Last week I wrapped up my series-within-a-series on the Lord’s Prayer in the Heidelberg Catechism with a post on “Amen!,” the little word we use to wrap up most of our prayers. I made an off-hand remark about the phrase Christians often slip in as the penultimate word: “In Jesus’ name we pray…”
To my surprise the first three people who commented on the post wanted to hear my take on it. So thanks for asking. Here we go.
I can think of several reasons this phrase gets thrown into our prayers:
The first one isn’t so good: it is just verbal clutter, said without a thought.
Second comes a sense that this language is reverent or somehow required, just as some people’s prayers drift into the “thees” and “thous” of the King James Bible. (But that would be yet another post.)
Third, though, some say “in Jesus’ name” because they know their Bibles and they care about what Jesus said about prayer. Take a look at the relevant verses from the Gospel of John:
“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14.13)
“If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14.14)
“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (John 15.16)
“On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16.23)
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” (John 16.24)
“On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf;” (John 16.26)
Note carefully though: While Jesus did say that if we pray in Jesus’ name his Father would answer our prayers, he did not actually say to tack the phrase “in Jesus’ name” onto the end of your prayers.
So this leads to the fourth and genuinely helpful reason to say this phrase in prayer: it reminds us, and we remind God, why we are allowed to make our requests in the first place. We come at Jesus’ invitation and on Jesus’ authority.
Jesus is saying something about how prayer works in light of the Trinity. Our prayers go
- to the Father
- through the Holy Spirit
- in the name of the Son
Let’s assume that whatever the Son asks of the Father is going to be granted. (Bracket out the unusual case of the Garden of Gethsemane.)
But when you and I want to ask something of God, who are we? Do we have any reasonable expectation that God will do our bidding? We are sinful and broken, much too likely to ask for the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.
Thankfully, according to St. Paul, the Holy Spirit is going to be working within us, helping us pray for the right things (Rom. 8.26).
Then Jesus says, in effect, “Hey, you now have friends in high places. When you ask for something don’t be afraid to drop my name.”
He draws us so close that we can speak on his behalf. If we feel face to face with a divine bouncer, instead of a loving Father, we can ask for what we need saying “Jesus sent me. He said it is okay.”
We pray to the Father, through the Spirit, in the name of the Son. Keeping the roles clear can prevent us from meaningless transmogrifications like “In Your name I pray” — which sounds like we don’t know who we are talking to or why.
What does praying “in Jesus’ name” imply to you? How might it change your praying?
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