As Christians we have been taught we must pray in the name of Jesus for God to hear and answer our prayers. I have often wondered exactly what that means; have you?
As I child I was taught to say the words, “in the name of Jesus”, “in Jesus’ name”, at the end of each prayer. No prayer was complete without those words. It was implicit in those instructions that if I failed to follow the formula that included the name of Jesus, God would not hear and answer my request.
The problem with that “formula” thinking is that saying the words “in the name of Jesus” can become repetitive and meaningless. It’s something like saying “please” just because you’ve been taught to always say please when you ask something of someone else.
If I say to you, “Please shut the door”, it may, or may not, have an effect on your response to my request. It might be more courteous for me to use the word “please”; however, it is possible that if I just say “shut the door”, you will shut the door.
Most of us have been taught to be nice about the way we ask someone to do something; however, I’m not so sure that being nice is going to produce the power behind our prayer that were looking for.
Let’s look at one Scripture that directs us to “pray” in the name of Jesus:
John 14:11-14 (KJV) Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 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.
In John 14 Jesus is speaking to his disciples. He is preparing them for his absence. He asked the disciples to believe Him, that He is in the Father and the Father is in him, or he says, if you can’t believe that, believe me for the very works sake, in other words, remember what I’ve done: that speaks louder than my words.
He says to the disciples,
“If you believe in me the works that I do you will do also; and even greater works than these will you do because I go unto my Father”.
Then he says specifically,
“Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it.”
That’s pretty specific and very powerful if you stop and think about it: “if you believe in me” — that is the requirement. Notice that He does not say the requirement is that you ask in His name. The requirement here is believing in Him.
Believing in Him assumes you will ask in His name; however, Jesus doesn’t leave much to the imagination: He does not assume the Disciples will understand. He speaks specifically about asking in His name and follows up the requirement of believing in Him with the obvious — that what is asked of the Father should be asked in Jesus’ name.
So here we have Jesus preparing His disciples for a future without Him. He was instructing them specifically about continuing His work and His presence in the earth. His presence in the earth will be demonstrated by their works in the future and the world will know that their works are really His works.
We call this behavior that Jesus described, prayer.
There is not actually a Scripture that says specifically “you must say the words “in Jesus name” when you pray”.
John 14:13 and John 16:23 come about as close as you will find to that command. Jesus says, “ask in my name”.
So, what is prayer?
Prayer is simply asking. Prayer that produces the same work, or even greater work that Jesus did in the earth, requires believing in Him. Asking in His name is a matter of our attitude more than it is a matter of specific words said when we ask. Without belief saying the name Jesus produces nothing. We could say the word “Tom”, “Dick”, or “Harry” and get the same results.
The key to our asking the name of Jesus is the reminder that you know He has given us the right to ask and that He (and the Father) is the one that answers the prayer.