In Jesus' Name

by Michael Fischer

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." - John 14:13-14
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." - John 15:16
"And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." - John 16:23-24
We are commanded to pray in Jesus' name. What does it mean to pray "in Jesus' name?"

Does it just mean saying, "In Jesus' name," at the end of every prayer, like we write, "Sincerely," at the end of every letter? No. That can't be it. For one thing, if that is all it means to us, then the holy name of Jesus becomes nothing but vain repetitions. Sort of like a Baptist novena - "say the right words at the end of the prayer and your prayer will be answered." Also, there are no recorded prayers in the Bible that end with this phrase.

Am I saying it's wrong to pray that way? No, as long as we remember what it means. So what does it mean, already?

Analogy: We have a man in our church named Harold who is an investment broker. Suppose I entrust a sum of money to Harold, and communicate to him my expectations as to whether I will accept risks for quick gains or whether I want slow, secure growth. I fill out the paperwork and sign on the dotted line, and he now has the authority to buy and sell "in my name." This means he is acting in my place and on my behalf.

This implies three things:

  1. He must act according to my wishes. If I have specified that he not invest in a particular company or fund because I object to something they stand for, and he does so anyway, he is not acting in my name. For example, AT&T and Disney give money to immoral and ungodly causes. If Harold invests my money in AT&T and doubles my investment in a week, he has not acted in my name, because he violated my express instructions to him.

  2. He must act for my benefit. If he makes a habit of buying high and selling low, he soon will lose all my money, and that is not acting in my name.

  3. He must not consider his own benefit. If he plans my investments based on who pays him the best commissions, rather than who gives me the best return, he is acting in his own name and not in mine.
Application: knowing this, what does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?

It means we are praying in His place (praying the prayers He would pray if He were still among us) and on His behalf (for His glory), which means...

  1. We must pray according to His wishes. He has shown us many things He wants us to pray for: salvation for the lost (Romans 10:1), wisdom for the believer (James 1:5), our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), prayers for those in government (I Timothy 2:1-2), and many others. We are on rock-solid ground when we ask for these things. But if we ask for something that is contrary to His word, we are not praying in His name. I have known one Christian who prayed that her husband would be unfaithful to her so she could get a divorce and marry someone else; this is flatly unbiblical. If we are in a "gray area" and aren't sure what is right, then we are to pray that James 1:5 prayer for wisdom, so that we can ask rightly. I John 5:14 tells us,
    "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:"
    So we could conclude that, if we ask contrary to His will, He does not hear us; at the very least, we can have no confidence that He does hear.

  2. We must ask for His benefit. Unlike an investment broker, we cannot cause God to lose anything. But if we are asking for things that would be a reproach to His name and the principles of His Word, we are asking amiss. An example would be those who pray for wealth and prosperity, so they can build monuments to their own ministries; even unbelievers know there's something wrong with televangelists begging for money to build unneeded hospitals and Crystal Cathedrals. In the same way, those who ask God for a Cadillac when a Chevy would suffice, or who pray for a sign instead of walking by faith, are not seeking the advancement of His kingdom. That's not in Jesus' name.

  3. We must not consider our own benefit.
    "I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another." - Isaiah 42:8.
    Our principal motive in prayer - ideally, our sole motive - must be that God will be glorified and that all who hear about these things will say, "To God be the glory, great things He hath done." Yes, we can reap the benefits; we often do, when God moves. But He must be our focus and our goal. For example, we have a woman in our church named Joanne, whose husband has left her. We would all love to see Joanne's husband repent and be reconciled to her. But if our primary motive in praying for him is to see the marriage restored, then we are not praying in Jesus' name; we are praying in Joanne's name. It's the repentance we need to be seeking first and foremost. The single person praying for a mate; the unemployed man praying for a job; the concerned family member praying for a sick relative; even those who are praying for the salvation of lost souls - they all must be primarily concerned with how God will be glorified by the answer to their prayers. If they don't, they are putting the desired blessing ahead of God's glory, and He has promised that He will not let us do that.
According to His wishes.
For His benefit.
Without regard to our own benefit.

Let us keep these things in mind the next time we say, "In Jesus' name, amen."

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