Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.John 14:13-14
This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him.1 John 5:14-15
What does it mean to do something in someone else’s name? To do something in someone’s name is to identify with that person. If I do something in someone’s name it can mean to take on that person’s authority or to invest my actions with their authority. This important to think about, because we’re called and invited in the Bible—by Jesus—to pray in Jesus’ name. And the name of Jesus is not any name. And this is because Jesus’ name represents who he is. It identifies his character.
Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 2: God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. When we think of praying in Jesus’ name, usually we think about including the phrase “in Jesus’ name” (or a version of it) in our prayers between our requests and amen. Is this what it means to pray in Jesus’ name?
In John 14:13—14, Jesus says this to his disciples: Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. There are similar words in John 16:23: Truly I tell you, anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. At a superficial glance, Jesus seems to make a pretty big promise here. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. Does he really mean anything?This is why it’s so important to ask: what does to mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
Let’s get right to the point that should seem obvious. Here’s what praying in Jesus’ name does not mean: it doesn’t mean that simply adding these words to the end of your prayer guarantees your desired outcome for the prayer. In other words, the phrase “in Jesus’ name” is not a magic formula. Depending on the rest of your prayer and the attitude behind your prayer, these words can be meaningless and even blasphemous.
Imagine praying for something as trivial as winning Chase the Ace. Adding “in Jesus’ name” at the end wouldn’t guarantee anything. In fact, it’s actually a violation of the spirit and intent behind praying in Jesus’ name. Put simply: Praying in Jesus’ name means praying according to God’s will. When we pray, how often do we ask: What does God want to happen in this situation? What does God want for this person? What is his will for me? Praying in Jesus’ name is to pray for these things.
Jesus’ command to pray in his name also therefore presupposes we are seeking God’s will in our lives, where our desire is that our hearts and lives would be more aligned with his purposes for us. Notice the reason Jesus gives: Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Hear that? I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. To glorify God means to recognize him for who he is, that he would be acknowledged for who he is. Do we want God to be seen in us and in our lives and in the lives of the people around us? Think of the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
How can we know God’s will? Is it our desire to see God’s will done? What do we pray for if we’re praying according to his will? Do you think you pray in Jesus’ name or not? Why?
If I were honest, I would have to say that in my prayers I don’t always pray in the name of Jesus in ways that I should. For example, my prayers don’t always reflect the power and authority of the one in whose name I pray. Think of it this way. In our legal system there is something called the power of attourney. This means that an individual who owns property or money can give control of these things over to someone else. This person acts in the owner’s name and with their authority. This is something of what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. In other words: Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with his authority.
I don’t know if we realize this, but to pray with Jesus’ authority means when we ask in his name, it is as though Jesus himself is making this request of the Father. Notice how praying with Jesus’ authority presupposes praying according to God’s will. Because if I’m praying but not sure if I am praying according to God’s will, I probably won’t pray with a lot of confidence or assurance that he hears me.
Again, if I am honest, there are times when I’ll pray something like, “Lord, if it is your will.” There’s a way that I can use these words to cover my bases, to spiritualize my uncertainty. And while I understand there are times when we pray and we’re not sure what the Lord’s will is, we can pray according to the degree that we do understand his will. And maybe, just maybe, we need to do more work to seek God’s will as revealed in his word. Because here’s the thing: praying in Jesus’ name means praying in a name that is profoundly, infinitely powerful. It means—believe it or not—that we can pray authoritative prayers.
I think of the story in Acts 3. Peter and John were going to the Temple for a time of prayer. A man was begging at the gate. And seeing him, Peter said: I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk! And the man did. What makes us think that we can’t pray like this anymore? Am I saying that all prayers should be like this? Or that we can pray like this about anything? No. But I think we’ve more or less stopped praying like this at all.
Skye Jethani, in a devotional I read this week on authoritative prayer, wrote this: “We do not pray authoritatively because our prayers always accomplish what we intend. We pray authoritatively because we are God’s children who have been granted access to his power through Christ’s redemption on the cross.” Simply put, praying in Jesus’ name means praying with his authority. This means trusting in the power of Jesus when we pray according to the will of God the Father.
Why does Jesus invite us to pray with his authority?How does knowing God’s will help us to pray with Jesus’ authority?What might keep us from praying with Jesus’ authority? What might help us?
I wonder sometimes: do we really expect God to act on our prayers? Do we anticipate answers or just hope for answers?The last thing to point out is this: Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with the expectation that God will hear and respond. 1 John 5:14 says: This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. So when we pray according to God’s will—in Jesus’ name—we can have confidence that he hears our prayers.
We see something similar in Hebrews 4:16 where it says let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. Our Father hears our prayers because we ask in Jesus’ name. We pray with confidence because Jesus has made a way for us. When we sincerely pray in Jesus’ name, our Father sees us through the lens of his Son, our Lord Jesus. It is the gospel that gives us confidence in our prayers. We don’t expect answers to prayers, for God our Father to hear us, because of how good we are or how well we’ve obeyed or listened. We expect him to hear because of Jesus. We can be confident in our prayers for the same reason we can be confident of our salvation in Christ and in our relationship with God: because of who he is and what he has done for us.
If my kids ask me for something I want them to have, that I know is for their good, then I am going to do what I can to give that to them. And if we’re praying according to his will, then we can also be confident that God wants to give us what we’re asking for. Only when we have faith in Christ can we pray with this kind of confidence and expectation.
When you pray, would you say you pray with confidence or assurance that your Father hears your prayers? Why do you expect God to answer your prayers? How does understanding more about what it means to pray in Jesus’ name encourage you in your prayers?
So: Praying in Jesus’ name means praying according to God’s will. We need to check our hearts when praying. Not only should we ask if our prayers are God’s will but we should also ask how we can be praying for God’s will for us. It means: Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with his authority. Do we really trust that God can answer our prayers? Lastly: Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with the expectation that God will hear and respond. Jesus says I will do it. So, it’s not about the words “in Jesus’ name.” We can pray in his name without these words. Praying in Jesus’ name is what it means to pray as a follower of Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name means being in relationship with the God who through Jesus has given us new life, a Savior and Redeemer we can trust, who both wants to be at work in our lives and through our lives, including in and through our prayers.