired to pray at all times. I desired to be in communion with God at all times. But there was a problem. I could not possibly be conversing with God all the time if every time I say something to the Lord, I must end with the phrase "In Jesus’ name. Amen" or its equivalent:

"Lord, give me wisdom to do this paper. In Jesus’ name. Amen." "Lord, help me to choose the right question to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen." "Lord, this question is difficult; help me to remember the facts. In Jesus’ name. Amen." "Lord, thank you for helping me to do the paper. In Jesus’ name. Amen."

Can you see how a false teaching stifles prayer and makes prayer mechanical?

But if our Lord is not teaching us to end with the phrase "In Jesus’ Name," then what does He mean?

2. What It Means?

It means what most of us should know, namely that we should pray in and through the authority of Christ Jesus our Lord.

The fact is: the word ‘name’ in the Scripture does not always refer to terms which we call one another such as ‘John’, ‘James’, ‘Paul’, ‘Peter,’ or even ‘Jesus’.

When Solomon teaches us that "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches" (Prov 22:1), he is not saying that we should choose a million dollar name. Neither is he teaching us that we should give good names to our children so that they may not be teased in school.

No, no; he is speaking about reputation and honour. The name of a person in biblical language is all that has to do with the person. It is about his honour, his work, and his authority.

Thus, when our Lord teaches us to pray in His name, He is really teaching us to pray through Him and on the basis of what He has done for us. That is, we must come to God on the basis of His finished work on our behalf, and on the basis of our identification with Him as our Mediator.

The writer of Hebrews illustrates this truth very beautifully when he says:

"15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:15-16)

The Lord Jesus is the Great High Priest between God and us. All our prayers must be through Him.

That is to say: We cannot pray unto the Father unless we have a relationship with Christ His Son. Therefore we must pray on the basis of our union with Christ.

John Calvin puts it eloquently: "Our prayers are acceptable to God only insofar as Christ sprinkles and sanctifies them with the perfume of his own sacrifice" (Comm. on Ps 20:3).

The Apostles understood what praying in Jesus’ means when they make their prayers and benedictions "through Jesus Christ":

Rom 1:8—First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Rom 7:25—I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Rom 16:27—To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

Heb 13:21—Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

3. What Then Shall We Do?

In the first place, let me state that it is not wrong to end our prayers with the words "in Jesus’ name" if we understand what we are saying. So, especially in public prayer, for the benefit of those who hear we may say: "In Jesus name" or "Through Christ Jesus our Lord", or "On the basis of Christ Jesus our Lord" or "For Christ’s sake" etc.

But let us refrain from a mechanical repetition of the phrase "in Jesus’ Name" or the equivalent. Likewise if you should have the habit of saying, "in the precious name of Jesus," then you must know what you are saying. I have personally not figured out what it means, though it sounds pious.

But secondly, let us remember that especially in private prayer, we do not need to use any of the concluding phrases. Of course when praying in the hearing of others or when praying at set times, it is good and helpful to structure our prayer so that it has a discernable beginning and end. But as the children of God, our thoughts should be prayerful thoughts, so in a certain sense, we should be conversing with God in our heart at all times. Our prayers at such times should be reverent, but they should not be formal and liturgical.

Finally, let us remember to frame our minds whenever we pray to approach God with a consciousness that it is only through Christ we may approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:15-16). When we do so, our prayers will reflect our gratitude and love towards the Lord. But remember that the words that come out of our lips are not as important as what is in our hearts. Therefore steer our hearts to look to Christ.

How to do so? Well, let me suggest that we must not pray to the Father as if Christ is absent. There are some who speak of prayer as if it is a telephone conversation with the Father, with Christ as the telephone line! But this is an error! If we are talking on the telephone we do not bother about the telephone line unless it is a very bad line.

But this is not how we are to pray. We ought to pray with a consciousness that Christ is sitting by the right hand of the throne of God. As we plead with the Father, let us bear in mind that our Lord is sitting by… like a prince sitting by the king. If we do so, we will pray with a confidence of the intercession of Christ our Lord, and a consciousness of His love and help. Amen. W