Why Do We Pray "In Jesus' Name"?
What does it really mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
It seems this expression, “In Jesus’ name,” is tacked onto the end of just about every prayer we hear uttered in the church today. From the simple blessing of a fast food meal or a prayer for safety in a kids’ soccer game to a deep, gut-wrenching prayer for the physical healing of a loved one, this all-too-familiar recitation seems to be placed neatly at the end of absolutely every prayer, without fail.
To the outside observer, it must seem that we think this phrase has some magical power or that by using this phrase we are clarifying our theological beliefs for all to hear. So maybe it’s important to ask ourselves, do we know what this phrase really means? Do we fully understand the meaning and power of these words? Do we think that God will hear us better if we say that we come to him in Jesus’ name?
This phrase is so ingrained in my personal prayer life that I don't feel like I can end a prayer without some slight variation on “in Jesus’ name”. Interestingly, there actually isn’t a single recorded prayer in the Bible with these words tacked onto the end. This doesn’t make it wrong; in fact, Scripture shows us that to pray in the name of Jesus is loaded with theological truth, and certainly in line with the teaching of Jesus. Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, 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). And he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). Clearly, Jesus wants us to know that we come to the Father in prayer through him.
So, is there added value or spiritual power if I claim my prayer is in Jesus’ name? To be certain, we can know that God will hear our prayer without these words. After all, he is omniscient. 1 John 3:20 tells us that God knows everything. He knows our thoughts and even our motives. And whether we utter these words or not he sees the deepest parts of our soul. "In Jesus' name" isn’t some sort of ritualistic formula that must be recited to give power to our prayers.
But these words do have great meaning and they do come from a place of importance when we look at the broader picture of how we have access to God as believers.
When we say we are coming to God in the name of Jesus, it means that Jesus has given us the ability to come to God on his authority. In Acts 3:6, Peter commands the lame man to walk “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Jesus has given us authority to approach God directly in prayer and the authority to come in his name with rebuking the devil. The authority of Christ himself is ours to use—what a powerful truth! If I’m being honest, I rarely appreciate this great miracle and gift we have been given!
So why is there so much power in Jesus’ name? To come in the name of Jesus means that we are relying on his reputation and his standing with God for our intercession. In the ancient world, to have a good name was to have a good reputation (Prov. 22:1—“a good name is to be chosen rather than riches.”) Jesus possesses the only perfect name and reputation because of his perfect life lived on earth and his sacrificial death for all mankind. As believers, we are able to approach God through the name of Jesus, but speaking these words during our prayer doesn’t affect the outcome of our prayer. The true value of ending or beginning our prayers “in the name of Jesus” is found in calling to mind the quality of his life and true nature of his character.
We remind ourselves that it is through Jesus alone that we have power and authority over the darkness in the world and direct access to God our Father, the only source of true light.
It truly is a wonderful and awesome miracle that we have access to God through Jesus. Careful consideration and understanding of this truth should permanently rest in our hearts so that in our prayers we don’t forget the gravity of this statement. Let us resist the potential for our prayers to be empty words we heap up for others to hear. In Matthew 6:7 Jesus says we should not “heap up empty phrases” in our prayers. We should never pray for the purpose of sounding spiritual or wise to God or others, but rather we should pray so that we would know the will of God and have a relationship with him. If we truly appreciate the miraculous gift and treasure of approaching God in Jesus’ name, it has the power to transform our lives.