“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” John 16:26-27
Have you ever really thought about what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name”? Often, it can just become a mantra or tag-line we say at the end of our prayers. But for Jesus, it was a matter of theological significance. It was a paradigm-shift in the practice of prayer. It opened the flood-gates to power in prayer. He told his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
However, prayer “in Jesus’ name” may be easily misunderstood. In fact, Jesus warns disciples about misunderstanding prayer “in his name” (in John 16:26-27). He warns that we can be confused about what praying “in his name” is designed to accomplish. We can act presumptuously in thinking of it as “saying the magic word”. But we can also act disbelievingly in thinking that we need to convince God.
We can misconstrue the need to pray in Jesus’ name by thinking that the Father is distant and reluctant in his attitude towards us. To be sure, Jesus acts as a mediator between us and the Father; he propitiates the wrath of God. But none of that should lead you to think that there is tension between Jesus’ heart and the Father’s heart, and that the Father’s heart is distant from us and needs to be convinced. Prayer in Jesus’ name does not mean that Jesus must convey the request to the Father and convince the Father on your behalf. Instead, Jesus wants us to be assured, “The Father himself loves you” and needs no prompting from the Son (see 2 Cor.13:14).
Too often, I think that I have fallen into this trap. I doubt that God actually wants to hear me. I doubt that my prayers are effective. So I pray using Jesus like a bargaining chip to convince God to listen – “for the sake of his Son”. While there is truth in the practice of claiming God’s promises in prayer, this kind of attitude towards God is dead wrong.
It’s not like you come to the gate of heaven and they crack the door and look out at you suspiciously and ask, “Why should I hear your prayer? Why should I let you in?” And you say, “Because of Jesus.” And they reluctantly respond, “Oh, all right, fine”, and open the door just wide enough for you to dart through. And Jesus is like the bargaining chip to convince them to let you in. No! Prayer in Jesus’ name means – prayer knowing that the gate is flung wide open and the red carpet rolled out and the Father running to welcome you.
How does that change your prayer life?!?
Prayer in Jesus’ name is prayer on the basis of Christ’s finished work. It is prayer confident in all that he has done for you and accomplished. It is praying with confidence that the door is already wide open. John Calvin wrote, “We have the heart of God as soon as we place before him the name of his Son.”
Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Prayer “in Jesus’ name” means that we are invited to pray like we’ve never prayed before. We are invited to prayer with the knowledge that the Father is waiting at the door to hear our prayers. Oh, that we might take up with joy such an awesome invitation and pray “in Jesus’ name”.
Today thy gate is open, and all who enter in,
will find a Father’s welcome and pardon for their sin.
The past shall be forgotten, a present joy be given,
a future grace be promised, a glorious crown in heaven.
O all embracing mercy, O ever-open door,
what should we do without thee, when heart and eye run o’er.
When all things seem against us to drive us to despair,
we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer.
– Matt Foreman, studied at Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pastor of Faith Church in Media PA where he serves with his wife Mary Scott and a bunch of adorable red headed kids! Matt and Mary Scott are both Furman WDA alumni. Go Paladins! Read more of Matt’s blogs at http://blog.faithchurchpa.org/